Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm sick... Homesick

I got really homesick yesterday. The feeling came on without warning as I was talking to my dad on the phone. I suddenly pictured him sitting on the couch in the living room, reading the newspaper and listening to the news or Walker, Texas Ranger. Then I imagined my mom, standing at the sink in the kitchen washing dishes and looking out of the window onto our back porch. I'm sure the dogs were running around, chasing the squirrels.

Then I imagined my brother and what he was doing. We got here a few months before he moved into his own house so I still don't know what it looks like. But I pictured him hanging out in his living room and talking to his best friend on the phone.

I thought of my sister and her boyfriend. Right now they're in Savannah, one of my favorite places in the world. I was hoping they were eating crab legs at Fiddler's on River Street. It's always nice to sit outside on the deck and watch the barges go by.

It made me sad to think about what they're doing and how the days are passing when I'm not there.

It's absolutely great living here and I'm thankful for the opportunity to travel and meet new people but sometimes I miss all of the places I've already been and the people I already know and love.

I miss southern drawls, pinestraw, sunshine, sweet tea, boiled peanuts, and country music.

My hometown is a tiny speck on the map. It's filled with Baptist churches, hair salons, and flower shops. Friday night football games are the biggest event happening in the fall. Everybody knows everybody and the main street looks the same as it did 30 years ago. Pick-up trucks with speakers blaring "Redneck Yacht Club" haul boats and jet skis to the river while grandparents sit on their front porches watching traffic pass. This is where I'm from, for better or worse. The sign leading into town says "A nice place to live." And I suppose it really is, but I think anywhere my family and friends are would be a nice place to live.

My young cousin at the river, just before we moved to Germany.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lazy Summer Days and Our Next Big Adventure

Summer has been plugging along here. The days are getting longer and longer. It's not uncommon for me to look outside and assume it's only 6 or 7pm when it's really almost 11. It's very disorienting but also nice to have the extra hours in the day since the weather is (still) so unpredictable. Yesterday it was rainy, windy, and dark all day until around 7pm when suddenly the sun began blazing through the windows. I just never look at weather forecasts anymore because they are rarely accurate. On any given day you always need four things: 1.) Umbrella, 2.) Light, waterproof jacket, 3.) Light sweater, 4.) Sunglasses. You might use all four accessories within the space of an hour.

The past few weekends have been very low-key. We took the train to Maastricht on Saturday to see the festivities surrounding the Andre Rieu concert. He's an extremely accomplished violinist, composer, and conductor. It's a huge event when he comes back to perform in his hometown of Maastricht.

"Andre, World Ambassadors. Music, the
Universal Language." Check out the

American flags!
The city was incredibly crowded and the excitement was contagious. We quickly made our way to the Vrijthof. It had been completely transformed into the perfect concert venue. Large stadium lights were set up and ready to spotlight on Andre Rieu and his orchestra. Hundreds of simple, black chairs were meticulously lined up and arced toward the stage. All of the cafes were crowded and anticipation filled the air. We arrived at around 2:30, only an hour and a half before all of the cafes were being cleared out to make way for those with reservations to sip wine, eat, and listen to the music floating from the square. We didn't have tickets this year but I hope to be sitting in one of those chairs next year!

From there, we went to a different cafe, this time with river views. A friendly woman greeted us outside and we told her we wanted to try the beer tasting. She nodded, smiled, and went off to fetch her husband. He proudly appeared at our table and, in a booming voice, said, "So, I hear you want to try my beers. This is true?"
"Yes!" we exclaimed. This was becoming quite the production.
"Very well. It is six beers accompanied by little snacks. I'll bring the first."

Truly bizarre.
And so it went, for several hours. The samples were generous and most of the beers were pretty hefty. The most interesting thing that happened during this liquid lunch is that I was telling my husband a story about one of my high school teachers when suddenly an American school bus pulled up on the street behind us. 'Florida District Schools' was written on the side. In my Belgian beer-induced state of mind, I thought for sure I was dreaming and that my teacher was going to step off the bus and greet me.

By the time our 'tasting' was finished, so were we. Well, we should have been.

To another bar we went! This time we met up with a friend. And when you meet a friend at a pub, you can't have just one beer. A couple hours later we were toasting each other and the bartender was happily regaling us with the story of his life and explaining why he doesn't want to marry his current girlfriend. So I guess this is what you do on the night of the Andre Rieu concert, if you don't have tickets.

We had to take it easy yesterday (understandably). We went to Tongeren to meet up with some friends for antique/oddity browsing and for one other extremely important reason; to seek some advice from them about...

We will be leaving later this week for the destination of my dreams. We'll spend five glorious days staying in charming bed and breakfasts, photographing all of the sights along the Ring of Kerry, and driving on the wrong side of the road... and car. I think it might be necessary to bring the video camera for this vacation.

On to Irish adventures!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Happy, Wet Mosel

A steady drizzle from an endlessly gloomy sky greeted us Sunday morning. We made our way down to the breakfast room, hopeful that there would be a turn in the weather over the next couple hours. The standard offerings of a German breakfast were displayed on one table while another was charmingly set for two. We realized we were the only guests in the house when Frau Nalbach marched in, turned on the radio, and said, "Yes. This table for you. Do you like tea or coffee in the morning?"

Frau Nalbach disappeared and reappeared a few times to ask, "Do you like?" She seemed satisfied after several affirmations. We asked if she thought the weather would get better. She pensively gazed out the window and said, "For you... yes." I was flattered she thought we were that important.

After breakfast it was still early. Happy Mosel didn't officially begin until 11am. We originally planned to bike 5km to Reil to watch the opening ceremony. Instead we retired back to the room and stood on the balcony watching for a break in the clouds. 

After about twenty minuted my husband declared, "We're going! This is what we came here to do. It's now or never." 

I looked up from the book I was reading, shrugged, and said, "Okay. But we're going to get soaked."

"For us, it will stop!" he excitedly replied, with a fist punch to the air.

The temperature wasn't too cold but it felt chilly since the sun wasn't out and there was a constant drizzle. The only pair of shoes I brought were flip-flops-- a true Florida girl prepared for a weekend in the German countryside. My ensemble was completed by capris with a short-sleeved shirt. This was going to be lots of fun. The only savior was my North Face jacket which looked ridiculous paired with my summer best.

We retrieved our bicycles from the garage, already soaked from the effort. We didn't pass any other cyclists on the way although we did observe some Germans standing under a bridge wearing ponchos. 

"We're idiots," I called after my husband. "Why don't we have rain gear?!"

"Keep pedaling!" he feverishly retorted.

I went for another few minutes, my bare feet sloshing through deep puddles, vision blurred by rain drops. Finally I pulled under a bridge and said, "This is ridiculous. I can barely pedal because my pants are too soaked. We have to go back and ask the Frau if there's any place we can find rain gear."

Of course we both knew this was futile. It was Sunday and every store in Germany is closed on Sundays. But my husband agreed that we wouldn't last unless we found some kind of protection from the rain. We turned around and went back to the guesthouse. 

We brushed our feet and tried to shake off all of the water before we opened the door. As soon as we did, Frau Nalbach saw us and a little shriek escaped. "Oh! You are too wet!"
"Yes," I replied, as water dripped down my face. "We were actually wondering if you know where we can get rain gear."
This was met with a blank expression. She shrugged slightly.
"A poncho?" my husband said helpfully.
She looked at each of us and then stared at the wall behind us.

My newly-developed charade skills kicked in and I mimed rain falling from the sky and then wrapped my arms around myself like a jacket.

"Ah! Yes. You need. But nothing is open today," Frau said.

We stared at the floor, pushing our feet around the flood we'd created in her pristine hallway. Noticing our despair, she said, "Wait! I will search."

She disappeared into the room behind her and after knocking around some boxes and opening drawers, emerged with a full windbreaker suit and an extra jacket.

"Thank you! Danke schoen! Danke!" we cried. "We will try again!"

We went back outside and immediately began putting on the gear. In retrospect, I should have at least waited until my pants were dry but we were in a race against the rain so we had to hurry. I looked ridiculous. All of the over-sized gear made me resemble one of the Ghostbusters. And I'm absolutely sure I was the only one in the entire Mosel region wearing flip flops.

The rain didn't let up as we soldiered through to Reil. We missed the opening ceremony but there weren't any wine tents set up yet. We saw a few more cyclists ahead and followed them to the next village. 

By now, I was sweating profusely under the large windbreaker because I was still wearing the North Face jacket over my shirt. My legs were soaking wet since they never had an opportunity to dry. I felt like one of those fitness fanatics who run laps wearing garbage bags.

We pulled up to the first tent and got right down to business ordering a brat and some Reisling. It seemed like we were the first to ask for the wine. Everyone else was drinking coffee. They regarded us with their steely German eyes, disapproving of our wine consumption (during a wine-drinking event) and my bare feet. 

Before we set off again, I decided to take off the pants since the rain had stopped. I wanted dry legs and to look a little less ludicrous. I shed the pants as they all continued to watch. I'm sure they expected me to be completely naked underneath. 

After our little performance, we set out for the next town. For the first few minutes of the ride the rain stayed away and we allowed ourselves some optimism. Without warning we rode into a sheet of rain and I grudgingly admitted to myself that my legs were going to be soaking wet for the entirety of Happy Mosel.

The next village was Traben-Trarbach. It was obvious that this stop is important during the event. Large tents were set up in front of a grand stage with a band. Unfortunately the predicted crowds weren't in attendance. But there's always a silver lining to every situation: We didn't have to wait in long lines for food or wine.

We approached the food tent and I ordered our snack in German. The woman at the counter smiled and replied in English. I said, "Wait! Was my German good?" 
"Yes," she said. "It was fine."

I'm going to get off track for a second. I'm trying very hard to improve my daily interactions with Germans. If I start out speaking English, they will pretend they don't understand. If I try to speak German, they smile and respond in perfect English. I feel like I'm never going to know how to complete a conversation. It's a cruel cycle.

Anyway, the wine at this stop was delicious. I had a Schwarzreisling for the first time. It literally translates to black reisling. It was semi-dry and very refreshing. The rain pelted down harder and faster as we stood at the wine kiosk, prompting us to order two more rounds while we waited for it to let up. After a couple hours we came to terms with the fact that the rain would never cease and we had no choice but to hop on our bikes and face the downpour.

At this point we knew we couldn't realistically go any further. It was going to rain all day. We trudged back to the bikes (with a bottle of the Schwarzreisling) and began the 15-mile ride back to the guesthouse. 

Frau and Herr Nalbach were waiting in the corridor when we arrived. This was our first time meeting Herr Nalbach. He was an ebullient man with an impressive command of English. He said, "I hear you like our wine! Do you want a taste this evening? 8pm?" 

It was a nice way to save the day and we readily agreed to meet him down in the cellar in a few hours. We drove back to Reil to have dinner at a "western saloon" decorated with Native American statues, cacti, and (inexplicably) sombreros. 

Nalbach Cellar
We met Herr Nalbach in the hallway promptly at 8pm. He cheerfully rubbed his hands together and said, "So! You are ready to taste some wonderful wine!" He showed us to the cellar and explained how his family has been making Reisling for hundreds of years. 

Then we went to another cellar for a tasting. We sampled four different wines as we talked and laughed about life. Herr Nalbach revealed the secret to 25 years of marriage: lots of wine. We asked how many children they have and he said, "Three daughters."

"How old are they?" I asked.
"23," he said.
"But how old are the other two?" I replied.
"23. They are triplets."
"Wow!" we both replied.

Our weekend in the Mosel region wasn't just for fun. It was a celebration of our first wedding anniversary, which happened to be that day. Suddenly Herr Nalbach's eyes lit up and he said what every young couple marking their first year of wedded bliss would want to hear: "We have three daughters also because of the wine! So now, in nine months, you will have triplets too!"

I slowly pushed my empty glass aside, grimaced slightly, and said, "Maybe we will have just one at a time."

"No! It is because you drink the wine you will have three, at once! You must take a bottle up to your sleeping room tonight!"

The tasting ended a few minutes later and we went to our "sleeping room" clutching the unexpected fertility drug along with some wine glasses.

We left early the next morning with clouds still in the sky and rain misting intermittently. The Nalbachs came outside to see us off and Herr Nalbach repeated what he said the night before, with a wink. "Nine months I say! You email us!" He explained his prediction to Frau Nalbach and she laughed gaily.

Rain aside, it was a great trip. The countryside in the Mosel region is breathtaking. It would have been much nicer if the weather wasn't gloomy but we still had a fun adventure and we left with two cases of Nalbach wine. 

I'm looking forward to next year when we can try the Happy Mosel again. The Nalbachs have already agreed to babysit our triplets.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


We continued our exploration of Germany last weekend by participating in Happy Mosel. Once a year, an 80km stretch of highway in the Mosel region is closed to motorists. Thousands of bicyclists go from village to village, stopping to drink local wines (mostly Reisling) and eat bratwurst. But I'll get to that later.

Our guesthouse was in a charming village called Briedel. The landscape of the Mosel region is beautiful and interesting. Roads wind around mountains covered by vineyards on the banks of the Mosel River. This is how I imagined Germany before we moved here. 

Mosel Region
We parked on the street alongside the guesthouse and walked up the hill toward a woman sweeping the sidewalks. She eyed us suspiciously as we approached the door. She suddenly stopped sweeping and asked, in German, if we were looking for the guesthouse. "Yes," we said. Then we asked if she spoke English. She replied, "Nein. Only a little. Is not possible if you don't have reservation." 

"But we do have a reservation," I replied.

Suddenly her English markedly improved. She put aside her broom and said, "Follow me. I show you the room."

We entered the house behind her, taking care to wipe our feet thoroughly since she'd just finished mopping. The house was typically German: huge, very clean, and orderly. Our room came with its own bathroom and a little balcony overlooking the vineyards. We dropped off our bags and got back into the car to drive the 60km to Trier, Germany's oldest city.

Trierer Dom
The drive was pleasant and took no time at all. We arrived a bit late (4pm) for serious sightseeing. Luckily Trier is easily navigable by foot and we were able to quickly locate the Trierer Dom, the oldest cathedral in Germany. We decided to eat an early dinner outside of the cathedral and our view was perfect.

The scene was complete with the vocals of a female opera singer resonating between the tolling of church bells. 

Electoral Palace

After dinner, we walked to the Kurfurstliches Palais (Electoral Palace). It's a 17th-century beauty originally built as a residence for the Archbishop-Electors. The interior of the palace is off-limits to tourists but the palace garden is lovely. For some reason it reminded me of the rose garden in Alice in Wonderland.

Palace Garden

See? Chopped-off heads for painting the roses red.
More walking brought us to the Kaisertherman (Imperial Baths) built by Constantine in the early 4th century. 
Imperial Baths Ruins

Next on our self-guided walking tour was the amphitheater. Unfortunately it was also already closed by the time we trekked several miles to reach it. It dates from A.D. 100, making it Trier's oldest Roman structure. I definitely want to return to Trier to give it the full day it deserves. We missed a lot because we arrived so late.

We drove back to Briedel, excited about Happy Mosel the next day. In anticipation of all the Reisling we'd be enjoying, we had a bottle from the vineyards of our guesthouse owners. It was delicious-- the perfect, dry Reisling. 

The temperature was perfect and not a cloud darkened the sky as we fell asleep Saturday night. We weren't at all prepared for Sunday's rain that turned Happy Mosel into Soggy Mosel.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Karaoke and a Biergarten in Tiergarten

After our harrowing tour of Berlin, we went back to Hotel Hansablick to gather our supplies for a picnic in Mauerpark. My husband researched a lot before we went to Berlin. This lead to his discovery of English-language karaoke in Mauerpark on Sundays. We were very excited to go because it seemed like an off-the-beaten-path thing to do.

Mauerpark Karaoke
We took the train and subway to the park. It was a pleasant journey that took only 25 minutes. From the subway, it was a five minute walk. We fell into step with lots of college-aged, tie-dyed hippies. It was a cool vibe from the start. The scene ahead of us was a cross between a flea market, medieval faire, and Woodstock. We walked by vendors selling everything from Happy Meal toys to secondhand clothing. People were lounging upon blankets in the large, open field. They were braiding each other's hair and smoking hookahs.

We followed the sound of music accompanied by an off-key, hopeful voice, to the karaoke pit. Dust billowed up from the well-worn path we walked to the top of the hill. We found several blades of grass and prepared our picnic. I must admit that I felt a little funny being there. Here we were, a clean-cut American couple wearing khakis and t-shirts, propping ourselves up amongst hashish smokers. I'm sure we were a spectacle as we munched on our prosciutto and sipped champagne with cassis.

We listened to the singers and the crowd for a while and decided that the setting was too intimidating for us to sign up for a song. Neither of us were brave enough to walk to the bottom of the bowl. But it was fun watching the courageous ones! Song choices included Backstreet's Back, Proud Mary, and Teenage Dirtbag. The crowd was kind and it was fun singing along.

Berlin Wall at Mauerpark
Mauerpark literally translates to "Wall Park." Remnants of the graffit-covered Berlin Wall provide the backdrop to the park. It's a unique way to see an important piece of history.

St. Nicholas' Church
Monday was our final day in Berlin. Our first stop was the Television Tower, the tallest structure in Germany. That Monday was a holiday in Germany so this tourist spot was extremely crowded. We elected to purchase our tickets from a machine outside rather than wait in the long queue. We were given a showtime of two hours later so we consulted our guidebook to find some other interesting things to do in the Mitte area.

The Nikolaiviertel Quarter is touted as Berlin's only surviving medieval district. It was very disappointing. The only thing worth noting is St. Nicholas' Church, the oldest church in Berlin. Everything else is a poor imitation of what a medieval village might have looked like.

View from Television Tower
Once our two hours were up we went back to the Television Tower, eager to see Berlin from above. A high-speed elevator took us to the top and we disembarked to complete chaos. Dozens of spectators were milling around, clogging up the pathway. It was nearly impossible to stand in front of the glass. I spent most of the time on my tiptoes, gazing over heads and shoulders. Fortunately, the tickets we purchased allowed us access to the rotating restaurant so we decided to go there after a few minutes spent fighting the crowds.

Berliner Weisse
The restaurant itself was unremarkable but the views were incredible and, most importantly, unobstructed. The food was extremely overpriced but I guess we were paying for the experience. While we had the opportunity, we tried Berliner Weisse. It's either red (flavored by raspberry syrup) or green (woodruff syrup). It was served with a straw and both were extremely sweet. In my opinion, beer is not meant to be sipped through a straw and it also shouldn't be red or green (exception: St. Patrick's Day). But, when in Berlin, do as the Berliners do...

The best thing about going up to the Television Tower was seeing the differences, from above, between East Berlin and West Berlin. If you decide to go, make sure you choose a day that is less-traveled. And don't spring for the revolving restaurant; it's not worth it.

Rowing in Tiergarten
Waiting for our spot at the Television Tower took up most of the day but we had one more must-see on our list. Tiergarten was a beautiful, lush park and it was such a pleasure to stroll through it every day. Cafe am Neuen See is a beer garden in the park. Trees surround picnic tables and constantly-tweeting birds sail past your head while you munch on pizza and drink steins of beer or carafes of summer wine.

Cafe am Neuen See
We rented a rowboat and glided across the pond in a scene reminiscent of Bridget Jones' Diary (thankfully, neither of us fell into the water). Everyone was friendly and it was a perfect, relaxing way to spend our last afternoon in Berlin. The biergarten in Tiergarten is a must-do!

Our first trip to Berlin was a success. Despite some odd experiences (Cookies & Cream and Barry, the crazy tour guide), it was a great way to spend a long weekend. There are many things we missed. When we return, we want to spend a lot of time in the museums. We would also like to arrange a tour of the Reichstag, the seat of the German parliament. It would be nice to devote an entire day to Potsdam, too.

Berlin is interesting because most of the city is newly-constructed. It's not like other places we've visited, where lots of ancient buildings dot the landscape. The fact is that much of Berlin was destroyed during the war. Memorials and plaques stand in the spaces where history was made. It's crazy to think that a wall divided the city only twenty-three years ago.

There is much more to learn about Berlin and I look forward to a return trip.

Berlin Wall at Mauerpark

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Strangest Tour of My Life

Day two in Berlin began with a lovely German breakfast (cold cuts, cheeses, brotchen) and much-needed strong coffee after our fun-filled evening at Cookies and Cream. Our free walking tour was meeting at Brandenburg Gate and we decided to walk through Tiergarten again rather than take the train. We were making good time until we came upon Bellevue Palace, the official residence of Germany's president. We stopped to take several photos before realizing this was our first time seeing the palace and that must mean we'd taken a wrong turn somewhere.

Bellevue Palace
We re-traced our steps, losing ten minutes. Our pleasant stroll turned into a power-walk. I was worried that our guide would be waiting for us impatiently, the rest of the group scowling as we approached two minutes late. Luckily, the scene ahead was chaotic as the guides gathered their groups. Since we were last, we were put into the final group to be formed. Our reluctant guide was Barry,* an Australian with a chip on his shoulder. Everything seemed to begin normally. He introduced himself and asked if we were ready to learn about Berlin.

Barry told us about the Brandenburg Gate and how it makes him feel. As far as I could tell, all of us were listening intently and nodding when appropriate. Suddenly Barry became Mr. Hyde and belligerently asked, "Do any of you even care? Do you care at all about this symbol of unity in Europe?" Taken aback, all of us gaped at him for a few seconds and then nodded vigorously. Barry went back to being Dr. Jekyll and continued to point out interesting facts about Pariser Platz.
"This is the American Embassy," he said, as he gestured toward the building.
An unsuspecting tourist remarked, "That's interesting."
Suddenly Barry stopped and yelled, "Do not talk when I'm talking!!!!"

At this point, my husband whispered that we should break off from Barry's tour and attach ourselves to another. Already fearing his wrath, I said that we should stay. We hypothesized that Barry was either A.) Extremely hungover or B.) Taking the kind of drugs Norman from Cookies and Cream would prescribe.

We set out for Tiergarten where Barry regaled us with an in-depth history of Prussian conflict. He spoke for 10 or 15 minutes, pausing at times to chastise members of the group. One young man yawned discreetly and Barry interrupted his lecture to ask, "What happened to you? Did you go out last night or something? Why are you yawning?" Then he continued speaking as if nothing had happened.

We made our way to the Holocaust Memorial. During the walk, a young woman quietly asked Barry if he could speak more slowly. Her first language was Spanish so she was having a bit of a struggle understanding everything in his rapid-fire style.

Mr. Hyde pivoted on his heels to face her, and the rest of us, and began his worst diatribe yet.
"I'm sorry? You want me to speak more slowly?! MORE SLOWLY?! This is an English-speaking tour! If you cannot speak or understand English, you should be on another tour. This is my JOB. This is how I earn my money! I work only for tips! I cannot and will not speak more slowly!"

Holocaust Memorial
Holocaust Memorial
All of us were shocked and stupefied. Barry walked down into the memorial shouting back for us to meet him on the other side in exactly four minutes. We quickly made our way through the memorial, hoping we wouldn't be late and wondering what would happen if we were.

I thought the memorial was very interesting. It's comprised of 2,711 gray concrete slabs of different heights. The passages inside are like a maze and people dart in and out, playing hide-and-seek. There is no formal explanation or meaning. It's up to you how you interpret it. It's probably the most unique memorial I've ever seen.

We made it back to Barry on time but unfortunately, others did not. After most of us were gathered, Barry counted us and bellowed, "Who is missing?" One woman said, "Oh, I think my brother is still in there." She darted off to find him before Barry took the mission upon himself. Once the brother was back in tow, Barry said that someone else was missing. We all looked at each other gingerly, shrugging and hoping for the moment to pass.

Suddenly Barry realized who it was. The first man he chastised for saying the American Embassy was interesting had disappeared. Mr. Hyde grew red in the face and began a new tangent.
"What would possibly make him walk off? WHY did he do that?! Why did he take this tour if he didn't want to take this tour? What is his problem? Why didn't he have the courtesy to tell me he was leaving? I mean, don't you agree? Shouldn't he have, at the very LEAST, told me he was leaving?!"

All of us ran behind Barry as he forged ahead, flailing his arms and cursing the vanished member.

We ended up at the site of Hitler's bunker. I didn't know what to expect but I was certainly surprised to discover that it is now a parking lot. But of course, that's fitting.

Barry regaled us with some history about Hitler. When someone innocently asked why he married the day before he died, Barry sarcastically remarked, "He asked her and she said yes."

We walked by Checkpoint Charlie and Barry spoke a little more about Berlin. We also saw some remnants of the Berlin Wall. He sometimes paused to ask us, "Do you even care about the history of Berlin? Like, at all?" I thought it was understood that we were on this hellish three-and-a-half hour tour because we wanted to learn about Berlin, but I'm not sure that what is obvious to a normal person is obvious to Barry.

Berlin Wall
We took a break at a coffee shop and lost a few more members along the way. This time, Barry did not comment. He was becoming weirdly stoic at this point, possibly reflecting on his dwindling tour group (and prospects for tips).

Bebelplatz was next on our stop. It's the site of the 1933 book-burning by Nazis. This memorial was also interesting. Looking down through a glass plate, you see empty bookcases lining the walls of an otherwise empty room. A plaque with a quote by Heinrich Heine reads: "When they burn books, they ultimately burn people."

Berliner Dom
The tour (thankfully) was drawing to a close. We went to several more squares and sights as Barry attempted to explain Berlin's history to his simple-minded charges. We ended at the Berliner Dom, Berlin's Protestant cathedral. Everyone sat down on the grass as Barry surveyed us with his steely eyes one final time.

"This is the point where I will end the tour," he began. "I hope you have enjoyed it." All of us gazed down at the ground as Barry tried to make eye contact.
"I would like to remind you one more time that although this tour is free, tips are accepted. I do not get paid for the time I've spent with you unless you see fit. I hope you see fit." Barry paused again as we examined the grass beneath us.
"Okay, well that's that. If you want any suggestions for museums or restaurants, you may ask me now."

We awkwardly stood and my husband timidly approached Barry to hand him 15 Euros. This tip would have been much more if Barry had chosen to be Jekyll instead of Hyde.

We almost ran away from the scene and when we thought we were safe from Barry's superhuman ears, we began talking at once.
"What the heck was that?"
"I have never been on a tour like that in my life!"
"Do you think he was high?"
"What is wrong with that guy?"

As we rounded the corner, we came upon one of the other tour groups. Standing proudly amongst them was the first guy who left our group.

"Well look at that," said my husband. "That's what we should have done all along."

If you should ever find yourself in Berlin, a walking tour is a must-do. Even though it was a strange, self-punishing experience, I know we would have missed a lot if we didn't have a guide. My only other advice is to make sure you arrive early so you don't get stuck with Barry.

*Name has been changed because I'm too scared he'll stumble upon this blog and punish me.