The Brenner Pass, unseen

Yoakum Brenner Pass

Warning: this post is about a train journey to Rome as the Alps flooded. Skip if only interested in Berlin.

On Thursday my son and I took the train to Italy to meet my mother, who was in Rome for a conference. Our first train was an early afternoon ICE to Munich. I had a coffee in the dining car and my son binge-drank coffee creamers. The sandy pine flats of Brandenburg gave way to the hills of Thuringia, with their spooky-pretty onion-domed village churches, then the dark Thuringian forest. Look at those rushing rivers! I said. Look how close up to the train the water comes! Continue reading

The mysteries of Leinestrasse

The night of the US elections I stayed out until 7 at an election party in Neukölln, then had the now rare to me experience of taking the subway home at an hour when other people are already on their way to work after a full night’s sleep. The party was in what you could call the graveyard district of Neukölln – not in some figurative sense of lack of action, but because there are literally six cemeteries in the vicinity of the Leinestrasse U-Bahn station. When I walked to the train in the morning, feeling bleary-eyed but electorally triumphant, the foggy cemeteries lent a lovely quietness to the neighborhood, which seemed to hold wonders and mysteries. Two of them, to be specific: the Zauberkönig magic store and the Tunnelpfeifer in the U-Bahn.

The Zauberkönig (king of magic) is a shop on Hermannstrasse abutting the St. Thomas cemetery. It sells old-school practical joke items (I saw some plastic dog poo in the window), magicians’ supplies, fireworks, costumes and stage makeup. I was intrigued by its jam-packed window display and the sign claiming it’s existed since 1884, so I looked into its history. The story I found is a fascinating microcosm of twentieth-century Berlin. Continue reading