For the past two weeks, I’ve been using Monday as a day to take it a little bit easier on all of the touring around, just to give myself a chance to relax and catch my breath a little bit. And so this Monday wasn’t any different — after consuming and partying heartily the night before, I woke up a little late, and sat down to do work for most of the day.

The hostel I’m staying at here in Berlin is actually very nice — it’s part of a chain of hostels around Europe, all of which have a bar on their first floor. The bar’s been great, and when I showed up they gave me a card for a discount on food and drink down here, so it’s been a nice HQ for me in terms of sitting down and working. The two issues I’ve had are that 1) it’s usually way too warm — the heaters are always on blast for some reason. And 2) the past few nights I’ve been here, there have been major soccer games on, which means the bar fills up from wall to wall, and gets just too loud and crowded for me. When it’s relatively show, however, it’s a great hangout place, and give me some good time to sit down and work.

The burgers are good, too, and the beer is nice and cheap, just the way I like it.

The other task I gave myself on Monday, besides doing actual work, was to get my laundry done. I’ve decided that it was kind of a mistake to do my clothes the way I did: My original plan was to pack light, putting only about three or four days worth of clothing in a smaller bag. That in and of itself hasn’t been bad — I’ve never run out of clothing, and I gave myself enough options that I have been dressed appropriately most of the time. But it’s the bag thing that I may have done wrong — I figured that using a backpack instead of a standard roller suitcase would be easier. Turns out I’ve barely carried the backpack around with me at all: Save for the few times I’ve been transferring from city to city, it’s just been sitting in my room.

So if I did all this again, I probably would just bring a standard suitcase, pack a few more days’ worth of clothing (and a few more collars, fewer t-shirts), and just roll it around when I had to change hotel or hostel rooms.

The benefit, however, to having everything fit in one backpack, is that when I need to do laundry down the street, I can just pile it all up and go. And I can get it all done in just one wash, too. I’ve been lucky in the past — the first laundry I did was at my friend’s house in Oxford, and his mom even kindly oversaw changing it over into the dryer, as we were both out. The second time I did laundry was in Paris, and I lucked out there, too: The hostel I was staying at had a laundromat, so I piled my clothes in, put them in the dryer when needed, and was done.

Here in Berlin, though, this hostel has no such thing, so I had to go down the street to a laundromat. The one I went to had a great name: Waschsalon 115. It was a nice place — it took me a while to figure out how the washers worked with German instructions (you had to put money into a main unit in the middle of the room, and then key in the number for whatever machine you were using), but once I got it, I had no other issues. The place’s owner was a weird, flamboyant German dude who either didn’t speak English or just didn’t like to — I asked him for change, and he understood what I meant, but he muttered something to me in German the whole time. When I didn’t understand the machine, he didn’t help at all, just stood there watching me, and then when I got it myself, he chuckled and said something else in German. Weird dude, but he was nice enough.

Doing laundry only took about an hour or two, so I still had some time in the evening after I was done with all of my tasks for the day, and I poked around online to see what I could do that was fun. What I found was The Kurfürstendamm.

Kurfürstendamm is Berlin’s main shopping area, as I understand it. There’s a mall there called Europa Center, which is supposed to be very popular, and there’s also an “Erotik Museum,” which I was told to visit, but decided probably wasn’t my style. Unfortunately, I got there later in the evening (a fact which wasn’t helped by the fact that Berlin’s U-Bahn train system has a huge construction site in the middle of it right now — not one but two times I had to get off of the train, get on a bus to go to the next train stop, and get back on the train. Very frustrating!), so most of the actual shops were closed up for the night. But I had been sitting and working all day, and I hadn’t really eaten anything yet, so I walked around the district looking for some food.

I was in the mood for some Thai or Chinese food, actually, but most of what I found was actually Italian restaurants. England, France, and Germany really love their trattorias and pizzerias, it seems. Maybe the pasta’s great, but I will say that, as someone who’s lived in both New York and Chicago, the pizza here in Europe is so far universally terrible. I haven’t had any in Germany yet, but I walked by people having it, and it certainly looked like what I had in France and London, and no thanks.

Eventually, however, I came across a Chinese buffet. Given that I was looking for Chinese, and given that I like the option of eating a lot, and given that the reviews on the door were actually pretty good, I decided to pay the fee and check out Lin’s Mandarin 2.

I will say this: It was pretty good, actually. Better than some Chinese places I’ve eaten at in Los Angeles, and that’s really saying something. The highlight of the buffet (which did have, elsewhere, some great sweet and sour pork, some fiery chicken curry, and a lot of really great rice) was the “live cooking station”, where a couple of chefs would take whatever you gave them in a bowl and cook it on the grill to perfection. I didn’t quite figure it out at first, even though I’ve done things like this in America, but one of the ladies there also spoke a few words of English, so together, through a series of pointing and English and German and Chinese translations, she explained what I needed to do. I did have to look up chicken on my phone with Google Translate — I figured as long as I could spot the word “huhn” in the buffet line, I’d figure it out. I put some bean sprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, and chicken breast in a bowl, set it in front of the chef, and it came back to me cooked up great.

That machine decoded, I looked around the “live cooking” area for what else I could cook. They had lots of seafood, and unfortunately, I don’t really like seafood, or else I would probably have eaten some oysters, calamari, and octopus. But they did also have lamb, and duck, and beef, all of which I partook of. And they had something else which I’d never seen before to eat: Kangaroo.

I had to try some of that. I grabbed some, put it in with some veggies and a garlic sauce, and put the bowl in front of the chef. A few minutes later, I had kangaroo stir fry, ready to go.

It was good — kind of chewy, but very tender. It reminded me of buffalo, which I’ve had quite a few times. I don’t know that I’d seek it out again necessarily, but I am glad I tried it.

I finished the meal (and another hefe weissen — so good) with a dessert plate — they had both fried banana, which I am a huge fan of, and “fried apfel” which I recognized from seeing “apfel streusel” earlier this week as apple. The apple was actually better than the banana — both of them had melted down into a sort of mush, so they weren’t the best thing I ate that night. They were also worth eating, though. Obviously, I ate quite a bit.

That feast finished, I made myself walk for another hour or so, just checking out Ku’damm, as the Germans call it, and its shops. I found a “Hollywood Media Hotel” down there, and walked in, sat in the lobby for a bit, reminded myself that I still live in Los Angeles and will be back there soon. This nomadic existence is expensive, and can be a little unraveling (especially during the parts without friends), but it is fun. I have to bring myself back sometimes, and remember that I can’t just go exploring the world forever.

After that, I headed back to the hotel, riding that stupid train system back once again, and doing some more writing before I headed to bed a little earlier than usual. Why? Because on Tuesday, my plan was to go and see where the religion that I was born into and grew up in was itself brought into existence.

Posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 at 4:11 pm. Filed under general.
You are reading, a collection of work by Mike Schramm.

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