Leaving Berlin

In the weeks leading up to my departure from Berlin all of my friends commented that they did not think that everything in my room was going to fit into my bags. I earnestly disagreed, to no avail. Packing one bag after every such discussion, I just did not believe that they could not believe that all of the stuff would fit. Eventually, of course, it all did.

Because of a knee surgery, I was using crutches. My American boyfriend, Brent, came to my rescue offering to help me return to the US in exchange for 5 weeks in Berlin. I told him to pack one bag, but bring two.

The morning of the flight, my friends Claudia and Matthias arrived in their VW. Brent and I had 8 bags between us and I could not help carry any of them down the three flights of stairs. I knew the bags exceeded every weight limit and felt guilty directing traffic.

At the airport, the airline employee thought all four of us were traveling because of all of the luggage. (The math works out this way: two travelers get two items of checked luggage each, plus one carry-on and one “personal item.” This, surprisingly, comes to a maximum of eight bags for two people.) The line to check in for the flight stretched almost to the entrance door of the airport. As we shuffled forward, an airline employee noticed me with the crutches and bags and motioned to us. She offered to send us through the extensive security check at the front of line, so that we could get through the line faster.

So, the baggage handlers hoist my 80 lb bag onto the table. The samsonite hard-sided luggage had to be sat upon the night before to get it to close. And now, under the pressure of the watching security guards it would not open. Here I am, crutches crashing to the ground, me standing on one leg, while pounding and simultaneously praying to the luggage gods to open the damn bag.

To my right Brent is opening his bags. The night before we had joked that if he put the condoms on top, then we would be checked by security. So there he is showing what seemed to be the whole world our contraception method of choice. The Germans cared not one bit.

Finally, I pound on my bag one last time, and flying out of the bag comes a glass of Slovenian facial mud I was bringing home for my sister. Glass and mud fly everywhere. I am embarrassed. They get it cleaned up and decide that they needn’t look through all of our bags.

Naturally, I have to re-sit on the bag to get it to close again.

We then step up to the German who is going to weigh our four pieces of checked baggage. Earlier in the year, the airline had lowered the weight limit for checked bags, and ours are well over the old limit, to say nothing of the new one. He says to me in English, “this is going to cost a lot.” I reply in German, “no it is not, because I purchased my ticket before the rules changed.” He sizes me up, and then says “50 euros.” Done. He then turns to Brent’s bags, one of which is filled with my belongings. These bags are equally heavy and Brent bought his ticket well after the weight limit was lowered. The German shakes his head and just lets it go.

Arriving in Newark, Brent and I parted ways. His ticket was to DC, but I was staying a night in Newark. I therefore had to figure out how to carry my four bags alone and with the crutches. Fortunately, asking a stranger to lug an 80 lb bag is not above me so this is what I did.

I stayed over night with friends in Newark. Finding the Amtrak station in the Newark Airport turned out to be an adventure itself. I had taken the train to the station a year previous so I knew it existed. We drove in circles, asked people, finally parked. Turns out you cannot drive up to it. You have to take the airport’s people mover. My friend Bob schlepped my crap onto the people mover, but I was on my own getting it off of it, and onto my eventual train.

This was a moment when I cursed my stuff and my friends for daring me to bring it all back to the States.

Mission accomplished. I got to DC, got the stuff off of the train, and there awaiting me was Brent. He had asked at the train station if he could meet me on the platform and had been turned down. Yet while he was waiting in front of the very large doors guarding the entrance to the platform (that he assumed opened only outward) he noticed an Amtrak employee walk right through them. She had no keys, no electronic pass-card, and no alarm went off. Telling himself, “this is exactly the sort of thing Nicole would do for me,” he barged through the doors towards the platform. His realization that the escalators from the platforms below ran only in one direction (up), did not deter him and before any passengers got to the escalator he ran down it backwards so he could meet me on the platform. I had already charmed (or conned) an Amtrak employee to take the bags off the train and loading them on a motorized cart.

The moral of the story: a good man is hard to find, but you can surely test his dedication with 320 lbs of luggage.


Eve's B & B

This was my first assignment in my writing course.

We arrived at Eve’s Bed and Breakfast just after nine in the evening. Tired from a day of work, the flight to St. Louis, and a kampf with the car rental agency, we were ready to be pampered. And this is just what awaited us, as we stepped into what seemed to be an earlier time and place.

We walked into Eve’s home, which is outfitted in varying shades from white to beige. The sitting area to the right featured four mid-century, almost rectangular white chairs, perfect for relaxing over a coffee and a book. The low teak wood table brought memories of conversation pits from the 60’s to mind.

Eve knew we were coming and had prepared a home cooked simple casserole of “Mexican Fiesta.” The baked dish’s ingredients—ground beef, zesty cheese, enough jalapeƱos to make you notice them, and salsa—harkened back to an earlier time. The dinner table, dressed in linens with huge glass goblets of ice water, featured one lit candle.

The next morning we lazed around in bed and awoke first to the smell of coffee from the kitchen and then to the smell of bacon. We sat down to candle light again for breakfast. The scrambled eggs were airy having been whipped in the mixer.

Lunch that day consisted of ham and cheese sandwiches on a mild rye bread, with old-fashioned potato chips. With potato salad and oriental cabbage salad rounding out the meal, we were ready to hit the town.

After partaking in the American pastime by doing a bit of consuming for the economy, we returned to take a nap before dinner. Two twin beds in ecru featuring starched and ironed sheets awaited us.

Dinner that night consisted of pork chops basted with apricots, applesauce, green beans with white onions and bacon, baked carrots, and one very large baked potato. The simple meal hit the spot. For desert we had apple brownies with fresh whipped cream on top.

To finish out our weekend we awoke again to fabulous smells, this morning of bacon and pancakes. The pancakes, while almost fried, were moist and airy. The fruit salad consisting of strawberries, peaches, bananas, mandarin oranges, and blueberries and came to the table in the same elegant glass goblets from the day before.

Eve’s B & B has been open for years, but unfortunately only to friends and family. I fall into the latter category, as I am her granddaughter. Continuing to work as a child-care provider, she “keeps the body moving” as she would say, keeping house and enjoying houseguests. Even though she is in her eighth decade, she still drives and lives alone. Her first husband died in WWII, and the second was relieved of duty some time ago.

The presentation and quality of the comfort foods served at Eve’s Bed and Breakfast cannot be beat. However, don’t go visiting Eve expecting to count calories or to find excitement. Do go there expecting a charming hostess, almost decadent sleeping quarters, and a weekend spent relaxing.

Apple Brownies Recipe

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg beaten
2 medium apples chopped
1 cup flower
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and chopped nuts and apples. Sift together flower, baking soda, baking powder and, and cinnamon. Add to other mixture. Pour into greased pan. 8 x 5. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.