Berlin & Copenhagen

IMG_3878

Some places just feel like home from the very first moment. Some places feel familiar and comforting and put you at immediate ease. Growing up in a home that was part Jewish I never thought about Germany in that way, the history and stories that filled so much of our culture made it seem possibly foreboding and threatening. I did of course despite that partly Jewish home also go to a grammar school firmly rooted in an old German foundation with its very German philosophies (my mother was nothing less then a contradiction in every sense – it was her choice to send me to the school and when I would diligently practice the required German she would look at me and say don’t speak German in this house). At school we learned German songs, we studied the very rich and diverse history of that part of the world, we celebrated holidays in a very German fashion with Christmas markets and advent circles, with May days and a Maypole, with special and magical visits from Saint Nicholas who left our shoes filled with oranges and small gifts.

IMG_3838
Years ago when I first arrived in Berlin I felt it, immediately that same feeling wash over me of returning home, of being surrounded by the familiar, and put at ease at how much things made sense to me there. I always attribute it to my education and the young formidable mind but I also know it might go deeper, it is the friends I have there, it is a place that reminds me of how I grew up and in an odd way Berlin echos San Francisco to me. But I think it is more,  I remember the first time I went to Germany with reservations it all felt so much – the history, the stories, the very real ghosts, but what I found was a city that doesn’t turn away from any of that but has folded it beautifully into itself. I am always moved at how Berlin a city once decimated has decided not to just rebuild but to honor that which was destroyed – building modern structures on the base of ancient and historic structures to become new and more beautiful, how they leave whispers of their history everywhere you turn as opposed to erasing and ignoring them. I love the way the past and present and future interweave. And as someone who is partly Jewish I feel more connected to my roots and the millions of stories irrevocably connected in and to this place.

IMG_3849IMG_0505
IMG_0497

Last month I returned to Berlin for a weekend visit with friends. I love how when I arrive at Tegel I am always flooded with the same feeling of having returned to a place that I am happy to be reunited with. I spent my weekend with friends walking the streets, talking, laughing, and remembering how much I love this city. We ate home made soup followed by the remains of sparkling wine from a previous night, followed by coffee, followed by tea. We climbed bell towers and watched the sun set. I saw parts of the wall I never visited and thought about a history so complex it only seems harder to understand on each visit as my friends tell me stories of their childhoods and their families. On this trip I kept seeing and stumbling over the Stolperstein along the street that honor where victims of the Holocaust where last known to live or work. I can never return to Berlin without somehow feeling more then I did when I arrived.

IMG_3840

IMG_0499

IMG_3847
IMG_3851
After my weekend in Berlin I traveled to meet my friend Gina in Copenhagen a city and country I have always wanted to visit. We spent the most wonderful few days walking the streets, taking boat rides along canals from Nyhavn. We saw the stature of the Little Mermaid that graced one of my childhood books and always captured my imagination. We went to Freetown Christiana and saw how a culture can live apart but within another.

IMG_3877

IMG_3881

IMG_3889

IMG_3890

IMG_0539

IMG_0576

A few years ago my father and my god mother both recommended that I start to watch the Danish TV show Borgen and it quickly became one of my favorite TV shows. I loved the characters, I loved the way they dealt with issues like sexism and politics and the darkness in our world. The characters felt to me like fully complex friends who I both loved and respected but also could see some of their stumbling points. It was so wonderful to be in the city that plays such a large role in the show and walk the streets and see the sights from the show. One day to escape the rain we even went to Cafe Wilder from the show and enjoyed our Smorrebrod and sat until the rain had passed. It felt like living in the show I so admired.

IMG_3896

IMG_3859

IMG_3894

IMG_3853

IMG_3918

On our last day we ventured into the Danish countryside and took the train north to the town of Helsingør and the home of the castle that is supposedly the setting for the play Hamlet. It was amazing and changed how I thought about the play to walk the old wood rooms of the castle and look out to a gray sea under a cloudy sky. It changed how I read lines about the mists and will forever impact how I see and think of one of my favorite plays. While in the charming town of Helsingør we saw that Sweden and the town of Helsingborg was close, so close in fact a ferry went every hour. And in a truly spontaneous moment Gina and I decided to take the ferry and go to Helsingborg for a short visit and a coffee. It was incredible to see how close the two cities both are and how different.

IMG_3903

IMG_0541

IMG_0595

IMG_3911

IMG_3912
On our train ride back into Copenhagen we stopped at the amazing Louisiana Museum for one of the most amazing art experiences of my life. Set in a small Danish town and overlooking the sea and on a clear day with views to Sweden is a museum that truly must be seen and experienced in life. A sculpture garden outside so that each view from within and outside the museum feels perfectly curated and composed. Space to breath and take in the art and let the experience of art wash over and saturate you. We saw the brave exhibit by Marina Abramovic and the singular experience of standing within Kusama’s installation Gleaming Lights Of the Souls. It all felt like the most wonderful and rewarding experience.

IMG_3924

IMG_3904

IMG_3908

RPON9572

IMG_3925

Some places immediately feel like home and others make you want to change how you see the world, they open your eyes and they touch your soul. It is never lost on me how fortunate I am to travel as extensively as I have in my life. It is a commitment I made to myself on a hilltop in Tuscany and it is one that has continued to be one of the most important things in my life. To continue to see the world (both near and far). To not be afraid of that which is different then me. To challenge my preconceived notions and be willing to learn from my experiences. To see that no one country or people has everything. The world is complex and diverse and as it may seem smaller it might be more important then ever to both move together to learn from other cultures while holding onto each individual cultures heritage, history, the stories, the perspectives. Travel opens my eyes to myself and to the world. It is the greatest gift I have ever been given and in large part is the gift I continue to give myself, and hope I always will.

IMG_3919

About The Author

ra

Other posts by

Author his web site

16

10 2017

Your Comment