Then, he introduced another young man, Michael, to also speak with us. He was a refugee from Georgia (the country, not the state) who has been here for several years. He was very open about his situation, saying that he had suffered from depression both at home and since he arrived it Germany, where he had been attacked and beaten. Now he has a boyfriend here, from Yemen, and a place to live, and is studying German. He spoke very good English, which he told me he had basically taught himself. He plans to learn enough German to go to school here. Ideally he’d like to study psychology, which he has always been interested in and had studied in Georgia. But one has to have extremely high grades, so he is now thinking of geography. I asked about his family situation, if they accepted and supported his being gay. He said that his father did not approve, and they didn’t get along. He knew his mother and his sister were okay with things, but could not openly go against his father. Now, his father has died, and so he was never able to reconcile with him. But he is working on improving his relationship with his mother and his sister, who is four years older.
Later, we decided to go on the free city tour that we missed the other day because we were 10 minutes later for our reservation. I didn’t realize at first that this is the same company, Sandelman’s, that ran the also free tour that I took a few years ago in Jerusalem. Their approach is to make the tour free, but ask for tips. I think that’s a fine way to do it.We were split into two groups, because they try not to have a large number of people form the same group together. The reason is a practical one that they were open about -that a large group together doesn’t tip as well. Fair enough. Our group gave each of the two guides 40 euros, and then many of us gave them additional tips as well. Plus there were another dozen or so people in each of our groups, so I think they made out pretty well.
We learned about how almost all the "older" buildings we saw were reconstructions of what had been there before, bombed by the Americans. I believe she said that 80% of Berlin's buildings had been destroyed. The reconstruction process is a long term one that is still going on all these years later, because of the need to preserve the architecture according to complex regulations. One way you can tell which parts are actually old is the blackened state of the statuary, for instance. Much of the statuary had been removed to protect it, and then replaced post war to the whiter marble reconstructions.