Pursuing the expatriate life in Italy–Detour, continued. Still in Berlin!

Yesterday was spent in the Berlin flea markets. We only hit two because we spent so much time in just one of them. That particular one was fascinating and went on forever. The first one reminded me more of Portland’s Saturday Market. It had lots of homemade items, lots of funky things that hearken back to a hippie-type era. I was surprised by the plethora of record vendors–Gloria Gaynor, ABBA, Johnny Mathis, Janis Joplin–they had everyone. They weren’t getting too much business, .

Katia and Natasha went off as we searched the vendors in the flea market. Katia remodels high-end apartments in Moscow and is always looking for home hardware–doorknobs, drawer handles, etc. Unique and antique is how she likes’em. I left them behind and went on my own, purchasing another miniature vase and a small cup and saucer. The latter purchased was inadvertent. The cup had a lid on it and when I picked it up for inspection, the lid slid off and shattered. Twenty-five dollars gone in a second. Oh well.

I continued searching onward through the market. I’m fascinated by the unusual (I suppose no one is surprised by that). I found the top half of a female mannequin, an art deco fainting couch and a 1930’s era field phone from the German front. Had Hitler used it??


Of course, there were the requisite ceramics and crystal items. I also saw two entire rows of leather and fur-lined coats. Hats and gloves were everywhere. One gentleman I saw was sartorially exquisite in his leather chapeau, overcoat and hat. He somewhat reminded me of Nazi agent Arnold Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark. At first he wouldn’t let me photograph him. But, I convinced him that I was struck by his outfit so he acquiesced. I doubt he figured it would wind up on the blog of a famous author…

I was surprised by the huge amount of impeccably intact furniture, much of it art deco. Call me ignorant, but I guess I just assumed that everything had been destroyed during Allied bombing. Some of these pieces were magnificent, unlike anything I’d ever seen.


The second flea market was across the street from the site of the Berlin Wall. There were still six foot iron rods sticking out of the ground along big stretches of the wall’s former location. It was kind of eerie. There are sections of the actual wall that are a national historic site now. The area behind them is stark and barren, just like the no-man’s-land that lay back there during the Soviet occupation. It’s now surrounded by apartment blocks and capitalist businesses (we won, dammit!).

Today I was able to finally take a bus tour of Berlin. It lasted over four hours. It was only $25. The tour company allows one to get off the bus at one site, tour and take photographs of the site and then catch the next bus for the next leg. I saw cathedrals, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, government buildings and statues. Most of the buildings and statues I cannot remember. What I do remember is how much I loved Berlin. This is yet another city that I will have to re-visit.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

After I returned, we all went out for a magnificent dinner at a local pub. The food was not regular pub food. There were four adults and one child and we had three entrees (goulash, beef jowls and pork loins), two large bowls of dumplings, four beers, two glasses of wine and four glasses of juice. Plus another side dish of to-die-for potatoes. Total was $100. Quite reasonable for pricey Berlin.

We then walked back home through a quaint neighborhood populated with bars, pubs and wine shops. Upon our return, we decorated the tree whereupon it immediately fell upon us. I had my Christmas mix playing on my iPhone. There was an irony that I could not shake–playing Christmas music from my past (Charlie Brown Christmas, our church Christmas CD, Elton John’s Step Into Christmas) in an elegant Berlin apartment with ten foot ceiling and crystal chandeliers as we decorated the tree. There was such an interesting melding of past and present–and future.


Last dinner in Berlin at Lenz Pub

I have new friends here in Berlin now. Natasha is a wonderful lady. She is a successful businesswoman, incredible mother, expatriate. She has lived a fascinating life and she is completely down to earth. She has insisted on an autographed copy of my book so that is now on my to do list. She has also insisted that I come back to visit. I definitely will.

This is one of the things I’m loving about Europe. So many people are from somewhere else. Everyone seems to travel so freely and they are exposed to different cultures, languages, politics. Tonight at dinner we were speaking English, Italian, Russian and German. I’m feeling like I’m falling back on my Italian. However, I’ve found myself understanding some of the German and Russian being spoken.


Bob & Natasha

People are so open and generous. They want one to come back to visit. They are genuinely interested in one’s “story” and they are proud of their home and want to share it. I’m sure that, living in an international city like Berlin, a person cannot help but be more open-minded.

My (ex) sister-in-law, Katia, kept remarking that I “look” European now. She also commented how interesting it is that I came from little Salem, Oregon (population 160,000) and moved to Italy and am now traveling all over and starting a new life. To her, it’s incredible that I left a regular environment and am now “international”, as she calls it. LOL

I have to admit that sometimes I wonder where all this comes from. Prior to the introduction to my biological family, I had never entertained thoughts of going overseas. Now I’m living in Italy. What happened?

I think I saw possibilities where I never saw them before. I had been on a track that my  environment had set–the American “dream” of getting an education and a job, getting married, having kids and buying a home in the suburbs. Well, only the first two happened. Although, I did also have a home in the suburbs and I never expected to leave it.

Now I’m in Italy living a materially spartan life, but a spiritually and emotionally ornate life. And you know, I prefer this.

Yet, as I sit here in the upscale Berlin apartment of my new German-Russian friends, my sister-in-law and my nephew, living my new life, my mind goes back to my parents. My beloved mom and dad.

I miss them. Every year at this time, it’s difficult. I remember the life they created for us and I’m so thankful. They shared what they loved, what they believed and what they felt. And from that we had a wonderful life full of love and security. We didn’t have much money but we had everything else and that always seemed to be enough. It made us what we are.

Every year I remember my mom decorating the house inside from top to bottom. I remember her and my dad decorating the outside, including the trees and shrubs, with lights. I remember the house filled with the scents of Christmas–cinnamon, sugar, candles, pumpkin. I remember the Christmas music playing on the record player.

I wil never forget those Christmases. Sometimes I feel as though I should be re-creating them because I miss them so much. Instead, I will embrace more the Christmases I create for myself now.




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