Brussels/Berlin 2023

Tuesday 18th July 2023 – A Schwimm and some Footstep Following

This morning, I resolved to go for a swim in a local outdoor pool. This would necessitate the purchase of an item I had forgotten to bring from home, namely a pair of swimming goggles. This is of course an item sold by many shops but trying to work out which would be my best “bet” in a city where I do not speak the language seemed a worthy challenge.

My first instinct was to try a branch of the popular store “JD Sports” in a shopping centre somewhere to the north of my accommodation that itself, resembled the bow of a ship. This store proved a lost cause however as it only sold fashionable clothing, restricted mostly to training shoes and sports tops.

Further consideration and researched revealed that there were other brands establishments in the building worth investigation. The “eureka” moment came when I typed the German for “swimming goggles” (“schwimmbrille”) into “Google Maps” and found that these would be found at “DECATHLON”, a branch of which was in the shopping centre. The item was found at the price of €2.99.

Incidentally, the way that my goggles were scanned at the self checkout was a new technology to me. Instead of passing the bar code under the traditional red laser, one simply dropped the item into what could only be described as a large black open-topped box. It was scanned on entry and I was charged accordingly. Remarkable!

The swimming pool was large, and extremely cold on entry. However, the danger of “brain freeze” tends to subside as one gets into the rhythm of the swim and I completed the equivalent number of lengths that I would usually do at the pools in Kirkcaldy, or Burntisland. This pool however was twice the length of my usual haunts so with the voice of Gladys Pugh from the classic television programme “Hi De Hi” ringing in my ears, I had to recalculate my distance for this particular Olympic-sized swimming pool. I also enjoyed the slide at the far end of the pool which was in essence a short, twisty flume. It was surprisingly fast, particularly towards the final dousing and very much enjoyed by me.

The atmosphere at the pool was very genial with a number of “serious swimmers” clearly getting their desired exercise, along with some families, and young teenagers playing with their friends, much reminiscent of my own experiences at the same age when my friends and I would attend the “Commie Pool” before going for chips at a nearby outlet. The comedy of the  fact that the word “Commie” in this part of the world has a number of very different associations was not lost on me.

Back in Brunestraße, I took a very late brunch at “Lucy’s Deli” where I enjoyed a large slice of banana cake accompanied by strawberries, yoghurt, and a home-made almond butter.

Later that afternoon, I caught the U8, U1, and U2 lines back to Nollendorfplatz, where I had been the previous Saturday. Before, this place had been a hotbed of stalls, dancing, and partying. Today I found it a little calmer and sleepier, befitting a hot Tuesday afternoon.

Firstly, I wanted to find the former residence of Christopher Isherwood. Isherwood was an English 20th century writer who penned the Novel “Goodbye to Berlin”, which I had been reading. In 1929, he came to Berlin and lived here for about 4 years, experiencing the Jazz clubs and gay scene of the era, but also observing the effects of the rise of the Nazi party on this world and those around him. His writings were later adopted into a play called “I am a Camera” which in turn was adapted into the musical and movie “Cabaret”. I found the location at 17, Nollendorfstraße, with the obligatory plaque marking his legacy.

I wandered the area for some time, taking in the number of rainbow-clad establishments, many of which selling leather-made goods for purposes which I could not imagine. One of these was next door to a dry cleaner. I surmised that perhaps the two should collaborate over discounts for joint patrons as it would seem logical that actions involving the products of one, could very well necessitate the use of the services of the other. I kept this thought for the time that I find myself in possession of significant finances to invest in such a scheme.

I partook of a gin and tonic at “Romeo and Romeo”, while reading the last section of Isherwood’s novel. I was pleased to be able to do this so close to where he had many of the experiences that inspired the incidents in the book.

I took dinner again on my balcony, quite enjoying being able to indulge in the quiet simplicity of this. A pizza and a beer were all I required as I watched the sun go down.

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