Barring being called back for any emergency meetings, I have now officially left Berlin. Wednesday was my last night, spent in the hotel where we first stayed back in December on our “decision” visit. Earlier that day I had handed over the keys to the apartment to Francesco, our dashing Milanese landlord, who happily informed me a German movie star was moving in on Monday. I was not surprised. It is a great apartment, and yet I hadn’t felt emotional when packing it up the previous week.
As I left the red front door of 52 Fehrbelliner Strasse for the last time, I considered if I should stop for a glass of wine at corner wine bar or dinner at one of our old neighborhood haunts. But with husband already back in the UK the idea had little appeal. I had done those things with him, many times, and it felt like just going through the motions to do them again on my own. Instead I took a cab back across Mitte to Rutz, a wine bar and restaurant just down the street from the hotel. Husband and I had drank a glass of wine there occasionally, but the food is fussy sounding and expensive and not his kind of thing. On my own, fueled by a feeling of glamour by association from the news of the German movie star, it seemed like a good choice for my last supper in Berlin.
Once seated, the waitress informed me the three-course set menu was what the chef cooked for the pope when he was in Berlin a few weeks ago. I am not Catholic, but I was tired from all the logistics of the move out of Berlin and the move-in-progress to Boston, and I figured what was good enough for the pope was good enough for me. Soon my glass of Riesling arrived, accompanied by a basket of bread and a small dish of what the waitress called schmalz. It was whipped lard sprinkled with bacon bits, and it was so delicious I didn’t even open the bottle of olive oil that had also be placed on the table. Next came a hunk of raw char sprinkled with ground almonds, followed by a plate of fork-tender beef, and rounded off with a chocolate souffle accompanied by a quenelle of sorrel ice cream on a bed of plum compote. I can confirm that like me, the pope had eaten well in Berlin.
The next evening as a taxi ferried me to Tegel, an amber full moon shone over the Spree. This time the emotion came: nothing schmalzy mind you, just a pang of sadness leavened by the satisfaction of having reacquainted myself with Berlin.