Diary of an Expat, Part 40
Parks and potatoes, Tempelhof
I guess there's been some football going on?

Berlin rang in the summer by becoming both cold and rainy, on the grounds that being miserable any time you go outside is a good way to keep people inside, where they can work. So that's what I did, and I guess that more or less serves. The real trick, of course, is to rain heavily at night, so that you can have lots of standing water around, and then slacken off to a drizzle so that fools (me) who still bike to work in that weather can seethe whilst doing it!

For once in my life, though, my point is not to complain. My point is to relate that the weather finally turned this Friday, and so after dinner my friend and I looked at each other and were like: "nah. This evening isn't over yet." So we biked to the Weisser See, which is a lakeish pond up in the northeast of Berlin, surrounded by footpaths and the like. I may or may not have talked about it before.

Here, we discovered that, on the first beautiful day of summer, everyone from the surrounding blocks had chosen, instead, to converge in the bleachers, so that they could watch the Germany-Greece football match being played. This probably gives you a sense of priorities.

It will surprise nobody that Germany won; Germany has a long history of doing well in football, and the Greeks have... dreams? Spunk. They have spunk. What they don't have is fans armed with several liters of beer, and also firecrackers.

I biked home before the game ended — I think I left somewhere between the third and final goal. But the game ended while I was on my way, and the sky erupted with noise and commotion. It was a little like biking through a war zone — quite exciting, flat-out on a ratty bike trail with firecrackers going off to either side like bursts of flak.

Notably this is of course only the first series of games and, again, Greece. Next Germany is liable to play England; for all I know that will call for kevlar — for protection from the jovial celebrators, mind.

I spent today biking as well, probably 40 or 50k all told in winding paths all through the southern part of Berlin. I finally got down to Tempelhof, the old airport that has been converted into a nothing. It's all one huge park, which means that, if you so desire, you can bike at full speed down two kilometers of runway. This is an interesting concept; doing it into a 15-knot headwind is more or less as fun as it sounds, but coming back the other way is quite lovely.

After that I swung up to Hasenheide Park, which is yet another massive green space in Berlin — unlike the airport, this was planned as one, so it's all done up with trails. This is I would say by far my favourite part about Berlin — the way that you can walk ten kilometers from the Planterwald through the Tiergarten and spend practically all of it in parks.

As a cultural thing, this is fantastic; Berliners "get" parks in a way that Americans just don't. The fact that it's so easy to get out of the house (also, well, nobody has air conditioning) and out beneath the trees, or barbecuing something, or playing frisbee, or hanging out with your dog, is quite lovely and communal.

I'm working my way through most of these parks, step by step. My chief exploring partner lives south of me, so I've yet to pay the northwest more than a cursory glance, but all things in good time! All things in good time.

Before I go, I'll relate an anecdote about German cuisine. Somebody asked me about this awhile back, about the stereotypical German dinner, and I said that if you got pork and potatoes into it you'd be fine. They love potatoes. They're prepared differently every day at the office canteen; Friday, when the theme was kebab and they couldn't quite figure out how to make it work, they just said "also with potatoes" on the menu and called it a day.

So I ate lunch with a friend at Taverna Olympia, more or less right next to Tempelhof. Great Greek food; absolutely recommend it — the bread was straight out of the oven, and the tzatziki was definitely above-average for here. My friend ordered lamb; the owner of the place asked: "With french fries?"

"With french fries, or...?"

"Fries, potato wedges, rice, fried potatoes, boiled potatoes..."

There was no mention of, say, a salad. Now, you may be thinking that potatoes do not form an integral part of Greek cuisine, and I'd forgive you for assuming this. As it happened, I also ordered lamb (delicious. Delicious), and naturally it came with a side of french fries. Like, literally from a basket at Red Robin or something.

I conjectured to my friend that, when the owner first opened the restaurant, it was potatoless, and he faced a stream of Germans perplexed by the absence of their favorite vegetable. "Sure, sure, you have dolmades, but where are the boiled potatoes? Or the mashed potatoes? Or the potato wedges? At least some potato salad, for god's sake! Have mercy! \D:/" they cried. My friend demurred.

Later, though, just as we were leaving and a light rain was beginning to fall, a gaggle of older German ladies came up to the door. The owner welcomed them, meeting them at the threshold. In a grandmotherly tone, the head of the group nodded her greeting; then, addressing the owner of a Greek tavern with Greek decor and Greek names for all the menu items, asked: "Do you make fries here?"
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