September 2009


Environments Diverse

As I’ve noted before, I live in a “small” city, with a population of 65,000 people.

Make no mistake, “I ♥ WE”

Weimar’s a charming city with nice cafés, bars, restaurants, museums, and inner city architecture. It’s actually a small town where you get to know people, recognizing them by sight.

It’s possible to that here in München, where I am for this weekend’s Whiney Expatriate Blogger Unmissable Meet-up; aka WE-BUM. I arrived last night and met up with a few of our hosts, fantastic people who have gone out of their way to assemble a fantastic program of events.

Unfortunately I am behind on a work project, so I’ve had to take some time out this morning to work on the current big project. Given my predilection for finding neighborhood coffee shops it’s actually a reasonable form of sightseeing for me. Usually I seek out a gay-ish coffee shop where I sit down with my computer and work for a couple hours, looking up at the eye-candy, and then refocusing on work.

Today was no different—I started out at the Forum Café, which was a reasonable place, save for the fact that I wanted an electric socket and I was forced to sit on a rather uncomfortable bench and lacked decent eye-candy. Once somebody with cigarette-reeking clothing sat at an adjacent table, I finished my tea and packed up, leaving to find another environment.

When I started, I wanted to find some place with eye-candy and hopelessly gay. Instead I found Café Bracha, which proclaims itself to be “Münchens erstes koscheres Café”; or Munich’s first kosher café.

It is not, shall we say, a hopping café—it’s relatively quiet, although I’ve recognized at least three distinct languages being spoken: English, German, and Russian. I suspect a fourth language is spoken as well—although since I have music in my ears, it’s hard for me to tell.

The café is more of a Jewish grocery store than anything else. Stacked on the table next to me are boxes of “English Cake”, kosher, parve, and and product of Israel. There are also boxes of something fruity on the table, but labeled in Hebrew, so I’m clueless. Matzo Meal is stacked next to a pillar, and tall stacks of boxes are scattered in the shop.

It actually reminds me a bit of one of my favorite childhood book series – the All of a Kind Family, which featured a Jewish family living in the tenements of New York City’s Lower East Side. I own one of the books—which I’ve loaned to one of my German friends who is learning English—we were actually discussing the book on the train ride home Wednesday afternoon—she had some questions about some of the more esoteric aspects of the English language—like asking me what “woodwork” meant in a specific context (in this case, it referred to a window frame, made of wood), and explain what some of the location and era specific words meant—fun because the books date from early in the last century.

I only own the first book in the series, and she’s only read the first few chapters of the book, so she was unaware that the family in the book is Jewish—it doesn’t come out until the fourth or fifth chapter when the family is observing their weekly prayers, or some other religious holiday.

This isn’t the first time I’ve given pause to reflect on this book series—and this book series made me want to visit the Tenement Museum in New York City—which is one of the few museums I’ve visited that I would recommend universally; everybody should see the living conditions and try to understand the living conditions that defined immigrant life in New York City.

All of this is a round about way of coming back to Café Bracha, the Jewish grocery store and café in Munich: It has the atmosphere I imagined of neighborhood Jewish groceries after reading All of a Kind Family stories. It’s crowded, comfortable, and a place where. The clerk reminds me of the book as he leans over the counter with his yarmulke on, kvetching with customers.

I like it; it’s a comfortable pleasing environment. Perfect for work.

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