Late for an appointment, and the resulting social mess; Orlinto and Larissa; An art exhibition; The best chicken ever; Drinking in a spaceship

The sudden onslaught of damp chilly weather after weeks of dry heat made itself known to both of us this morning in the form of aching bones. It took us forever to get moving in the morning, and we missed breakfast at the hostel. It wasn’t free (or even cheap) so I wasn’t particularly upset, and we found a decent place near the hostel anyway. We knew we’d be staying that night with someone we’d contacted through couchsurfing.com, and we’d been trying to reach him via phone since the night before. We’d messed up somehow, not being familiar with the German telephone system and not knowing what combination of ones and zeros to prefix the number with. Sheryl thought she’d reached an answering machine and had been leaving messages, but it turned out to be a recorded announcement saying the number was dialled wrong (but it beeped at the end of the message) - so as far as the man knew, we’d never tried to contact him. Finally we gave up and asked one of the hostel staff for help, and so finally got through to him. He said he was finishing work at 2:30 and was heading back to his place in the suburbs if we’d like a ride.

A lot of grief would have been avoided if we’d stuck to our original plan, and simply said “Thank-you, but we have plans to explore the city today, and we have a place to keep our bags, so we’ll show up at your house later in the evening, if that’s all right”. I wasn’t the one on the spot, though, and Sheryl got caught out and agreed to meet him. Between his German accent and his fast speech, the directions got garbled. We were eventually able to locate the place with the aid of Google Maps (it turned out to be the Berliner Ensemble) but one crucial piece of information didn’t get through (”meet under the bridge”).

Unfortunately we badly underestimated the time it would take to go the four lousy transit stops to Friedrichstra├če, and so we were only halfway there (transferring from the U-9 to the S-3 at Zoologischer Garten) when 2:30 came. We wasted precious minutes looking for a public phone to call and let him know we were running late, but couldn’t find one. We decided to just get on the train, thinking it couldn’t take very long to travel two stops. In fact it took fifteen long minutes, and so we were 20 minutes late when we arrived at our stop - it had taken one hour to go four stops. When we exited from Friedrichstra├če station, we didn’t know which exit to take, and naturally chose the wrong one and so had to make three sides of a square to get to the meeting place - or what we thought was the meeting place, anyway. We were under the impression that we’d be meeting in front of the restaurant there, and as I mentioned above, our host meant for us to meet under the bridge. We spent ten minutes looking around the area for him, and in fact walked right past him once or twice. We’re pretty recognizable people (how many backpacking couples with pink and purple hair can there be?) and we tend to rely on that perhaps too much, because he didn’t see us. By the time we finally gave up looking for him and called, it was half an hour later than we’d agreed to meet, and he was understandably angry. I feel quite horrified about the whole thing. I’m never late for things, especially meeting people like that. There was a time at the end of April when I was late meeting Nicola at my house twice in a row, and I still feel bad about that. This was just awful.

Jens was willing to forgive and forget, though, and took us on a quick tour in the car before heading off to his place in Zehlendorf. Another pair of couchsurfers showed up a little later - Larissa and Orlinto from Germany and Nicaragua respectively. They were very nice and I hope they write us, because they have our email addresses and we don’t have theirs. They were in Berlin looking for an apartment and had a lot to do, so they decided not to accompany us out in the evening. Jens drove us back into town, picking up his friend Florian on the way. Florian was a great guy, though both he and Jens are tall even for Germans and my neck got sore from looking more or less straight up at them in order to carry on a conversation. They took us to the end-of-year exhibition of the art school at the university, which was a good change of pace. Most of the work was the usual student work - either done by people without anything much interesting to say, or without the visual tools to say it with, or both. There were a few gems, though, and those make student exhibitions worthwhile.

After the show was dinner at a Turkish roadside roasted-chicken stand that, we were told, is apparently famous among Berliners. Its name escapes me now, but the chicken definitely deserved fame - it was probably the best chicken I’ve ever had. There’s some kind of voodoo they do there with spices that makes it so good - and the piquant hickory sauce that came on the side was worth the trip all by itself. From there we went to a place called Astrobar, which I’d read about in our guidebook. It’s a cool place in Friedrichshain that’s decorated with kitschy 1960s space-movie paraphernalia - robots, dials and gauges, switches and buttons and arcane instrument panels. I loved it, and cackled with delight the whole time I was there. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, really.

Flourish

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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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