For the national book award–winning novelist, central Europe is for the birds.
“Berlin is a very exciting city that doesn’t wear its excitement on its sleeve. It’s got so much going on artistically and culturally, but, at the same time, it’s very intimate. The streets are lovely and quiet. The city’s infrastructure was built for many more people than the number living there, so people congregate. And the local chefs are doing a lot to reinvent German food. One of my favorite places to eat is Renger-Patzsch, a German restaurant that uses some modern techniques. It’s a very casual place with really top-notch cuisine, and that attitude for me represents Berlin as a whole.
“For outdoors people, it’s just a short drive to the rural countryside in East Germany and only a little longer to Poland. I’m a birdwatcher, and I’ve had great sightings of cranes, which nest on these old farmhouses. There are lots of small birds you can’t see elsewhere, and it’s eagle country, too. It’s amazing to leave a very modern city like Berlin, drive a short way and feel like you’re in the 1800s.”
Jonathan Franzen’s long-awaited new book, Freedom: A Novel, is in stores now.