Apulia Posts

Homecoming & Homegoing

To say that a great deal has changed for Jessica and me in the last six months would be an underexaggeration of epic proportion.  During that time, we spent a month in Thailand, took an apartment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and traveled to such eye-opening places as Myanmar, Nepal, Indonesia and other parts of Malaysia.  We participated in Chinese New Year celebrations, ate wonderfully exotic foods, and made many friends.  But now it was time to go home, back to Puglia, to Villa Tutto and our little olive farm, our friends, and our cats.

After not having driven a car for six months and thirty-hours of travel between Kuala Lumpur and Bari, I felt less than comfortable in the driver’s seat of the rental that we collected at the airport but, after a few minutes of dodging demonic Italians behind the wheel, I became re-accustomed to the chaos that reigns over the Pugliese roadways.  Jessica wondered aloud whether the cats she adopted as three-month-old kittens, Espressino and Caffe’, would remember her.  As soon as we turned into the driveway of Villa Tutto, our home near the town of Cisternino, our furry felines wandered casually over to the car and greeted us as though we had just returned from a trip to the fruit seller’s.  Even Shakespeare, the thirteen-year-old cat who came from the US with us deigned to welcome us back.  The cat sitter who came to the house every other day while we were gone must have treated them well because, except for Shakespeare who suffered from an autoimmune disease that was beginning to overtake his ability to fight it, they looked fat and happy.

Our homecoming was sweet even if we would only be tasting it for five weeks.  We had given up in the battle against the Italian bureaucracy, refusing to yield to its whim in demanding unobtainable and irrelevant documents from us to justify why we were worthy of remaining in the country, and allowed our residency permissions to expire.  Thus, we could now spend only ninety days during any six-month period in the European Union and we had much to do now that most of our time would be consumed elsewhere.

The reunions with our much-missed Italian friends were sweet.  Silvia, our Valle d’ Girl, Davide and Katia of Giardini 36, Erika and Luano of Bel’ Italia and, of course, Colleen and Francesco were sights for sore souls and we overjoyed to reacquaint ourselves and drink wine with them.  We also got to spend time with our expat friends.  Jennifer and Joe, along with their daughter, Natalie, our dear Los Angelino friends shared dinnertimes with us and Tom and Joe, two retirees who recently moved to nearby Fasano from Boston, joined us for an evening at Giardini 36 where we had a wonderful evening of Katia’s amazing cuisine and Davide’s wine selections.  We ate lunches at the sea, walked the acquedotto bike trail, drank too many campari spritzes, visited an ashram between Cisternino and Martina Franca, and relished the spectacular sunsets from the roof terrace of Villa Tutto.

Silvia and Jessica at the Sea

Silvia and Jessica at the Sea

Walking the acquedotto

Walking the acquedotto

Making the spritzes

Making the spritzes

Cisternino ashram

Cisternino ashram

Sunset from Villa Tutto

Sunset from Villa Tutto

Caffe' at sunset

Espressino at sunset

Fortunately, Jessica had held on to her cell phone sim card.  Unfortunately, I had not.  Have you ever arrived in another country, walked up to a kiosk at the airport or into a mobile phone store, had a sim card installed in your phone, and walked away able to make a call or check your email?  Well, I’ve had that experience everywhere we’ve traveled and I expected to have the same one in Cisternino.  I forgot: this is Italy.

At around 12:30pm, after driving into Cisternino and finally finding a parking spot, I went to the shop where one can buy a sim card and activate cell phone service.  By 1:10pm, I had selected a short-term plan from Vodaphone, paid for it, and received the sim card which the raven-haired young girl who was helping me kindly installed in my phone.  She then told me that I had to come back after 5:00pm to sign the contract and that the service would not be activated until I had done so.

“Why can’t I sign it now?” I asked in halting, rusty Italian.

“It is lunchtime,” was her answer as though that’s all that needed to be said.  We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

I dutifully obliged, driving back into town later that day, finding parking once again, and walking back to the shop.  The clerk printed out the contract and showed me the five places I was to sign.

“Cinque volte?”  Five times, I asked incredulously.

“Si,” she said, and in response to my doubtful look, added, “E’ l’Italia.”  It’s Italy.  Then she proceeded to inform me that the service would not be activated until the next morning since the people at Vodaphone who execute such tasks are in the north of Italy and end their workdays at 5:00pm.  Note to Self: only purchase cell phone service in Puglia between the hours of 9:00am and 1:00pm since that is the only period during which both the people who sell the service and the ones who provide it are working.

Of course, when I tried to use the phone the next morning, niente.  Back I went into Cisternino, cruised the town for parking, went back to the shop.

“Did you put the pin code in?” the clerk asked when I complained that I still did not have service.

“What pin code?” I asked in response since, as many times as I have gotten temporary service I have never had to put a code in.

“The one that was attached to the sim card,” she said and I heard her add the word “stupid,” although she didn’t actually say it.  I punched in the code and, lo and behold, found that I had service and it only took twenty-four hours and three trips to the shop.  E’ l’Italia!  And don’t even get me started on our attempt to have some money wired from our Italian bank to our account in the UK.

But there was even harder stuff to do before we left Puglia.  Since we really didn’t know when we would be returning, we had to find a new home for Espressino and Caffe’.  Thanks to Silvia, we found an ideal situation for them.  Pierluca had recently lost his father and his elderly mother was now alone and lonely.  The “boys” would be perfect company for her.  And, with Pierluca’s girlfriend being a veterinarian, the brothers would be well looked after.

As for our transplanted cat, Shakespeare, his health had deteriorated significantly since we arrived in Puglia and, when the vet who had been treating him for a while looked at him, she just said, “It’s his time.”  I watched him close his eyes for the last time, comforted by the knowledge that the last thing he saw was me, the thing he loved most in the world.

We left Villa Tutto with hearts heavy with loss: loss of the ability to stay in Italy, loss of the company of friends, and loss of our “kids.”  Thankfully, we have memories and for now that will have to be enough.

Rest in Peace, Little Guy

Rest in Peace, Little Guy

Thai Die Massage

Among the many reasons that Jessica and I came to live in Italy is the easier access we have to places that we’ve always wanted to visit.  So, when Jessica asked that we celebrate her 40th birthday on a beach in a warmer climate than that of Puglia, we found that our options now included locations in the eastern hemisphere.  After doing some research and considering the possible locales for our festivities, we decided to spend a month in Southeast Asia.  We made the island of Penang in Malaysia our base but, part of the appeal of this modern Southeast Asian island was its proximity to Bangkok, Thailand and, part of the appeal of Bangkok was the prospect of getting a genuine Thai massage.

Prior to our visit to Bangkok, our experience with Thai massage was limited to walking past the dozens of Thai massage parlors in Prague so we looked forward to actually having the treatments.  And, as inexpensive as the services are in Bangkok, we were able to try several different places.

Thai Massage Parlor - Prague

Thai Massage Parlor – Prague

Thai Massage Land Shark

Thai Massage Land Shark

There are decisions to be made when one elects to have a massage in Bangkok, beginning with how much you want to spend.  While a massage there is cheap relative to what you might pay in Europe or North America, the prices vary widely from, say, the equivalent of $US20 to $US70 for one hour.  The facilities are reflective of the price with some places having nothing but a thin mattress on the floor for the recipient to lie on and a drape separating one bed from the one next to it.  The more expensive places are more spa-like and offer showers and some modicum of privacy.  I came to appreciate that privacy when, in one of the less well-appointed places, I was unfortunately able to hear the guy next to me as he moaned throughout his session.  Whether it was from his agony or his ecstasy, I couldn’t tell but I did have a guess.

Another set of options for the would-be massagee is the range of “services” he/she is interested in.  If you want a hot stone massage followed by an aromatherapy session, you are going to want a higher-end spa that offers a broader menu.  Are you just interested in a basic therapeutic massage?  Then one of the many massage parlors will suit the bill.  If, on the other hand, you are looking to end your massage “happily,” just look for the places (and you won’t have to look very hard) with a half-dozen or so young girls dressed in outfits reminiscent of schoolgirl uniforms sitting at the entrances to their respective places of employment.  Bangkok even offers “prostate massages.”  I’ve had several of those, all provided by my primary care physician, and I wouldn’t recommend them, unless they come with an aged fillet and a good bottle of Bordeaux.

As for protocol, experienced spa devotees will most likely be disappointed at a perceived lack of decorum practiced by the masseuses, but I write it off as a cultural gap.  For example, one of my therapists burped through most of the hour I spent with her.  Yes, out loud, full-throated belching with not so much as an “excuse me.”  Between expulsions, she would converse with the masseuse on the other side of the piece of cloth separating the mattress on which I was lying from the one bearing her client.  And, at one point, my masseuse ran out of oil and left me to replenish her supply.

The protocols also extend to the degree to which one is clothed during the massage and here I am only referring to the one receiving the massage and not, as in the case of the famous “soapy” massage where both giver and receiver are sans clothing.  In one place, Jessica was required to wear a cotton outfit that looked to be custom-tailored for the Michelin Man.  I have no idea what purpose it served or whether is was to protect the modesty of Jessica or that of the masseuse.  In most places, though, a simple towel covering private bits is the norm.

Jessica and I have very different desires when it comes to massage.  Where I prefer a slow, gentle, relaxing experience, Jessica likes a deep tissue treatment along the lines of what they used to dish out at Abu Ghraib and she had little difficulty finding therapists who were more than willing to abuse her for a couple of hours.  Unfortunately for me, since the only Thai words I know are the ones for “thank you” and “hello,” I was utterly incapable of explaining to my masseuses that I wanted to remain an unfamiliar of pain.  “Easy,” “soft,” “gentle,” “light,” I would say to each of them and they would each nod her head in understanding and then proceed to give me the massage equivalent of a waterboarding.  I was subjected to all manner of mistreatment as elbows, knees, knuckles and, I think at one point, a Phillips-head screwdriver plunged deep into parts of my body that, until the agony began, I had quite forgotten about.

At a Buddhist school for massage: Pierce flesh here

At a Buddhist school for massage: Pierce flesh here

Vee haf vays of makink you talk!

Vee haf vays of makink you talk! Sculpture at the massage school.

As we left one establishment after I had received a particularly grueling hot oil massage, I asked Jessica how her Thai massage had been.

“It was great,” she said.  “I had a few knots that were pretty deep but she found them and worked them out.  How about yours?”

“Well, I have no hair left on my legs, I feel like someone has been sitting on my back–oh, wait, she was sitting on my back–and, I’m not quite sure where my spleen is, but I think she broke it.  On several occasions I was going to tell her where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, who the second gunman on the grassy knoll was and how to create nuclear fusion, but she didn’t really care about that stuff.  She just wanted to hurt me.  Otherwise it was great.”

“You’re such a baby,” she said sympathetically.

 

Photos (as always) by the beautiful and talented Jessica Coup.  See more of her work at www.jessicacoup.com.

7 (Really Cool) Things to Do When You (Finally) Arrive in Puglia

Okay, so maybe your idea of what’s cool and mine are different, but if you can go along with me on this, we can get past the issue.  Let’s just agree that if something is sensually pleasing, a bit rare and puts a smile on your face, it’s cool.

Having dispensed with the definitions, I present you with the 7 things you should do when you visit Puglia that meet the criteria for cool.

1.  Stay in a trullo

The Valle d’Itria area of central Puglia is the only place in the world where you can find the conical-rooved structures known as trulli and there are plenty of them around for you to rent during your visit.  The stones that are used to construct these unique buildings can be a meter or more thick and ensure that you will be cool during the heat of the summer and warm during the winter.  Legend has it that the mortarless stone roof of the trullo was designed to be quickly removed when the tax collector approached so as to decrease the property owner’s tax burden.  (Only that area under-roof was taxed.)  This is, perhaps, among the earliest and crudest attempts at tax evasion in Italy but, have no fear.  Tax avoidance has evolved into an artform since those days, one that is practiced throughout the country.

At the risk of appearing self-serving, this is the trullo you should sleep in

At the risk of appearing self-serving, this is the trullo you should sleep in

2.  Eat burrata

Just imagine a sack about the size of your fist made of mozzarella and imagine that, inside that sack is a helping of sweet cream and strands of more mozzarella.  Well, that’s exactly what burrata is and it’s luscious.  Cut the ball open and the thick, creamy filling oozes out and provides a buttery exclamation point to the fresh mozzarella and to anything else on the plate.  My favorite way to eat burrata is over fresh tomatoes drizzled with our own olive oil.  A true Pugliese will not eat burrata past the day when it was made so buy it fresh and eat it that day.

3.  Dip your toes into the Adriatic and Ionian Seas–on the same day

Have lunch in Otranto at one of the many restaurants along the Adriatic beach in the town and then make the 44 km (28 mile) drive across the heel of the boot to Gallipoli on the Ionian coast and, after touring the seaside town, have dinner.  In both places you will find the freshest of fish and other seafoods including a primo of spaghetti con vongole (spaghetti with clams).  You’ll never look at pasta the same way.

Gallipoli, on the shores of the Ionian Sea

Gallipoli, on the shores of the Ionian Sea

4.  Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site at Alberobello

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “Gee, I wish I could visit Hobbiton,” then you should schedule a trip to Alberobello.  The centro storico of the town is made up almost entirely of trulli.  At one time, these trulli were residences.  Today, however, the structures house restaurants, souvenir and craft shops and bodegas featuring Pugliese offerings.  Walk to the top of the hill to the trullo church, a beautiful example of trullo architecture taken to more modern times.

Alberobello at Christmas

Alberobello at Christmas

5.  Taste the wines of the Salento 

Some of Italy’s and, indeed, the world’s best wines are being produced in the Salento area of southern Puglia.  The red wines from primitivo, negroamaro and malvasia nero varietals can be deep and complex.  The rosatos range from light, citrus-based and crisp to medium-bodied and flavorful.  White wines from the region are made from verdeca and a white grape indigenous to the area around Locorotondo (not technically in the Salento, but close enough).

Primitivo di Manduria

Primitivo di Manduria

6.  Watch locals dance the Tarantella

The tarantella is a dance originally set to mimic a person’s reaction to the bite of the wolf spider or tarantula.  It is a high-energy display and it seems that everyone in southern Italy has mastered it.  The pizzica as the dance is called in parts of Puglia is not just a physical demonstration, but is a clearly emotive experience and simply watching the choreography unfold evokes some degree of empathy.

Dancing the tarantella

Dancing the tarantella

7.  Take a cooking class

The food of Puglia is, not unlike that of other regions of Italy, unique and more than worthy of investigation.  The pasta of Puglia is orrichiette (little ears) and is traditionally served with a thin tomato sauce and rape (broccoli rabe), a bitter green similar to chicory.  You can learn how to make the pasta though I can say from experience that forming the pasta in just such a way as to allow the sauce to collect in the hollow is an art that takes practice.  I have yet to become even modestly competent in the art.  Much of the cuisine of Puglia comes from the sea so your education will likely include the preparation of octopus, mussels and local fish such as bronzino and orata.  If you prefer a meat course, perhaps you will work with fillet of horse or donkey, both of which are popular in the towns of inland Puglia.

Octopus, Pugliese-style

Octopus, Pugliese-style

 

I could go on and typically I do, but I’ll stop with 7 items.  But please feel free to suggest others.  Just make sure that they’re cool.

Photos (as always) by the beautiful and talented Jessica Coup.  See her work at www.jessicacoup.com.

Pilates Made (for the) Simple

“He’s mean and he yells a lot.”  That was the assessment of Antonio, Jessica’s pilates instructor as rendered by the woman who does Jessica’s hair.  So, when Jessica suggested to me that I join Antonio’s class, I said, “No.  He’s mean and he yells a lot.”

Actually, Jessica’s “suggestion” that I take up pilates was phrased as, “You need to get off of your ass and do something physical,” so my response carried no water whatsoever.  The following Tuesday evening, I dressed in togs that I thought might be appropriate to what I envisioned a pilates workout would be and accompanied Jessica to La Fenice (the phoenix).  The 56-year old Antonio greeted us on our arrival, took some money from us and led us to the studio.  He is tall and wiry and, as the class began, quickly showed himself to be more limber than I.

We began that first session with a class of only three people (Jessica, our friend Colleen and me), I being the only male and the only student of an advanced age.  Antonio took neither of these impediments into account as he soon started heaping “helpful” suggestions on me in his form of English/Italian.  “Straight your schiena.”  “La testa giu, down head.”  “Straight your k-nees.”  I struggled mightily to keep my back lodgepole straight, as I was commanded to do and, when I was ordered to lie on my back, point my toes to the ceiling and keep my knees locked, I thought that my ass was going to come apart, though not the way it normally does.

During the whole affair, these contortions being new to me, I tried to watch Antonio as he glided from one position to another and, at the same time, pretend to be doing the same thing.  Every 30 seconds, though, Antonio would yell at me to keep my head down on the floor but, when I did, I couldn’t see what it was I was supposed to be doing.  It made for an unfortunate dilemma.  Finally, Antonio stood up from a position I could not even hope to have gotten into, walked over to me and said, “Scott, your problem is your head.”  Jessica began to laugh so hard that tears were streaming down her cheeks and she was ruined for the rest of the class.  Even the melancholy musical musings of Enya in the background could not mellow her out.

To my own surprise, I went back to the next class.  “Keep your head on the mat,” was my mantra and, with the threat of embarrassment looming over it, my head stayed mostly where it should have.  In this second class, Antonio focused on the abdominal muscles and, for the most part, I hung in there.  Toward the end, however, with fatigue only moments away, my extended legs began to quiver as I struggled mightily to do what everyone around me seemed to do with ease.

“Scott,” Antonio said in a voice loud enough for the kids playing basketball in the school gym across the street could hear, “Scott, be still.  Do not shake.”  He then got up, walked over to me and said, “Scott, it is not your fault.  You have uncoordinated nerves.  This is why you shake.  We can make you better.  Coordinate your nerves.”  Jessica was doubled-over with laughter.

Antonio went back to his mat and lay on his back.  He then lifted his legs and, keeping them perfectly straight, set them at a 90-degree angle to the floor and pointing the soles of his feet at the ceiling.  He then raised his head and shoulders from the mat and wrapped his hands around his ankles.  The really amazing part of this was that he expected me to do it too.  However effective his powers of persuasion might be, there was simply no motivating force on the planet that was going to get me into that position.  Try as he might to suggest how I was to bend certain parts of my body, they were rigor-mortised in place.  I finally said to him, “Antonio, the last time I was able to do something like that I was two years old.”  He went back to his mat and didn’t bother with me any more that evening.

Interestingly, though, I do enjoy Antonio’s pilates classes and saw some quick improvement in my performance.  I can now bend over and, keeping my legs perfectly straight, touch my knees without screaming.  I can also lie down of one of those big inflated balls and breathe naturally without distress.  So, with these milestones behind me, I can look forward (though, with head down) to doing a sit-up.

One of the poses I've almost mastered

One of the poses I’ve almost mastered.  Wake me when class is over.

Of Pigs’ Knees, Duck Liver and Chocolate: Part 2

There is some really old stuff in Heidelberg, Germany, the next stop on our train trip.  St. Peter’s Church is nearly a thousand years old and the dominating Church of the Holy Spirit has been there for almost six centuries.  I guess there was little of strategic value there during WWII since these treasures escaped the US and RAF bombing that other parts of Germany experienced.  When the American troops arrived at the doorstep of Heidelberg, the German soldiers there negotiated a surrender, saving the city from destruction.  I’m glad it worked out that way.

Church

Church of the Holy Spirit

Heidelberg Schloss

Heidelberger Schloss

Jessica and I walked the streets of the old part of Heidelberg, taking in the sites that included old churches, the University of Heidelberg (Germany’s oldest university and the setting for The Student Prince), and the awe-inspiring Heidelberger Schloss (the Heidelberg Castle).  The ruins of this former residence of the Palatine Electors (whoever they were) have been partially restored and now contain displays of objects found in and around the place, a coffee shop and even a wine tasting room where we could (and did) taste some of the local wines.  Adjacent to the wine tasting space is, what we were told was the largest barrel in the world.  It can hold over 55,000 gallons of wine.  I asked what the point was of having a barrel that big, but no one could give me a reason.

After spending the day traipsing about the old town and strolling along the Neckar River, we went back to our hotel.  On entering our room, we both noted the chill.

“I’ll put the heat on,” I said.  I spent the next ten minutes playing with the alleged temperature controls mounted on the wall in the phone booth sized room.  “The thermostat isn’t working,” I announced.  “I’ll go talk to someone at the front desk.”

“I’m trying to put the heat on in our room, but the controls don’t seem to be working,” I said to the young girl at the lobby desk.

“Yes, that is because it is only October and the hotel has not yet put the heat on,” she explained as if this explanation were unassailable.

“But our room is cold.  Are you telling me that, no matter how cold it is, there is no heat for the hotel?” I asked.

“No,” she replied matter-of-factly.  “But, for Germans, it is warm enough.”  I considered mentioning that we were not Germans, but she already knew that so I went back to the room where Jessica was waiting with a freshly-opened bottle of wine.  There’s more than one way to keep warm.

Next stop: Berlin.  For several years we had been reading about Berlin and its rebirth following the fall of the wall that bifurcated the city.  East Berlin was doing its level best to eliminate vestiges of the past, both Nazi and Soviet.  West Berlin had long ago disposed of its Nazi history and had become the city that a German capital should be.  Now that the wall was gone, the former Soviet part of the city is fully integrated with its western counterpart.  The city had developed a well-earned reputation as a cosmopolitan draw for artists, entrepreneurs and other creative types and we looked forward to experiencing the spirit of Berlin.

Our hotel was located in what-had-been West Berlin and was a short walk to the main shopping and restaurant district in that part of town.  Our primary objective after checking in was finding a place for lunch.  After the five-hour train trip from Heidelberg, we were hungry.

We passed a number of restaurants that, for one reason or another, did not appeal to us, starving though we were.  As we approached desperation, we came upon a small eatery with Hebrew lettering on its sign.  We thought, what the hell, and asked for a table for two. As we were led to the table, we passed the bartender.

“Did you hear about us on TripAdvisor?” he asked in slightly-accented English.

“No, we were just passing by and had to stop,” I responded.

“That’s even better,” he said with a smile.

The place is called Jacob’s Bar & Restaurant and bills itself as having Israeli/Mediterranean cuisine and that sounded wonderful to our empty tummies.  The waitress presented us with menus and the bartender, who turned out to be Jacob himself, helped us to interpret the dishes.  First up was mosabha that the menu says is “hummus, only better.”  According to Jacob, this recipe for humus is 2,000 years old.  As a second course, Jessica had the “Israeli pizza” topped with tomato sauce, tahini, eggplant, egg and feta.  I couldn’t resist trying the meatballs when I saw the ingredients that included beets, pomegranate and yogurt.  Neither of us was in the least disappointed.  The food was so good and the environment was so lively that we booked for dinner the next night.

We got up early the next morning and walked to the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament.  We started our tour here because that’s what Rick Steves told us to do.  With headphones plugged into iPhones loaded with Rick’s (Yes, we’re now on a first-name basis.) walking tour of Berlin, we set off to explore the city.  We passed through the Brandenburg Gate at the former border between East and West Berlin and took a side street to see the Peter Eisenman-designed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, an eery and moving monument to an event that the German people will not allow themselves to forget.  Even the use of the word “murdered” in the name of the site is indicative of the contrition which the German people have for this part of their history.  The 2,711 gray granite slabs that cover the nearly 5 acre site provide a physical reminder that evil exists in the world and that we must be always on guard against its appearance.

The Reichstag

The Reichstag

The Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

We strolled down Unter den Linden, a broad, tree-lined boulevard that unsuccessfully combines Nazi- and Soviet-era architecture with designer boutiques and high-end restaurants.  The incongruity of the form and the use of the buildings in this area of Berlin is actually disquieting.  We arrived, at the end of the tour, at Alexanderplatz and I had a beer and a bratwurst.  Jessica settled for a pretzel.

Now that we were properly nourished, we began a hike to see the East Side Gallery.  We learned that, in 1990 in celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a large number of artists were invited to create works on a 1.3 kilometer section of what remains of the wall.  Over 100 artists participated and the result is the largest outdoor art gallery in the world.  Most of the art springs from the politics of the time and I was struck by how many of the wall sections are now icons.  I was also struck by the travesty of the tagging and defacing of the art by those with less talent and even fewer brains.  There was almost no piece of art in the nearly-mile-long stretch that some moron had not seen fit to damage.  I needed another beer.

An iconic image from the East Side Gallery

An iconic image from the East Side Gallery

We took a bus to the Berlin Wall Museum and, after spending a while there, headed back to the hotel, thinking about getting back to Jacob’s Bar & Restaurant and diving into a big bowl of mosabha.

A constant reminder at the Berlin Wall Museum

A constant reminder at the Berlin Wall Museum

We awoke early the next morning in order to catch the local train that would take us to the Berlin Bahnhof, the main train station.  On the walk to the underground stop, we were entertained by some of the thousands of people preparing to run in the Berlin marathon later that morning and by the inebriated customers of the still-open bars.  We were both sober and sane enough not to be about to run 26.2 miles so, all in all, we felt pretty good about ourselves.

Marathoners making their way from the Berlin train station

Marathoners making their way from the Berlin train station

Next stop: Prague.

Next:  Of Pigs’ Knees, Duck Liver & Chocolate – Part 3