In the past, when I've arrived in Berlin at the Tegel Airport, I've always taken the TXL Express bus to my hotel. It's only about $3 and lets me off on Unter der Linden, a wide, tree-lined boulevard whose exit is about 500 yard from the Brandenburg Gate and only about 1 mile and a quarter from the hotel. It's a pleasant an easy walk, and I've done it three times.
Yesterday, I went to the TXL Express check-in area at the airport and told the ticket taker that that's what I wanted a ticket for. And when the bus came, I double-checked, "Is this the TXL Express?" Yes, he said, it was. So, I got on.
One problem. It wasn't. It stopped at the Park of the Invalides, and I was the last person on board. And the driver was a rarity in Berlin, not speaking English. He told me in great detail how to take the U-Bahn (subway) to where I wanted to go, "Brandenburg Tor," I told him, since it was the biggest landmark. And I'm sure his directions were great. I just did't understand them. So, I took off walking.
Fortunately, I had a map, and checking the street signs, I had a pretty good idea where I was. It seemed about three miles away -- not exactly a walk I wanted to take after 15 hours traveling, but I walk a half-hour every so this wouldn't be too terrible. Probably about an hour or so.
Yes, I know I could have found a cab. But this became a guy-thing. Sort of a challenge, not to give in to having been put on the wrong bus. And knowing I could have taken a cab in the first place. But the TXL Express -- when you get on the correct bus -- is easy and convention.
The walk wasn't terrible. It certainly allowed me to see more of Berlin close up, which I don't get all that much to do on the trip. And once I made it to Unter der Linden, I was halfway done, and the rest of the trip was sort of nice. The weather was good, it's a nice boulevard, as I said, I passed the Russian Embassy and the U.S. Embassy, I walk through the Brandenburg Gate, one of my favorite spots in Berlin, and walked past the lovely and very evocative Holocaust Memorial and Museum.
So, all in all, the walk was very interesting. Just a whole lot longer than what I was hoping for. As you might imagine, when I told the elves back at the homestead, they found it hilarious.
By the time I got to the hotel and checked in, I only had about 45 minutes before our group went out for the evening to a press event organized for us. I wrote yesterday about how I'd tracked down a Clinton-Kaine button to wearing here in Berlin because I wanted a shortcut to conversation in case anyone saw a Americans and thought "Trump." As it turned out, my planning for this worked out where.
During the evening, a couple of local Germans saw the button and got into conversation with me specifically because of the button. Relieved that I was not for "that Trump." Needless-to-say, they were aghast by him and the whole process. I was able to use the line I had prepared, in case this came up...which I was sure it would. "No, America is not supporting Donald Trump. The conservative Republican Party supports him, and the polls show he is losing, and badly." They were fascinated, but very concerned about it all, and wanted to know if he actually had a chance. (With only two people seriously in the race, yes, I said, he had a chance. But no, given how far behind he was, and likely to have more blow-ups, and likely to do poorly in the debates, I said I didn't think his chances were substantive.)
We talked a lot more. One of the fellows had earlier worked for the Council of Economic Advisers in Berlin, and had helped organize the famous event when Barack Obama came to Berlin as a first-time candidate, and there was a crowd out 100,000 people. "It was amazing," the fellow said. And explained how much people here love Obama. What was fascinating too was how much and the other woman I spoke to knew about the U.S. election. Even to the point when I told the story of Trump and Khizir Khan at the DNC, they knew mostly what I was talking about, even if not all the details. They knew a lot. And cared a lot. I would imagine that most Americans don't care one whit about any foreign election, let alone something as simple as who the candidates are. But these people knew about the U.S. And cared. A lot.
And then there's even an update on this. Tonight, a bunch of left the Lenovo event early and went back to that great, tiny back-alley pub that I accidentally found five years ago -- and which we accidentally went to the next year, and people loved. There are only two guys I've ever seen working there, so I suspect they own it. And they're a joy and a hoot. Neither speak English well, though we can communicate. And they seem to have gotten a bit better. And almost everyone I've ever seen eating there is German. Anyway, when I walked in, the one fellow who tends to be more the waiter saw my button and went wild. "Hillary. I love Hillary. Are you for Hillary?? Good, good. I love Hillary. I love her. Can I have the button? Hillary and Kanye. Hillary and Kanye." (I corrected him that it was pronounced "Cane.") Great, great. I love Hillary. Hillary and Bill. I love Bill."
Normally, I'd have given him the button, but I really did go out of my way to get it so that I could specifically wear it throughout the show. But I did pick up a few other Hillary buttons that aren't all that wonderful, but they have a picture of her, and I brought them along, just in case. I think there's an okay chance I'll be able to make it back there, and I'll bring a button for him.
One of the women in our group for dinner looks a little, sort of, kind of, somewhat like Hillary Clinton, and the guy was so excited that she did, and so he kept calling her Hillary. And tell her husband who was there (obviously) how lucky he was. And at the end of the meal, he gave her a kiss on the check. He loves Hillary
As I said, people around the world follow American politics. And it has meaning around the world.
All the more reason to understand why the election is so important. Because a U.S. presidential election is not just about the U.S.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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