One potato, 2 potato 3 potato 4
I-love-Berlin-its-taxi drivers-and more! (okay, so this does not really rhyme, but it was worth a try was it not?!)
Well, okay, in this first “Berlin Favourites” entry, I actually did all the prompting. What is a girl supposed to do, when she is sitting in a taxi with a driver who looked just plain mean-as if he really was tired of life and the world in general!
Yes, I could have left him alone and sat in silence for the 20 minute ride. BUT. I am simply much to loquacious for that. So…
A few weeks ago when I left my acupuncture appointment, I jumped into a taxi to take me home. I said my usual “Hallo” and told him where I would be going. Then he grunted something, which was, to my ear, completely indecipherable. So, I asked him what he said and he quickly shook his head and grunted something again under his breath.
The Germans have this rather unique way of releasing a guttural sounding “aaacch”, when they simply cannot be bothered by someone, when they think that what the other person has to say is utter nonsense-the English translation to my mind, would be similar to the manner in which Americans say “whatever”. This taxi driver’s gave me an “aaaach” which was accompanied by a quick thrust of the hand as if to just wish me away.
O.K. Fine. Good. I can deal with that. At least, so I thought. I had really never had this experience before.
The man was, I would say, in his early-60`s, I would guess. He looked tired, fed-up and was very harsh. He was harsh with his words and also harsh in his gestures (at least what little I was able to see through the front mirror).
I knew that this would be one of my exception drives where no conversation would take place. I swear that this stillness (which indeed at times can be pleasant..but not this time…) became most uncomfortable for me as the minutes ticked away. I do not know why and please don’t ask me to explain whatever it was which compelled me to break this silence, but about 8 minutes into the drive, as we drove by one of my favourite places in Berlin-Savignyplatz-I just blurted out ” What is your favourite food?!”.
The man slowed down the taxi and turned his head to look at me (yes, while he was driving. I was in a short moment of panic at this point). Then he turned around and with some delay, laughed out very loudly. Then there was silence and he said nothing for what seemed to me to have been about 5 minutes. I clearly had made a mistake and felt like such a fool for having opened my mouth. I began to fiddle around in my bag in search for my ipod to fill up the remaining minutes of our drive.
Then he blurted out ” White beans”. I was not at all certain what I had heard and asked him to repeat that, prepared this time for the “Aaach!”. “White beans” he repeated. They are the only things I cannot handle. Other than that, I love everything”. And then he went on further:
“Well, I guess that breaded schnitzel would be my favourite, with potatoes. No, only potatoes! Yes, that is it”….and then…he started telling me about how great the potatoes are where he comes from and how he goes to his best friend from childhood who owns a large farm to collect them. He visits them twice a year and gets all of his potatoes, cheeses and “wursts” to last him through the season.
This was no longer a conversation, as he was talking and had taken over conversation entirely. But as I watched him through the mirror, I saw that his face was really taken over with passion and honest excitement. He went on about this farm, the cows and the fresh milk, and the chickens with thier eggs, which he claims are the best of all Germany. About 3 minutes away from home, I jumped in and asked if he himself cooked. He responded with a hearty laugh. “No, I have a wife! But I know what I like!”
When we arrived in front of my house, I was ready to just pay and exit the taxi, but he kept the door locked and continued to talk about waffles (his favourite dessert served with fresh strawberries), fruits and how he wants to teach his grand-daughter how to make waffles as soon as she turns 5. “Modern women have lost their place in the kitchen” he said. Well, I won’t comment on that. He then paused, and actually thanked me for making him laugh. He said that as a taxi driver, one never has the chance to laugh (I beg to differ there, however I was not going to argue).
He told me that he could not recall ever having had such a pleasurable trip with such exciting conversation as he called it. I left the cab and almost skipped my way to the front door-grinning from ear to ear.
(This is the view from my balcony. I guess that I should call this picture the leaning tower of Alex…I will not hold the camera at such a wierd angle next time)
Well, for dinner with all of that potato-chat-I made Potato Rösti!