good bye Lenin: an essay on my time in Berlin

I realise it seems strange to go back someplace you've already been when you could use that time and money to go places that are high on a list you have in your head. Places you desperately want to experience. I could have gone other places. Seen parts of Europe I haven't already. I'm dying to do a trip across Eastern Europe {more on this later} and would love to spend months traipsing across lesser known bits of Scandinavia. Also, Nepal is high on the list. I could have also added to the Mount Kili bank. But, then I wondered when would I likely get to see Bastian again if I picked to go to Helsinki over Berlin? Probably never. 

So, Berlin it was.

And I'm happy with my decision. Not because Berlin is the most 'me' city, but because my German family lives in Berlin and I hadn't seen them in 10 years, which is 10 years too long. 

I've never regretted seeing someplace twice over going someplace new because it's almost always done by me for a person/people I love {New Zealand, London, Laos, etc.}, and I knew there was so much of Berlin I still hadn't experienced. Truth be told, last time I was in Germany they had just switched from Deutsche Mark to Euros as, it was time for a refresh, ya dig?

Bastian had to work and study every day last week, so it says something about his heart that he would then meet me as soon as he got off to then drive me to all his favourite local spots. We spent every night walking {sometimes for hours}, eating at his favourite Doner Kebab place, watching drunks dance with bums to street musicians outside of the infamous Berlin nightclubs {which we opted not to go in because we're old and they're hard out even to him as a local, trust me he's been to them all}. We had conversations about how Berlin is the place to be if you're a creative or a vegan {soooo many options}, the sporting culture, the graffiti and street art that covers the city, and what it's actually like to live in a city with such a prominent drug and party scene. 

I went back to Germany for family. I went back to Germany because it's beautiful. I went back to Germany because the ticket was cheap. I went back to Germany because I wanted to be surrounded by roaring laughter and inside jokes. 

On my last night in Berlin, Bastian's mother invited all of us over for a big dinner before all of us 'kids' went out. Alina, her boyfriend Mattes, Bastian, an American on a month exchange from Harvard named Topher, and I all took on the town after a beautiful spaghetti dinner {vegan for the ladies, traditional meat for the men}. I was overcome by a sense of family and friendship my entire time in Berlin, but especially this night. We all came together for English-German conversation and universally understood laughter.

That's what life is all about to me: valuable + meaningful relationships.

We stopped by a Biergarten just for a picture, not even ordering anything. Laughing at a group of Americans on a hostel pub crawl who are always the loudest at a crosswalk {second only to Aussies}. We went to Prater Garden and split two pretzels between the group then discussed which Hogwarts houses each of us would end up in {Topher is in Hufflepuff as a time out for complaining about the food at Harvard}. My favourite bit of the evening happened before we left for the city centre. Topher was talking about a movie they watch at Harvard in the German studies program called 'Good Bye, Lenin!'

That won't mean anything to most of you, but to the Lang/Binder family and myself, it's hilarious because Bastian {yeah, like my brother Basti} stars in the film! Without even knowing it, Topher had been living for a week in the house of a German movie star. One from a film he had not only seen but had studied. At Harvard.  Once I explained how prestigious Harvard is to the Langs, it became even wilder. The Ivy Leagues were using a film Bastian starred in to help students learn German. That's pretty special, guys. We watched one of the scenes together on the laptop. We finished off our wine. Then we headed on my 'Magical M1' tram to Alina's favourite wine bar. By German standards, we drank nothing. Heck, by anyone's standards it was a mellow night. 

But it was the best night I've had in Europe this time 'round. 

The next morning, I packed my bags into Bastian's Audi and we went to his mother's for a final farewell breakfast. Bread, tomatoes, peaches, hot Yerba-mate tea, coffee with almond milk, vegan spreads, honey, name it and it was supplied. Out on the deck of the house that feels so much like a home thanks to the people who live there and let me be a part of it. 

I'm in Amsterdam now. Yes, there will be more posts to come about the city. Guides and a Berlin bucket list. I'll want to write about Amsterdam with Kees. I'll have much to say about my return to Paris. And I'm sure London will bring about many nights spent writing with a cup of tea. I'm excited about adventures ahead. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't hard to leave my family. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the Lang/Binder family! Thanks to Topher for putting up with my bougie jokes about Harvard. Thanks to Bastian for being a brother even after a decade. Thanks to Alina for being so warm and bubbly. Thanks to Mattes for providing so many facial expressions throughout the evening. And thank you to whatever kind of magic/luck/timing brought these people into my life. You gave me a reason to come back to Germany. The very best reason. 

Good Bye {for now}, Lenin!