Field trips: Ruined village, bristling boars

A few days ago our friend Norbert called us and asked if we wanted to go to the old Olympic Village to take pictures. We looked it up; it’s mostly ruined, but a bank has purchased the property, and is restoring bits, and is celebrating the 70th anniversary this year.

The Village is in the sticks, out to the end of the city metro lines, and then another 20-minute train ride beyond, and a half-hour walk from the station. It was closed, to prepare for some event, but Norbert had brought a CD of pictures of his last visit, and talked them into letting us wander on our own.

The original buildings are sparse, little lines of cottages with steep, faded red German roofs, with a few larger halls for meetings and meals. But the space is now dominated by newer platzbauen, Soviet era domitories for troops that were barracked here during the cold war. They have the character of an abandoned asylum, squat and stark, broken windows everywhere, floors inside covered with rat pellets, grown over with vines, the walls covered in peeling, hideous wallpaper of orange and yellow. Any soldier living in these buildings must surely have gone crazy quickly. In one crumbling bathroom we found the faded, spotted picture of a 1960s pinup girl, a sticker, pasted on the tile above the soap dish. They are restoring the original buildings, but these will surely be torn down; another way to forget the years of Soviet domination.

Yesterday we took our first trip out to one of the huge lakes and forests that surround the city. An hour or more by bike through suburbs that could be Daly City, in what wasWest. Then finally to a huge lake that was dotted with sails, pleasure boats, and lined with little beaches here and there. We rode through the forest for an hour or two, found the Biggest Tree in Berlin (planted 1785, 43 m. tall), and a strange little animal park, without explanation, where big-horned rams and (formerly) wild boars with long snouts and stiff bristles rubbed their backs against trees and begged breadcrumbs from passersby. They are huge animals, the biggest as high as my waist, and surely 400 pounds at a minimum.

On Monday we finally start our language classes. As in the US, our summer vacation is at an end.

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