After Dublin I was going to spend some time in Germany to visit family and then meet up with my friend Chris from NYC. I had a little less than 3 days before I was going to my aunt and uncle’s place in Munster, so I decided to do a quick stop in Amsterdam, a city that’s always been on my travel wish list.
I stayed in the most fabulous Airbnb in a non-touristy neighborhood near Oosterpark owned by a gorgeous woman named Bibiche who works in the fashion business. The apartment looks staged straight from a fashion/lifestyle cover shoot and you need to be a model or at least as tiny as one to climb up the extremely narrow and steep stairs to get to it. Since I had very little time in Amsterdam, I decided I would spend most of the time chilling out and walking around the beautiful city and do minimal tourist stuff. I attempted to get a ticket to see Anne Frank’s House, but it was sold out. I did get to the Van Gogh Museum, which is definitely worth a visit.
One thing about Amsterdam that’s so interesting and unexpected to me is the dichotomy of it’s “relaxed” vibe with coffee shops that offer ways to enjoy the city that have nothing to do with actual coffee, but at the same time there’s an intensity with a massive number of people bicycling aggressively through the city and the constant ringing of their bike’s bells competing with cars and pedestrians. Since I was only there for a couple of full days, it’s hard to get an accurate read of the city, but I can see why it’s such a popular place to visit because it’s really beautiful and the sense of freedom is intoxicating.
I spent the next week in Munster visiting my aunt, uncle and cousin. My aunt Gemma is my mom’s only younger sister in a family of 8 siblings who moved to Germany at 21 when her Korean church offered her a chance to be sponsored to go to nursing school in Germany. There she met my uncle Adolf and they married and had their son Andreas. My aunt’s a great cook and prepared an elaborate Korean feast for my arrival, something I was exceptionally excited about and she took no less than 2 dozen photos of me stuffing my face.
After a couple of days with my aunt and uncle, I went to stay with Andreas, his wife Monika and their little boy Julius, whom I lovingly refer to “Julius the Emperor” or “Julius the Conquerer”. Andreas is a few years younger than me and I recall the many times he’d visit the US from the time he was just a little kid not much older than Julius to his late teenage years when he’d visit with his German friends. My mom and I came to Munster about five years ago when Andreas married Monika and now they’re expecting their second child. It was really special to spend time with them and to see how much my baby cousin has grown up, found a wonderful life partner and has a family of his own. It was great to be able to spend some time with my German family.
Next up is meeting up with my dear friend Chris and his brother Eric in Berlin. Chris and I met on my life changing trip to Africa two summers ago and we’ve been two peas in a pod ever since. He quickly became one of my closest friends in NYC and I knew that our time in Berlin would be super fun because it’s pretty much guaranteed when we’re together. I affectionately refer to Chris as “Diamond Status” because when we met in South Africa, I could see that he’s a frequent/expert traveler and very much accustomed to his Delta Diamond Status ways and I knew our time in Berlin would be no different. I met Chris and his adorable brother Eric at The Ritz (aka Diamond Status) and we spent the next couple of days eating, drinking, sightseeing and laughing our way through the city. I stayed in an Airbnb just a mile from them close to Alexander Platz in an apartment that looked like it had been decorated by Prince’s purple designer and not a spot in the home was absent some purple accoutrement.
Chris, Eric and I visited a few of Berlin’s many historic and cultural sites. Berlin is a truly remarkable mix of history (much of it horrifying and devastating) and modern/hip design. It’s great to visit a city especially when your friend already knows where to go and what to see. But the best part was just hanging out, laughing at everything and everyone and being generally mischievous. Some of my favorite outings with Chris and Eric included:
Strolling through Tiergarten the “Central Park” of Berlin. Did you know there’s a nude section of the park? Not to be missed.
Drinks at Twin Pigs in a hip part of the city called Kreutzberg and fun dinner at Katz Orange where Chris and Eric in typical Ventry style were already VIPs.
We also had beers on top of The Monkey Bar which is the bar at the 25 Hour Hotel which overlooks Tiergarten and the zoo.
After Chris and Eric left Berlin, I had a couple of days to myself and I did some more strolling through the big city but my final day before my late flight to Barcelona, my foot had been bothering me from a ill conceived attempt to jog the night before so I didn’t want to do too much walking. So I ended up at the Sony movie theater and watched Jason Bourne and was thrilled to be sitting in air conditioning, eating popcorn and admiring Matt Damon’s ripped body as my final activity in Berlin. Alles ist gut (“everything’s good”).