Tonight is a very exciting night for me. I get to get dressed up like a proper lady and attend the ballet at the Deutsche Opera. While I wanted to bring my perfect fitting black dress with my perfect, princess shoes – seriously, they’re from the Disney Glass Slipper Collection (though not glass, they’re black and slightly sparkled) – and my amethyst jewelry to sparkle along with my shoes, there was that fifty-pound weight limit which forced me to be a bit more practical in my packing. If it couldn’t do double-duty, or was not disposable, it didn’t make the final cut. Still, I’m not the wear the khaki, zip-off leg pants with only hiking boots and Birkenstock type of girl. So, wearing my skirt and my cute, high-heeled boots, Jen and I head out the door and hop on the bus; she, to buy last-minute gifts for her trip home to see her family and me, to experience the Staatsballett Berlin dance the Nutcracker Ballet.
Jen points me in the direction of the correct train and instructs me on which stop to get off at (it’s kind of a bonus in this situation to be pet-sitting for an opera conductor). We agree that I should leave plenty of time for unplanned things to happen, including the very real possibility me getting lost. This time, I actually find my way and arrive an hour early to pick up my ticket. Luckily, after a short wait, the box office opens and, ticket in hand, I head upstairs where there’s a bar and, more importantly, a toilet (they don’t beat around the bush here in Germany by calling it a restroom, as you don’t go there to rest, nor do they call it a bathroom as you certainly don’t go there to bathe – at least not at the opera house). After that business is done, it’s time to get down to the business of wine. There’s decent bar/lounge area on the top floor which, I feel, is my duty to my Virtual Travel Buddies to check out. I order a glass of red wine and enjoy a quick conversation with the young lady behind the counter. She mentions that she did some volunteer work in New York and tells me about the organization which I vow to contact to see if I might be able to work with them on my volunteer project this trip.
Fifteen minutes before the scheduled start of the show I enter to find my seat. It’s a great view from the eighth row and, when I look around, it seems that most seats here look as if they have great views. I’m seated in front of a group of three from Australia (mom and dad brought the adult daughter to see this as her Christmas present) and next to a British couple. On my right is a German woman who, due to my complete lack of German language skills (that semester in college was useless), I pleasantly smile at and turn away.
Before long, the audience applauds as the conductor enters the orchestra pit. He raises his baton and, as I hear the familiar Bum-ba-da-duh-bum-bum-bum-bum, I get smile on my face and my heart starts racing; THIS IS CHRISTMAS!
As the children dance and gifts are given, snow falls and so do my eyelids. I fight to stay awake. What?! I’ve been looking forward to this for a week! It’s not that it’s boring. On the contrary, it’s beautiful. It’s just my complete lack of sleep due to the moving from my house and the jet-lag, which have taken over my life these last few weeks. I can’t seem to sleep while lying in bed at 3:00am but sitting in a full theatre at 8:00pm? Well then I turn into sleeping beauty. I bite my lip, breathe deeply, and do everything I can not to nod off (snoring is not acceptable behavior when attending the ballet). Intermission comes not a moment too soon because, not only do I need to get the circulation going, I need to get the going going. The wine has settled both in my blood system and in my bladder. I wait in the customary line at the ladies room while subtly doing the traditional potty-dance (if you’ve worked with kids, you’ll know). When I’m finished with that line, I head over to the refreshment line to get a coffee to counteract the previously consumed wine. I seem to be in the slow line and, just as I approach the counter, the five-minute warning bell rings. No coffee for me.
I take my seat for the second half and, apparently just the thought of coffee has awakened me. I have no challenges staying awake during the second half. Sure, it could be the temptation of coffee, but I’m willing to bet it’s simply the spectacular beauty of the music, sets, costumes and dancing. As a writer, I tend to lean more towards words to describe, than pictures. In truth, I think words can often be more descriptive. In this case however, I would say that you must see it. The colors are amazing and the pictures painted on the stage by dancers in flight are incredible. And you can’t forget the music. Perhaps you think you know nothing of classical music but I’d hazard to guess you’d probably recognize many of the songs in this masterpiece, even if you couldn’t name the titles. By the end of this performance I’m holding back my tears.
When the performance ends, the applause continues for nearly seven-minutes (there’s my arm workout for the day). The exhaustion has faded for the moment and I’m on an adrenalin rush.
I choose not to take public transportation back to Jen’s (I’ll stay at her place tonight as she leaves very early in the morning) as a taxi seems the right form of transportation after the ballet; getting one is the challenge. I thought there’d be a taxi line (kinda like Las Vegas) but, there just seem to be a lot of people searching hopelessly for taxis which seem to have taken the night off. Apparently, there were a few when the show let out, but they left with fares and no others arrived. People begin walking down the street leapfrogging each other in order to be the first to flag down the elusive taxis. I walk along and, when I see a taxi with its version of a “For Hire” light on, I raise my arm just a second or two before the guy with the lady fifty-feet in front of me waves his. The taxi pulls over and passes them by stopping right in front of me. I mouth the words, “I’m sorry,” to the couple in front of me and hop in.
I tell the taxi driver where I’m headed and ask if he knows it. Jen mentioned that hers is a tiny street that cab drivers often don’t know. I even show him where it is on the map I had Jen mark it on. He looks confused but pulls away. He tells me he’s just pulling up a little and will then check to see where it is. When he stops, he pulls out a thick book that has seen better days (I think he picked it up in a local antique shop). He rifles through the pages, grunts and pulls the car away from the curb.
“You know where you’re going?” I ask.
“Yes, yes,” he replies confidently.
He asks where I’m from.
“The States,” I reply.
”Yes, yes, I know that.” (Is it that obvious?) “Where do you live there?” he counters.
I’ve now heard this question a few times and, to keep it simple, I’m still saying Arizona as I still own a house (and rent a storage unit) there.
He then asks if I’m traveling alone (another popular question). I wonder if I should say that I’m traveling with my hit-man uncle and his pit-bull so people think I have someone who will cut out their tongue should I disappear. Instead, I say, “Yes, yes, I’m traveling alone.”
“Are you married?” he asks (here it comes).
“No, I’m not married.”
“Uh, don’t you, um, well, don’t. . .”
“Yes, I like men!” I cut him off understanding that this is always the next question. “I travel a lot and I’ve just never found the right man,” I say, as I always do. “Where are you from?” I change the subject.
“Iran,” he replies. “You know, where everyone’s a terrorist,”
“Oh, I doubt that,” I reply.
“No, no, it’s true,” he says. He mentions some things about the Muslim religion, which I disagree with, but find it interesting to hear his views. He’s lived in Germany for thirty-years and returns to Iran once per year to visit family.
“You know why I passed those people and picked you up?” he asks, as if he has a secret to share.
“Because you were alone. The others, there are three or four. I get paid the same whether it’s one or four, so I picked you up instead of them.”
I’m not really sure what the difference is as, well, he said it, he gets paid the same. Still, who am I to argue as it got me a lift quicker than the others still waiting on the curb?
Apparently his antique book worked and he finds the flat without trouble. I pay him and thank him for choosing to pick me up instead of the larger party, and head upstairs.
Tomorrow, exploring the Mitte with a Christmas Market and a Jewish Memorial.