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Mitte

On Thursday l got a facial at a wonderful spa in the bustling Mitte district. I left an hour and a half early for the appointment and ended up a minute late, because I'd walked right by the entrance and found myself instead in front of a dark grey interior door with no sign, and instead of going out the main entrance and risking not getting back in (some guy held the auto-lock door open for me), I knocked and knocked. Finally someone answered, and the secretary was like-- normally people come through that door. I looked and was like, ich kann das nicht glauben, wie doof ich bin. She was very kind and assured me it wasn't the first time. I swear the door was hidden by the reflection of the sun blending all the glass, and by my preconceived notions that German businesses can be hard to find, tucked away in places where other people live.


The aesthetician spoke to me in a soft and sexy French accent that actually turned out to be German, and she told me about numerology and astrology and her inability to slow down. She said her dream was to be a secretary for a big company, but when she scored her first job after college she was making far less than what she was making doing cosmetology on the side, so she decided to pursue that full time. She opened the business when she was 24 and now she's 27 with three employees. By the time she's 30 she thinks she'll be in a good enough place financially to focus more on her personal life. That's so impressive, I said many times, and she was like nah it's nothing to envy, that she doesn't have work/life balance because she doesn't know how. She said she she believes people are organically good at different things, and it's not like they're better than others because of it-- that some people want to be housewives and handworkers, and others want to be doctors and lawyers, and both are amazing. I really liked her perspective, although I know it's easier to be humble when you know your own worth, and when no one is threatening to take it away. The facial was amazing, minus the sharp pain of extractions, and she diagnosed my overall face as "dry oily" said even different parts of the face have different skin profiles, which makes total sense and is a thought I otherwise never would have had. She told me I could come back the next week for a 50-euro facial scan which can predict basically exactly how I'll look when I'm 80-- and give detailed recommendations for my specific skin type - and I was like oh god, do I want to know? Do I want to know what I'll probably look like five years from now, or ten?


When I left her a tip she almost whispered, you know you don't have to do that here (5 to 7 percent service tip is appreciated but not as expected in Germany) and I was like I know, and it made me think about how much success is driven by work ethic + charm, and ultimately which one weighs more? She said she's a Leo, and it's true that every Leo I've met has this attractive "greatness" about them where they're big hearted and totally driven. I think all of that new age stuff is a very useful tool for social and intrapersonal study, just identifying broad patterns of how people can be, finding what resonates for yourself, and recognizing that every personality "type" has intrinsic strengths and weaknesses. And I always love hearing about other people's paths in life, especially because over the years I've really come to appreciate mine. The only career I've ever really wanted was writing/traveling, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm literally living that life, in a different way than I imagined, but then, isn't that always how it works?

 

I walked around Checkpoint Charlie after the facial, the historic crossing point between East (where Oma lived, allied to the Soviet Union) and West Berlin (where Opa lived, allied to the Western democracies). I have a habit of not researching a place before I go there, because I love seeing where I end up, and so I really did stumble onto it. I paid 10 euros to enter "Die Mauer" art installation, a big panorama by Berlin artist Yadegar Asisi. An excerpt from my brochure, which I kept only so I could remember these details I otherwise wouldn't have:


Experience a Berlin cityscape that no longer exists in an 18-metre high rotunda...Immerse yourself in the monumental Panorama Installation-- a perfect illusion of the history of this city. The Berlin artist depicts life at and in the shadow of the Wall on a fictitious autumn day in the 1980s on a 1:1 scale. He thus spectacularly brings the divided city to life for young and old alike.



At 2 pm, I was the only one in the big panorama room. I love immersive installations like that, ones with mood lighting and sound, and my biggest complaint (that the artist only painted what was happening on the West side) was, I suppose, the entire point: to feel walled in, claustrophobic, entirely separate from what was happening on the other side. It makes sense to me now (and was something I was not thinking about while standing there) that the artist did not choose an omniscient viewpoint because that would have put him in the "death strip", the no-man-zone between the powers.



So much of the time I visit Opa, he tells me to genieße mein Leben, because you just don't know what's in store, and it seems that so much of the world just wants to be at war. He lights up when I talk to him about what I'm doing or will still do, and when he says I'm a Reisetante I just beam back and remind him that he's so much of the reason I can be.

 

I was ridiculously hungry by the time I finally found a place to eat; I hesitated in front of so many hole-in-the-wall restaurants and Döner shops, either Googling their reviews on my phone or coming up with reasons why I should keep moving, mostly centered around where the restaurant was located in proximity to all the tourists, because I wanted somewhere off the beaten path. I ended up gazing from across the street at "the small garden", a restaurant with 4.7 stars "dishing up manti dumplings". I had no idea what any of that meant so I went inside, and the lady asked if I wanted something hot or cold and I said hot, and she recommended I get the manti (traditional Turkish dumplings typically filled with lamb, as it turns out). MMmm it was delicious and fun to eat, with bite-size dumplings that I heaped onto my spoon at my typical rabid pace. There's something so satisfying about oily meals, and when you can blend a lot of color.

 

On the way home from Mitte, I listened to a work meeting on my phone on the S Bahn in a kind of library silence, and then heard my boots clicking on the sidewalk outside the Arcaden. The sun was out for the first time in days and I could smell the exhaust of the Spandau rush hour Stau; as my coworkers talked from a thousand miles away, I looked around at all the cracks and crevices and colors on the city streets and passed both apartments where I'd already lived, on my way to my other.

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