As our train rattled its way through the Czech hillside, I realised there was so much beauty in the country that we'd missed. Prague was an oppressive grey metropolis sticking its chest out, but out here the foliage was fighting back. The old communist buildings enveloped in green, its graffiti fading into the scenery, revealed a side of the nation we hadn't been able to see. Perhaps if we'd visited a smaller village as a counterpoint I'd feel more like I was leaving something behind on our way to Germany.
But what a pleasure to be back in Berlin. It's not just the memory of Radiohead here that makes me excited to be here - it has a youthfulness and style that other cities, like Prague and Zurich, lack. Emerging from the train into Hauptbahnhof, the main station and an architectural feat in itself, was like an awakening. It has verve, energy. The public transport is efficient, the streets are clean and it feels airy and safe.
We basically just settled in today at our hostel, as the train ride had taken four and a half hours, which was actually quite a pleasant experience. Our short hop plane rides are actually quite tiresome because there's never any down time. You go up, the hostesses race past with a drink and a sandwich, and then it's time to buckle up and turn off your electronics. Actually having the time to exhale, read a book, watch an episode of something or listen to a full podcast is an odd kind of luxury that I hadn't expected to appreciate.
Sam had found a restaurant he wanted to eat at for dinner and breakfast tomorrow, and as is his wont, he made a reservation lest we miss out. When we arrived, we discovered a little candlelit booth covered in flower petals. It seemed that someone had got the wrong impression because of the reservation! The waiter, at first embarrassed, laughed when I did.
Outside our window stood five logs vertically placed in a ring. In each of them there were three little cupboards with books. As we watched during dinner, probably thirty different people came up and browsed, returned a book, or took one. It was like a free, outdoor, tree library. I tried to picture if we could do such a thing in Adelaide, and ended up feeling that inevitably it would be vandalised by idiots on a Saturday night. Sad, because it is that kind of shared sense of community and mutual respect that makes Berlin such a pleasure to be inhabiting. As I sit in our room, window open, huge thunderstorm raging outside, Sigur R?s playing, I am at peace.