I arrived in London and stayed long enough to make a bad decision.
Hungry and in a hurry, I bought a sugary, calorie-laden, chocolate-covered, chocolate-filled donut so pricey it made my jaw drop. Not that I eat donuts much. I don’t, but $4 for a donut and another $4 for a hot chocolate just seemed a bit overpriced, even if it was branded Krispy Kreme, the American donut chain with a cultish following of raving fans. Unbeknownst to me, Krispy Kreme has gone global.
I don’t know what possessed me to belly up to the counter at Krispy Kreme in of all places London Town. I had never ventured into a Krispy Kreme in the United States, ever, so why now in expensive London where I’d surely be paying three times as much?
With every bite, that donut oozed warm, liquid deep dark chocolate. I felt as if I was committing a sin – on several levels – and that everyone around was fixed with glaring eyes on the chocolate running down my fingers. I could hear the voice of a friend from a long time ago, Dennis Dean of Los Angeles, calling out from afar his signature admonishment: “What are you doing!?”
But eat and drink I did and I rather enjoyed the hot chocolate. I took the last bite and gulp when I noticed the time. I dashed off to my gate at Terminal 5 in Heathrow International Airport, excited about what was next: Berlin.
There was a time I wanted to live in London. But that idea has long lost luster. For my money, Berlin is the place to be.
I love Berlin. I really do. I want to experience Berlin as a local. I want to be a part of it. Live it and breathe it. A job in Berlin, anyone? 🙂
The first time I came to Berlin was as a fellow with the German Marshall Fund. Germany was in the middle of a historic election. By the end of the politically charged day, Angela Merkel had become Germany’s first woman chancellor. It was an election that understandably received great international coverage. That was almost seven years ago. The physical chemist is still chancellor.
On that first trip to Berlin, I was able to meet and interview many Germans on both sides of the divide known as the Berlin Wall. Largely removed after the fall of the Soviet Union, today sections of the wall have been left standing as a reminder of what was. In some areas where the wall stood, rusting steel bars have been placed to mark where the wall used to stand and as a memorial to the German lives lost trying to escape East Berlin. One section of the wall, known as the East Side Gallery, has been painted over with large murals by a variety of artists. And in some areas, there’s simply no wall, just the footprints.
As a lover of history, I immediately fell for Berlin. But more than that, there’s a certain vibe to the city that draws me here. Berlin is certainly not a very beautiful city in the caliber of Paris or Rome, but the people – artists, activists, all manner of bohemian – give the city a real edge that I – and thousands who flock here every year – like.
Only two cities in the world make me smile from ear to ear from the moment I land in them: New York and Berlin. I maintain that New York is the greatest city on Earth. It really is. Even Some Berliners who know both cities say that. But Berlin has that certain something. It’s also an inexpensive city compared to other German cities, such as Cologne or Munich.
Did I mention I want to live in Berlin? Angela, are you listening? 🙂
Still, there are many more places in the world yet to explore and likely have what Berlin has and more. That’s the beauty of travel. The possibilities. The promise. And yes, the wrong food decisions.