Diary Part 10: Can Anyone Here Polka?
September 24, 2004 Ostbahnhof, Berlin Germany.
It’s time for a trip to the East, as our RIAS group of journalist’s heads to the border of Germany and Poland.
The last stop before crossing is the city of Frankfurt….on der Oder. Yeah, it’s that other Frankfurt, the one that doesn’t have a million people or a big airport. Any airport.
Kind of an attitude like they might have in, say—Paris, Texas…Las Vegas, New Mexico…or Miami, Ohio. Sorry Ohio, it had to be said.
Even that Johnny-come-lately, Frankfurt Kentucky gets more pub that Frankfurt-Oder, and its only about 600 years younger.
But that’s because this city has seen some real tough times, losing 30 percent of its population since the Wall came down 14 years ago.
Now, it’s trying to remake itself, with the help of its neighbors across the Oder river, the fine folks of Slubice, Poland. Now, careful with that name…in Polish, the “l” becomes a “w”, and you pronounce the last “e”, so instead of Slew’-Beece, you get the very different Swooh-BEETCH’-cheh. And that’s just the start of the fun learning Polish which I try to do in the ride over on the train and naturally fail at miserably.
We spend time at the Europa University in Frankfurt, which serves 5,000 students and is now a joint project of the Poles, Germans and the EU.
The set-up is impressive, and then we meet with German police and border patrol officers to discuss the War on Terror and what they’re doing to stop it. The Germans and Poles are actually using joint patrols on both sides of the border.
If you are at all familiar with the 1,000 year history of the Germans and the Poles hating each other, then you can readily understand what an important step this is for both nations.
Later, it’s time to cross the Oder River and visit Poland. I have to tell you something that many Americans would find amazing, but I think going over to Poland our group of 12 plus three guides constitutes the largest mass of people in the country—not currently smoking cigarettes.
Everybody smokes here. Everyplace. All the time. I halfway expected little kids to light up. It’s really, really strange.
Now, time for some food. No kielbasa—more schnitzel, which is good. And a local beverage. Also good. The group is having a fine time in Poland, which is good because we hear someone has jumped in front of the train and now we don’t know how long it will take to get back to Berlin.
So, we park it for about an hour. Then, after the all clear it’s a mad dash to the banhopf, to catch the late night train West.
Saturday means a trip to the No Worries Palace of the Kaisers, Sans Souci—but we have some major worries. The upcoming Berlin Marathon has roads closed off today, and our mini-bus gets stuck in traffic.
Luckly, our guide Rainer gets a great idea…lets abandon the bus and check out—Checkpoint Charlie!
The museum is private, and very interesting. It chronicles the life of the Berlin Wall and celebrates the attempts, successful and unsuccessful, of people trying to get over it, under it, through it, etc.
I decide to light out on my own, and head south down the Freidrichstrasse toward the Turkish area called Kreuzberg.
One Donner sandwich and beverage later, it’s off for the Judisches Museum, the Jewish Museum. I walk about 15 blocks, and then get the sign…closed for high holy`day celebration.
Duh, Yom Kipper Dave. What a stooge, right? Don’t answer that.
Instead, I hit four other Museums, the best of which is the Pergamon Museum.
The Alter and as well the Gate of Ishtar have to be seen to be believed. The there are ruins from Babylon, etc.
It’s totally worth the price.
I’ve enclosed some pics of it, and now it’s time for trip to a special club.
Want to join me? No?
I mean….what good, is sitting, alone in your room—come, here the music play. Life is a—Cabaret, old chum. Come to the Cabaret!