Back in Berlin in the spring of 2000, Funder surveys the beautiful greenery and handsome buildings. She returns to the same apartment in which she lived previously. Before arriving, she’s sent a letter to Miriam, explaining that she’d tried to write Miriam’s story, but found that she needed to do more research first. Funder also emails Julia letting her know she’ll be back in the city. Julia tells Funder that she’s living in San Francisco, working in a feminist bookstore and taking part in anti-rape demonstrations.
In just three years, Berlin has changed enormously. Many of the people with whom Funder spoke previously, such as Julia, have left town. Julia’s behavior suggests that she’s still haunted by her past trauma, and is becoming involved in feminist and anti-rape groups to protect others from being assaulted as she was.
Early in the morning, Funder sips coffee and studies the famous statue of Heinrich Heine, the great German poet. She watches two park workers chatting—eventually, they notice her and ask her where she’s from. When Funder answers, “Australia,” one of the park workers laughs and says, “Don’t worry about it. I too have impure blood.”
The scene echoes Funder’s description of the public pool in an earlier chapter. In both cases, Funder notices details that allude sinisterly to the country’s Nazi past (in the pool, Funder saw yellow armbands; here, a worker mentions impure blood).
The park worker tells Funder that he’s headed to go mushroom picking. In old East Germany, he says, he was a tailor. He complains that, since 1989, rent and food prices have gone up. Funder has heard people voice similar sentiments before—she always thinks that they’re coloring “a cheap and nasty world golden.” The man goes on to describe how the Berlin Wall used to run near the Heine statue—however, he insists, people had nothing to fear from the Wall as long as they didn’t get too close to it. He concludes, “you really should come mushrooming with us.” Funder thanks him, but then returns to her apartment.
Many people who once despised East Germany are now vaguely nostalgic for it: they find the rapid-fire change of the contemporary German state disorienting and alienating. People such as the park worker seem to have a lot of delusions about East Germany—for example, that citizens wouldn’t be harmed as long as they obeyed the rules, and that the economy is worse now than it was twenty years ago. All this only proves the human tendency to forget or idealize—and therefore to repeat—the past, and to not learn from our mistakes (something present in almost every country, not just Germany).