Early mornings and late meetings swallowed up the rest of the congress. Sitting through clinical presentations followed by networking with business contacts left not a whole lot of time for sight seeing or blog posts, so here we are. But I have some amazing things to tell you about.
Day 5, will forevermore be known as the day I had the best dinner of my life. It was a work meeting/dinner so I really couldn’t take a ton of photos. We met at a restaurant close to the convention centre that looked somewhat unassuming. Piccolo Mondo was the name, another curiously super Italian eatery in Berlin. We’ll get to that later. This ended up being Italian diner number three, but oh so much more. I think we started with the standard bread and oil, and some great wine. The menu was set with limited choices and I honestly don’t remember what I ordered for a starter, but then came the pasta.
The waiter rolled over a table with a giant cheese on it that had been holllowed out. He scrapped a good amount of the fresh Parmesan from the sides and bottom into a generous heap, and then added a ladle full of flaming brandy. Dinner theatre if there ever was. After the fire went out he added freshly cooked hot noodles directly to the cheese wheel/bowl of deliciousness and tossed them until all of the yummy goodness was coating every strand. Portions were plated and topped with fresh truffle that he shaved in front of us. However good you think that tasted, it was better.
After the pasta they mercifully let our stomachs rest a bit and then brought out the main course. I had chosen a beef cooked in a Barolo wine, because I’d never had Barolo before. It’s from Northern Italy and needs to be aged 38 months, at least 18 of which must be in wood casks. I’ve never seen a bottle of Barolo in my price range (cheap), so I jumped at the chance. Oh man, was it good, really, really good. Delicious tiramisu for dessert. I wish I had taken pictures, but this dinner definitely will stay in my memory.
Wednesday was up and back at it for the last full day of presentations, and Wednesday evening was a networking event. As an introvert I was feeling a little claustrophic in the middle of so many people all of the time so I stole a few minutes to myself in the plenary session room. Me and a few thousand chairs.
Between meetings and networking, my group had time for a wee bit of sightseeing near our hotel. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church is part of Berlin’s skyline and notable for it’s broken steeple. I didn’t grasp the full history but this was a church that baptized Jews during the war in order to try and save them from being sent to camps. Sadly, it didn’t save them, but this is part of their history on display in the bombed but restored section of the old church. There were some preserved mosaics and a beautiful tiled angel in the floor. An orthodox cross and one made of nails are on display, the cross of nails being a gift from Coventry along with the Coventry Liturgy of Reconciliation which, if I read correctly, is read across the world on Friday’s at noon, Coventry time.
Inside the new sanctuary which is constructed from cement and blue stained glass is a giant golden sculpture of Jesus that survived the bombings. I took a few minutes to sit in this sanctuary and just……rested in a profoundly peaceful presence. Had I been alone I would have stayed for a good while.
Thursday was the wrap up and closing session. How did it go by so fast? I was thankful for everything I attended and sad to have missed some other things. But it was over and it was time for a little bit of team bonding and sightseeing, starting with the East Side Gallery, a long section of the Berlin Wall that has been painted by a number of different artists.
The Berlin Wall was part of my psyche growing up along with the Cold War. It was just always there, until it wasn’t, and seeing it come down was kind of surreal at the time. Now that I’m a little older and have a bigger perspective of the world around me and our place in history, I cannot for the life of me understand how in 2017 anyone anywhere thinks that we need walls to keep some human beings in or out as the case may be. Education, healthcare, jobs and full bellies will go a lot farther toward creating a stable world than walls ever will. But on this overcast Thursday afternoon I got to time travel for a little bit and walk along this bizarre part of my worldview growing up. The strip we walked along was quite long and painted over by several different artists. What struck me most though, was that it was just tall enough to keep people from going over but low enough to almost tease a person about what was on the other side. It was nothing short of a cruel thing to do to people. At a break in the wall I measured the actual thickness, it was the width of my hand. That’s a lot of history wrapped up in a hand width of concrete.
At the end of the gallery we met up with our guide for a craft beer tour. Cliff of the Berlin Craft Beer Experience was both a pro at his job, but also an excellent companion and I felt more like I was spending an evening with an interesting new friend than being on a paid tour. Cliff took us to three different locales where we had craft beer and snacks, including what he said was the best currywurst in Berlin, and educated us on beer and beer making. Best three and half hour mini course of my life. Our last stop was a Mexican restaurant where the owner made beer from agave and it was really good. A fun evening and a phenomenal way to transition the work part of my trip into the tourist portion.
Well I’ve got too days left to tell you about, Friday’s visit to Potsdam and Saturday’s quest to see everything else before flying home. Stay tuned, I’ve got a a few surprises to share and one more very clever restaurant.