There is actually a specific reason why this post has been so long in coming, but...
I can't share that reason yet. Don't worry, it will come.
A lot has happened, as you might guess. After all, this is the longest gap of no blogging that I have endured since moving to Europe almost a year ago.
In July, a month in which I did not blog at all, we did quite a lot.
Well, quite a lot of going to the beach, anyway!
On our last beach day of the summer we found the best one, a nude beach called Waikiki...
In addition to trying to stay constantly one step ahead of a sunburn, we did actually also visit the French city of Nantes on the occasion of their Maker Faire, which is hosted at Les Machines de L'ile. For those that don't know, Les Machines is a really incredible organization of artists and technicians (and business-people and web-designers and, and, and) who build very large hydraulically actuated puppets which they use in street performance.
The puppets themselves are obviously mind-blowing, but in some way I have just as much fondness for the maquettes which are on display in their workshop. Maybe it's that they are more approachable, or that it's easier to grasp the idea of the piece on this scale, or easier to photograph them, or...? I think you'll agree they are amazing.
Strangely enough, Nantes is home to not just one, but two organizations built around street theater featuring enormous puppets. The other one, which one can unfortunately not drop in and visit, is called Royale de Luxe. While Les Machines seems slightly more focused on animal forms, Royale de Luxe appears to specialize in human puppets.
These photos are from a book we picked up inNantes.
Not surprisingly, there is a bit of juicy history between the two groups, with certain key people moving from one to the other, and some good ego-fueled disagreements about theatrical approach and values. All that is beyond the scope of this blog, but you can find some of it online if you poke around.
Not long after our trip to Nantes, I visited Berlin for a few days to try to evaluate whether this hair-brained idea of ours, this kooky concept of actually moving to Berlin, might actually make sense. Christina had already found a good candidate for a school for Kodiak, and my job on this trip was to check out a specific flat she had found online, in a neighborhood close to the school. Renting an apartment in Germany is no easy task; certain documents are required which prove one's financial soundness and general good-standing in German society, all of which makes moving to Germany as a foreigner a bit of an ordeal. There's not really any way to get these documents unless you live there for a while. Well, the realtor of the apartment Christina found was somehow willing to overlook all of this, which made it a real contender for us. I arrived in Berlin, took the train into town, met the realtor, saw the flat, liked it, and signed the lease.
And two weeks later, we moved to Berlin.
We've been here almost 10 days now, and to be honest I can't quite tell yet how I feel about it. We moved from a dense and lively city center, which faithful readers of this blog will know was an environment in which I found myself surprisingly happy but Christina did not care for too much, to a quiet and leafy suburb, an environment in which Christina feels much calmer but in which I might just feel a bit too calm. Berlin is about 10 times larger than Barcelona, and all indications are that the German capital offers art and culture on a much deeper, broader, and richer scale than the jewel of Cataluña. But it's all 30-40 minutes away from us, rather than right outside the door. I feel slightly under-stimulated, but time will tell. It might just be the perfect arrangement. Once school starts we will have time to go "into town" and do some grownup things, to see what the place has to offer. It's definitely different from Barcelona, but I'm optimistic.
I've been thinking off-handedly about some things I will miss about Barcelona, and some things I won't miss.
Things I will miss:
• The density of the city, and the sense of history in the architecture, especially in the old town.
• The intensity and occasional insanity of bicycling there. It was really a wonderful place to bike; everything close enough, good bike lanes, and enough hills to keep you sweating.
• The beach, the Costa Brava, the access to the Mediterranean.
• All the amazing sculpture.
• My sculpture class. This is probably what I will miss the most. Jorge, your class was a real treat for me. I loved every minute. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
• Cabrales cheese.
• The friendly and approachable cops.
I haven't had occasion to interact with German police yet, and hope I never do. Knock on wood.
• Our building. The fact that it was rough around the edges was its charm. You felt like you were on a movie set every time you walked in. This is the last picture I took in Barcelona, of the street-level entry hall.
• All the beautiful women, everywhere, all the time. The women in Germany all look like Angela Merkel.
• The access to stuff. USB drives, fresh peaches, spray-paint, and everything in between was always less than 2 minutes from our front door, and cheap. Stuff is harder to find in Germany, and definitely not as cheap.
• The great people we met there. Hopefully we will see you all again, really soon.
Things I won't miss:
• Spanish. Even though I speak it pretty well, a year in Spain taught me I don't have a real fondness for the language. In contrast, I love everything about German, and can't wait to enroll in a language course.
• The Raval location of Carrefour. Jesus, that place was a nightmare.
• The heat. Especially the humid heat.
Midnight in the Raval and it's too hot to wear a shirt.
• The food (Cabrales cheese excepted). Everyone talks about how great the tapas are, but at the end of the day it's mostly olives, deep-fried cheese, and pickled cuttlefish, or variations thereof. I ended up not liking jamon at all, the chewy stringy pride of Cataluña. When we arrived in Barcelona we were really excited about the proliferation of restaurants in our neighborhood, and 6 weeks later there wasn't a single one we were excited about re-visiting. On the other hand, I cannot get enough schnitzel, sausage, smoked fish, and spätzle. My heritage is something like 60% German, with another 20% shared between Scandinavia and Poland; maybe that's why this food feels like home. (Let's see how I feel about it all in a few months!)
Oh, and the beer. Kostritzer Schwarzbier is my current favorite, but it's hard to get a bad beer here.
More blogging to come. Thanks for your patience. Bis bald.