After leaving the francophone world I crossed into the German speaking world as my efficient train sped me towards Zurich and a rendezvous with my Swiss producers and the new co-director on the project. I won’t give the names of these people at the moment, for reasons that would be too involved to discuss. But I will say this I was quite curious to meet the new co-director, to make sure we would have a certain kind of chemistry to get the job done. After an initial confusion, which could be put down to my inability to get my old school cellphone a SIM card, I was found and taken to what would obviously be one night at the best hotel of my trip at a place incongruously named in English ‘Swiss Night Hotel’. Amenities? Yes. More importantly it had one feature that I’ve since come to see as a complete luxury, an actual bathtub. It’s hard to believe some of the tiny crevices labeled showers in Europa these days. And even though I didn’t need a bath I woke up early enough in the morning to lounge a bit in the comforting waters.
That evening I met the director and the my producers for a good chat. My co-director passed muster with flying colors. And we had an excellent evening of discussion and traditional Swiss food. The next morning after my relaxing bath I took the tram back to the Hauptbahnhof to get the train that would take me into Germany. I did not have much Swiss currency left, and each step, each purchase of travel food seemed to drain more than I had. Eventually though the train left the station.
Beneath the Façade: Berlin Graffiti
One thing about trains in different countries. In France you’d better get reservations for so many of the trains, especially the TGVs. In fact it’s mandatory. In Switzerland and Germany it doesn’t matter as much. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the quality of the train service. Although I did notice one big difference. In Switzerland the conductor would look briefly at your pass and be satisfied. In Germany however something different happened. The pass I had was a Swiss/German pass, good for both countries. But the German conductor was miffed. There was a section where you were supposed to fill in your destination for the day. Now I’d always filled in the the dates. But this new destination form clearly says on it filled it out and if you want send it back. It’s not mandatory. But for the two German conductors I met it certainly was. One woman made me fill it out, then walked away, never to consider it again. She was in fact more than a bit puzzled since I’d been using all of that lovely blank space to teach myself the Georgian alphabet.
The DB train passed through the most unremarkable parts of the German countryside up the Ruhr Valley. But they were getting behind for some reason. (This wouldn’t happen in Switzerland!) And so it was recommended that I get off earlier to get a different train to Berlin. I did manage to send off a message on my laptop. (Byrne when are you going to get a smartphone!?) To my friends Jeff and Millay in Berlin to tell them which train I would be on. That little message cost me over $5. And then I never had access to the internet again. I suppose I could have bought a smartphone and spent how much? What’s five dollars to hundreds?
Four Levels of M.C.Escher’s Psychedelic Berlin at the Hauptbahnhof.
I arrived roughly at my new arrival time at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. I guess I’d never really spent much time hear before, usually I’d arrive at the Ostbahnhof. But I didn’t see Jeff or Millay. I looked carefully, actually expecting Jeff more than Millay, part of my problem. I moved from the platform down into the train station, which momentarily gave me a sense of total confusion. I felt I’d arrived in a structure whose chief architect had been seriously influenced by M.C. Escher. The sense of open space, of glass and metal, of endless layers was absolutely psychedelic. My breath was immediately taken away as I was on one of the top floors and suddenly found myself staring through a glass fence down four flights into the bowels of tracks and shopping mall stores and people endlessly circling. And no sight of my friends. I walked from one end of the cosmic structure to the other then realized that they looked almost identical on the inside. I had no idea which was front and which was back. Where was an obvious place to wait? Would they find me? Could anyone find me in this maze? Evidently this building was made for folks with working phones. I puzzled these things seriously for several minutes when suddenly Millay popped into view. And she was not alone. One of the reasons I really had to see them this time around was that their long struggle to find a child had been rewarded by the foster system. And there was a bright young boy named Aiden resting on Millay’s side.
Postmodern Berlin at the Hauptbahnhof
Greetings were exchanged all round and I spent two nights in Berlin catching up with my dear old friends. I took a long walk with Millay and Aiden the next day through Kreuzberg on our way to run a few errands. This was not part of the puppet journey but an important stop nonetheless. I eventually found myself back at the Hauptbahnhof waiting for a train to take me out of the Germanic world and into the Slavic lands. My next destination Prague… still puppet capital of Europe.
Millay and Aiden showing me Kreuzberg
On a train somewhere between Prague and Plzen