I'm back in my verdant garden, and I'm loving it. But goshdarnit, I do miss Berlin - warts, dog poop, and all.
Berlin contradicts lots of stereotypes about Germans. While there are pockets of stodginess, most of the city's younger inhabitants (and by younger, I mean under age 60!) appreciate nonconformity and human variety. Berlin has an openly gay mayor and it's just no big deal. You see punks and anarchists and eager young politicians and artists and students and little old ladies with ridiculous small dogs. You see lots of red, orange, and purple hair. (Call me sentimental, but I just dyed my hair red today; while I'm not quite Nicole Kidman, it looks pretty great.)
The city also puts to rest the idea that Germans are anal-retentively obsessive about cleanliness. Sure, in the south and in most villages, everything is shiny and well-groomed. I've seen people actually rake the gravel in front of their houses into neat, straight lines just to maintain order.
But when you arrive in Berlin, you're liable to slip and fall in a pile of dog shit within your first 48 hours. (This happened to my own dear mom once.) I can't say I love this trait of Berliners, who own some 150,000 dogs according to one estimate. According to my personal estimate, I'd say about 1 turd in 100 gets picked up.
Like any big city, Berlin also has human denizens who regard the world as their potty. Our subway station smelled particularly vile this summer. Apparently someone is trying to reassert order and sanitation on this one count (and I'm all for it), because this lovely sign was posted just outside the station:
Photo by me, Sungold. The sign says "entryway under video surveillance."
What I adore about this sign is that it's not homemade. Someone is mass producing these beauties.