Airports and Playgrounds

Berlin -- Traveling to Berlin is not easy, as there are no direct flights from Washington to Berlin. When the new Berlin airport at Schönefeld is finished, perhaps there will be.

So now it is a choice of flying over London, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, or even Paris, Zürich, or Vienna. I've ruled out Newark, having tried that once too often.

Arriving at the Berlin Tegel airport is often a pleasure, however. It is wonderfully out of date. The bags are delivered at the arrival gate; passport control (if there is any) is at the gate as you get off the plane. There are no televisions blaring at you, no banging music to rile the nerves.

So it is in the great old (and new) Berlin train stations. One hears only the trains and the buzz of travelers. As a traveler, I want quiet, not constant irritation.

German neighborhood parks are also respites from noise. Their playgrounds are inventive -- no standardized plastic equipment. Most equipment is built from wood and unique to the playground. Some have water pumps; the children play civil engineers, building canals, dikes, and sluices.

Germans are known for their engineering prowess. Perhaps they learn it on the playground. My children played in the Berlin parks growing up. My daughter is creative and operates a Berlin art gallery; my son studied engineering and is now a physicist in Maryland.