Sunday, October 30, 2005

Checking out (of) Berlin

I´m in Berlin for what I am guessing is my last post until I arrive back home in the states. Oddly enough, I am in the only Internet cafe I could find near where I have been exploring -- Postdammer Platz. It´s upstairs as part of a Dunkin Donuts. I´m pretty conflicted about this. On one hand, take a look at the picture from Wikipedia. When I was in Berlin in 1985, we looked out over the barren Potsdamer Platz with the wall, the no-man´s land, barbed wire and lights. That it has been reclaimed is good in my eyes, but wow, what it´s been reclaimed with. I´m hoping I happen to have overlooked some small spot of charm and life and not something that seems to cater to either tourists or trying to convince Germans what the West is like.

The old German Democractic Republic tried to use Stalin Alle (now Karl-Marx-Allee) with it´s combined residential and commercial design and use as a way to introduce visitors to the socialist ideal. While the tune may have changed, someone still wants us to dance the same old steps.

Earlier today, as I was sitting under the giant TV tower near Alexander Platz, I heard an announcement come on repeating in German and English: "Dear Berlin Guests. The Police would like your attention. Do not gamble on or play the "Find the Lady" game. You cannot win." I giggled thinking that the old find the queen card shuffle had made it´s way to Germany. Then I crosses one of the many bridges of the Spree River. They weren´t kidding. On four corners of the bridge were four setups. What suprised me was that they were literally running a shell game. Wha-huh? Isn´t that the third oldest way to turn a trick?

So I watched for a bit because I knew that there was at least on shill who plays and wins, drawing in the victims. I spotted one right away. It seemed pretty obvious to me, but I watched at least two people get fleeced out of 50€ each in the space of a few minutes. When I pulled out my camera to take a picture the crowd closed in. I looked up and one man looked at me and said, "sorry". I smiled back at the second shill but I kept my camera aimed at the crowd. We kinda faced off and I put my camera away. He walked back to his look out position by a street light. A few minutes laters, I successfully snapped some pictures (but man, they just didn´t come out) and I heard "Kein fotografieren!" and I suddenly had two of the shills looking pretty pissed off at me. I then spotted a third shill and figured the odds weren´t looking so good. I backed off under the now very watchful eye of the lookout.

Another half a block and I come across a small crowd gathered around a couple of Berlin Police officers. they are running a shell game to in an effort to show people that it´s a scam and that they can´t win. I´m not sure how effective this is when there are four such scams running and pulling people in a strong stones throw away.

I just spent the rest of the time walking around and remembering that I can´t figure out what day it is. I told someone "no problem" and that I would meet them on Saturday in Berlin. Big problem -- today is Sunday. I´m such a putz.

1 comment:

  1. Like your site, Scott! And it's true, Berlin is a weird place to get around in - it's too big. On the one hand it's changing all the time, on the hand nothing changes at all. It's a fun place to live, though. It's not San Francisco, though!