The Family Letter Blog

Connecting Generations

Summer 1914 – First Stop – Berlin

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July 29th 1914

Woke at 9:30. Raining (it rains every day in Berlin) Had breakfast in a rather fashionable café next to our hotel, and walked down Unter den Linden to the White Star office, where Bassett engaged a berth on the Olympic from Cherbourg August 19th. The agent, to whom he had a letter of introduction, told us that we would have to cut out Prague from our itinerary, because all trains stopped on the Austrian border. In front of the office we met Harrington & Motley, two more of our University Club, and they went with us to the American Consulate, where I had a good visit with Harold Quarton, the deputy consul who used to be in GWU with me. The Berlin consulate is a big place and does lots of business, but it has a reputation with the American residents of Berlin of being very stupid and unobliging. From there we took a subway out to Charlottenburg (West Berlin) and walked through the Tiergarten, a big park of 600 acres, to Bayreuther Strasse 2, where we inquired for Herr Lybarger. I waited half an hour till Bruce came in – the other boys went back to get something to eat. Bruce has a moustache and some German mannerisms, but is the same old fellow, I am glad to say. He inquired right away about everyone at home, especially about Grace and her wedding. We talked only a few minutes and arranged to meet at our hotel in the evening and go out to see the sights at night.

Bruce Lybarger was a friend of my grandfather from his home town of Osage, Iowa. After studying violin in Berlin he returned to Osage and taught violin at Cedar Valley Seminary. It seems he knew just where to go to show his hometown boys the sights of Berlin.

That afternoon we took a trip in a sightseeing car, all through the main part of the city and Charlottenburg, where the emperors have a palace, and the famous Mausoleum is. The Berlin parks and palace grounds are the most beautiful I have ever seen. The trees all seem to grow about 100 high, and they are so close together that it is almost dark under them, but some how they make the grass grow thick and smooth everywhere.

Bruce came up about 9. He said there was no use starting out before 10 because there was very little doing before midnight, but we went out to a little open air park to see the illuminated water-fall – a series of cascades with colored lights shining through them. Bruce has been around to most of the cafes with people who have wanted to see them – he had taken Dr. Savre around just a week or so before, and he knows how to do it alright. We would have had a hard time without him. He came to Berlin about a year ago not knowing a word of German, he said, and at first had an awful time getting around, but without studying he has picked up enough words and expressions to pass as a German when he wants to. About ten o’clock we went into the Picadilly Café, the largest and most popular. It is an enormous building, with a wide gallery running all around, and the floor covered with little tables, all of which were occupied. At one end, between the ground floor and gallery there was a fine 30 piece orchestra, which was worth a big price to hear. We finally found a table and ordered drinks for the privilege of sitting there. It was an interesting sight, I could have willingly sat there all night simply watching the people; laborers, soldiers, business men, young sports, young couples drinking out of the same glass (that’s a sign they are engaged) , women dressed to kill, sitting alone unless they could get someone to sit with them and buy their beer. People sit for hours in these cafes on 1 glass of beer and talk and listen to the music. The waiters get no salary, but a 10% tip from everyone, and in some places they pay for the privilege of working. A custom that Bruce told us about might very well be adopted in the U.S. I think – every person pays for himself. It amounts to almost an insult to treat a man you are with, or even a woman. I suppose that is the origin of “Dutch treat.” Bruce says that the American music students, girls, in his pension (boarding house) sometimes ask the men to take them to the opera, each paying for him (or her) self. They can’t go alone, and everyone feels perfectly free to ask the other, and refuse if it isn’t convenient. He says it resembles a family more than any similar place he has been.

We left the Picadilly after an hour or so and went to the National, which Bruce says is the worst. I didn’t see anything very bad or tempting about it. There were about a dozen fat, old, hard looking women sitting alone at tables with their arms and breasts bare, smoking cigarettes, and looking coldly around for victims. They didn’t even look at us which was a compliment I thought, and we sat off in an alcove and watched, as most of the other patrons seemed to be doing. One old gray haired man seemed to have “fallen” for one, she was sitting on his lap trying her charms on him. It was nothing but disgusting. We drank chocolate and ate “kuchen,” our favorite dish in Germany. They have the most wonderful kuchen, or cakes, that any small boy ever dreamed of. It is like paradise to walk down the street and see the windows full of all sizes, colors and kinds of cakes, or it would be if you could taste them all. I wanted to send some home and if I ever go again I shall.

The next café we went to was a brand new, large one, and the most beautiful of all I thought, – big round brass pillars, marble walls, the balcony inlaid with onyx, windows of stained glass, big cut glass chandeliers, etc., etc. They also had as good an orchestra as any in town, with a famous Russian violinist leader. We had apple cakes and whipped cream here, and it entitled us to a seat all night if we cared to stay, but about 12:30 we went to the Ice Casino, a big building where they skate to music between eats or drinks. The ice wasn’t working at that time, though, and it was turned into a dance hall. We got a table near the edge of the floor and watched them dance. Bassett asked one of the German girls to dance with him and she did. Everyone watched them out of the corner of their eyes to see how Americans danced and we could have owned the house if we had wanted to. About two o’clock, we decided we had seen enough for one night, and as the cars had stopped running Bruce called a taxi cab and we rode to our hotel for about 25 cents apiece – two or three miles. The whole evening cost us a little over a dollar apiece. A real Berliner would do it for one-fourth that much and get a good deal more pleasure out of it. That is a mild example of the notorious “night life” that is supposed to equal that of Paris, – if it isn’t the Kaiser will pass a law making it so. It doesn’t seem to me it suits the German’s temperament – he sits through it all with a stolid face. The places where they do seem to be enjoying themselves are in the small beer halls where they can get a quart of beer for six cents and a big slab of cheese and rye bread for two cents, and sit and talk and sing “Die Wacht am Rhein” all night long.

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Author: kakingsbury

I finally took the leap and started a blog in mid-March 2014. I currently maintain three blogs "All Things Kalen" "The Family Letter Blog" and "Trovando Famiglia." Trovando Famiglia is about my husband's family, particularly the original four Giorgio brothers who immigrated to western Pennsylvania from San Vito Chietino, Italy in the late 1800s. The Giorgio boys and their descendants have been the focus of my genealogical research over the past two years. The blog allows me to share family stories and photographs. Thanks for checking me out!

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