Yesterday (Thursday) morning we said a regretful good-bye to our Home Away apartment on Simon-Dach-Straße at 7:45 a.m. and boarded the waiting taxi of Jens-Uwe, our new friend from Wednesday’s lunch. A short Lufthansa flight from Berlin/Tegel to Frankfurt and an 11-hour, eight-time-zone flight to San Francisco brought us home without any (mis)adventures about 3 p.m. PDT (11 p.m. Europe time – they don’t start daylight savings until tomorrow night). Here’s a nostalgic view from a few days ago of our building in Friedrichshain, above the 5 Places burger joint:
Looking back. Some things I don’t want to forget from this trip:
- Real people. I’m not very interested in travel for novelty’s sake. Any opportunity to connect with old friends, meet friends of friends, and make lasting new friends is worth more than all the perfectly nice but fleeting contacts with fellow tourists, people who serve tourists, and random strangers. Karen’s much better than I am at making new friends but I’m glad to share in the benefits. My friend’s flu kept me from returning the favor this trip – sad for me but of course much worse for her.
- Home away. Usually by the last day of travel I’ve been thinking “Get me outta here” for days, missing my walks, my piano, my activities, and the ability to converse or log on everywhere. Not so much this trip, though my former moderate fluency in German didn’t recover enough to be very useful. I suspect the difference this time was a comfortable apartment (great bed and shower!) near grocery stores and affordable restaurants.
- Reality. There are tours and tours. In hindsight the Azerbaijan tour our first week was a squandered opportunity. The country and its people are fascinating, including the peace between religious and ethnic groups that was the focus of the trip. Public institutions, including the authoritarian government, are so far from our own experience that we wanted to learn about them. But the official meetings felt like exercises in propaganda, and our tour leaders and guides didn’t give us many peeks behind the green curtain. What glimmers of reality reached us came mostly in conversations among us tourists, relaying things read online or gleaned in chance conversations with individual Azerbaijanis. It was very different from other tours we’ve been on, where no holds are barred once we’re in the private space of the bus.
That’s it for now unless something comes up. Good-bye until the next trip.