Diary of an Expat, Part 52
Getting out of Berlin, the easy way
I sort of grew up in small places.

I lived in rural Maryland for much of my youth, and the time I didn't spent there I spent on an airbase in Japan — military bases abroad being as much like small-town 1950s neighborhoods as you can get these days. I spent my summers on a farm in the rural Pacific Northwest.

What I mean to say by all of this is that I am not really a "city person," per se; I generally find them to be overwhelming, and for me the best part of being in a city is the times when you can get out of it. Which is what I did today.

In Berlin, this is something you can do with comparative ease. The city is rigorously well planned, inside and out: I have spoken before about the parks here, and how the city's mass transit system effectively obviates the need for owning a car — more than that the city is intrinsically walkable, if you wanted to get around without even a bike or a bus pass.

From where I live, I have discovered, a 30 minute train ride (one connection) takes you out of the city and down to the suburb of Rudow, which is sort of where the new airport will be if it ever exists. Rudow is notionally part of Berlin, but in a practical sense the pace of life is quite different — it "feels" smaller, the streets are narrower and quieter, there are fewer cars, and the busses are less packed and come less often.

When you thread your way through the village park, you come to, effectively, the edge of Berlin — and then it is a simple matter to just keep walking. Then you are in the middle of open fields and dirt paths that thread through little woods, and the city has completely disappeared. It's quiet, and if you find the right hill to hide you from the skyline ten miles away you might almost think it wasn't there at all.

I don't think you can see the stars, alas — still too much light pollution for that. Tonight, even though I was out past 10, it wasn't possible to see the stars because the moon was ridiculously bright. Bright enough to cast stark shadows; I stood, on narrow muddy tracks, and watched open countryside roll away before me. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Berliners realize this too, of course; there were, before the light faded completely, people walking dogs, or just enjoying the open air — but this is a luxury that you have, in any case, and should take advantage of. Someone living in downtown Los Angeles or Denver is less well served, I think.

So it was a lovely, lovely way to end the week. It's been really chaotic here, and I thought the weather might not coöperate, but the rain that plagued us this afternoon finally lifted, so there was nothing to shield Berlin from the harsh, cold glare of the moon on a crisp fall night that was perfect for a little campfire.

It's such a wonderful change of pace.
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