March 23, 2010
The nature of the trip has changed significantly as we moved from Africa and Asia to Europe: I feel like the more interesting parts of traveling have come from what we do, not where we are. Descriptions of Berlin would be a little dull because it is so similar to any major American city. The night after we went to the strange disco, I was sitting in bed wondering if I should go out. I was tired, it was a Sunday, but I felt like every night I go to bed early is a night and precious hours wasted. Everything seems to go by so fast; the trip is almost over, not to mention that I feel like I’ve grown up so fast and suddenly I’m almost twenty-one and my childhood is completely gone. But those semi-depressing thoughts were mostly eclipsed by the necessity of just doing something.
The process of planning to go out sometimes is as fun as going out itself. Picking out the place, putting the group together, getting dressed. I haven’t worn any cute clothes for months, and so I stopped by H&M and picked out some tights and a dress. It was a horrible process; too crowded and hot but I emerged happy that I could wear something vaguely appropriate. The tights wouldn’t go well with my hiking boots or earthy walking shoes or flippy floppys, so I grudgingly went looking for shoes. Anh told me that there was a really cheap shoe store near the one euro store, and I found that it was actually an entire row of shoe stores. There were indeed very cheap shoes and I brought Matt along to replace his poop shoes. I’m never going to complain about finding some cute flats for under fifteen dollars, but two things about this row of stores weirded me out. First, along the wall were distinctly scandalous shoes: see-through platforms filled with colorful baubles floating in solution, six-inch high black stilettos covered in sequins and thigh-high lace-up spike-heeled red boots. Second, I picked out my flats right next to a relatively young woman who looked like she was in the advanced stages of syphilis. I commented to Matt that these stores were undoubtedly where prostitutes bought their footwear.
The next night, when I was itching to get out of the hotel and do something, Matt and I got on the M19 bus and rode it until the end. I wondered halfway through if there was a bad part of Berlin like there was a bad part of Los Angeles. At the termination of the bus, we got on the next one and rode it to the other end – and we certainly passed through the bad part of Berlin. Standing along the street were hoards of scantily dressed ladies, and there were not one, but two bona fide prostitutes wearing mini-skirts and those intense red boots I had seen the day before. Hypothesis proven by direct observation.
Yesterday we went to Berlin’s Botanical Gardens and saw all the different plants from the different biomes growing within one hundred feet of one another in greenhouses. I also got a very delicious marzipan croissant, which caused a very unhealthy and inconvenient addiction. I haven’t stopped thinking about this delicious pastry. Now we’re in the Oslo Airport waiting for our flight to Tromsø. We’re going to be spending a few days there before venturing to Spitzberg in Arctic Circle to visit Santa Claus at the North Pole. Part of me very much misses the Maldives and the tropics, but I’m also excited to see polar ice and be on top of the world.