Everything in Berlin closed early yesterday, and only a few restaurants were open today. The kicker is, tomorrow is “Second Christmas,” and everything will be closed again! Some of us only shop a tiny bit in advance, and may have last gone shopping in an effort to feed a starving nineteen year old who may have eaten every last drop of pea soup to fortify himself for his flight home on Christmas Eve. Second Christmas – what is that? Even worse, the day after Second Christmas is Sunday when everything is always closed anyway. How is a girl supposed to feed herself?
I’m sure I’ll survive, after the Christmas feasts (yes, plural) I devoured today. We rose early to meet up with our friends Christina and Brooke, and Christina’s father, visiting for the holidays. We rushed up to their neighborhood, Prenzlauerberg, to nab a coveted seat at the chic café Anne Blume. At 9 a.m. Christmas morning, not a soul tread the streets of Berlin. Not a car passed us. We stood alone on the S-Bahn platform. We traveled in eerie aloneness on the street car. Actually, you’ll never believe it, but the Christmas market in Alexander Platz was fully operational, albeit to a minimal clientele. We had our pick of tables at the deserted Anne Blume. In all jolliness, we discussed American current events like the health care bill and balloon boy’s parents (what is going on over there?), and Brooke told us stories from Copenhagen where he had attended the climate talks as an NGO observer.
We departed Anne’s full of cheer and went directly to our adjacent neighborhood, Kreuzberg, to visit our Australian friends, Thomas and Lizzie. They had taken pity on our lonely Christmas and allowed us to crash their family celebration. Lizzie’s parents and brothers are visiting, and they put on an incredible, delectable dinner. Miraculously, by 1 p.m. (or 13 Uhr as we say here) they had prepared a turkey and a duck, two kinds of stuffing, salad, green beans, roasted root veggies, and a beautiful blueberry and marsala trifle. Yes, I had several helpings of everything. The Australians kept exclaiming over how charmed they were by the quaintness of the Northern Hemisphere’s cold, wintry Christmas. In the same breath, they regretted the picnics and beach parties they were missing back home.
Aaron and I walked back to our place through the temperate Christmas night. By this time, the Berliners were out walking their dogs. I had insisted that poor Aaron get me a Christmas present, which he finally procured on Christmas Eve when I convinced him I was serious about my demands. I received my presents (a bottle of Rioja from the Rioja store, a fancy chocolate bar and fancy hot chocolate mix from the fancy chocolate store – the Berliners are very into specialized shops).
We’re so lucky to have found people to take care of us here in our exile. I feel homesick today, but our friends allayed some of my longing by giving us coziness and company, and of course, food.
While writing, I’ve managed to consume my first mug of fancy hot chocolate on top of everything else sloshing around in my belly. And now I have to go put on my pajamas before the buttons pop off my dress pants.