I love Berlin. I only got around a little last night (i.e., Friday) but much of it feels quiet and uncluttered and laid-back. Very little traffic of any kind. No real crowds anywhere. Everywhere you look there are soothing, almost whispery little dark streets. And cool-looking cafes and restaurants, and none overly crowded. Areas like Potsdamer Platz, where the Berlin Film Festival happens, are glitzy and brightly lit and tourist-afflicted, but this seems more the exception than the rule. Or so it seemed last night.

Adjacent to Amtsgerichtsplatz, a small park on Holtzendorffstrasse in southwest Berlin.

This is a town for people of taste and refinement. The cultural atmosphere feels cool and right and unhurried. In Paris there’s often the roar or at least the hum of traffic, and certainly the sound of scooters everywhere, buzzing around like hornets. Not so much here. Or at the very least, much less so. Huge sycamore trees with titanic leaders line the street where I’m staying. Big trees and abundant shade in a big city always instill a sense of calm. If someone had told me last night that I couldn’t stay indoors and I had to pitch a tent in Amtsgerichtsplatz, a small park across the street from where I’m staying, I would have been okay with that.

Last night at an Italian place I accidentally knocked over a bottle of black vinegar on the table, and it hit the floor and broke open. The black vinegar began to spread across the brick floor like blood in Francis Coppola‘s Dracula. A table of four people nearby were staring at it also. I was struck by how much we all were on the same wavelength, how we were more taken by the curious visual look of this black substance spreading across the floor than by any unsettled feelings about something being broken or a sense of “oh, what an asshole that guy is, knocking over a bottle of vinegar,” etc.

I thought for sure with jet lag and my screwed-up sleep clock that I would wake up at 3 or 4 this morning, but I crashed around midnight and slept right through to 6 am.