Text by Danielle Griss
It was my first night in Berlin and I hadn't slept in at least 24 hours. The little sleep I had gotten the previous day was while on my eight-hour red eye from New York's JFK airport to Berlin's Tegel airport. The fact that I was lodged between a nearly 7-foot, smelly ogre of a man - who spoke next to no English - and the window, it was a miracle that I got any sleep at all.
The only word exchanged between us the entire flight was "gesundheit" after his sneeze - which could have easily been mistaken for turbulence - rumbled throughout the plane's cabin. The scowl on his face broke into an unexpected smile, and I was relieved that he was amused and not insulted by my failed attempt at pulling off a German accent. I figured that an effort at communicating could help my chances of getting him to move so I could finally use the lavatory. Apparently he was impressed and kindly set me free from my confined window seat.
I had left Jacksonville at 2 p.m. on a Thursday and arrived in Berlin at 8 a.m. on a Friday, then spent the entire day site-seeing and taking photos with the rest of the group, 16 in all. Due to a slight oversight in the logistics of time change, I had booked the wrong flight and arrived a day later than the rest of the group. And although they had gotten over the initial excitement of being in Berlin the day before, my adrenaline was pumping at an entirely different rate. While they were jetlagged and napping at the hotel, I was trying to make up for time lost due to my error in booking.
It was my first night in Berlin, and I was determined to stay up and go out. After asking our friendly Russian hotel receptionist, Nicolay, for some recommendations about where to go in Berlin on a Friday night, we decided to take his advice and hit up a trendy club called The Sage. Morgan M., Kristen, Matt and I headed off to the Sage at around 11 p.m., surprisingly found it after about a half an hour, paid our 10-euro covers, and made our way into the club.
While it was apparent that we stuck out like four sore thumbs on the dance floor, we still had a good time and were thrilled to finally be in Berlin. After a few hours of dancing to the European techno beats, we exited the dance floor and entered a more laid-back, dimly lit room with a bar and couches. And that's where Morgan and I met Andreas and David, two 25-year-old college students from Berlin. After I struck up a conversation with Andreas, and Morgan chatted with David, the wheels started turning in my head: this guy could be the source for my story!
Andreas and David were good friends who grew up in former East Berlin and were 10 years old when the wall fell. Andreas recalled going to the wall with his father the day that the checkpoints were open to help knock it down with his small hammer. Andreas knew enough English to converse, yet would get stumped on certain words and I would play the guessing game to try and figure out what it was he was trying to say. At the end of the night, we gave them our hotel phone number and made plans to get together sometime during the week.