JODIE FOSTER loves Berlin for its museums and architecture. But that doesn't mean she can't enjoy a brat and a beer on the subway.

Not a single head turns when Jodie Foster blasts into the outdoor café at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles. No eyebrows rise when she sits down at a table in the middle of a packed alfresco dining patio, and I pull out a tape recorder for our interview. Not one eye stares as she begins taking me through an hour-long journey into one of her favorite cities: Berlin. It seems strange that one of the most famous actresses of her generation could blend into a midday lunch crowd, with not one person, not to mention paparazzi, taking notice.

But, then again, maybe it's not so strange at all. Foster has always disappeared into her characters, from her Oscar-winning turns in The Silence of the Lambs and The Accused to this month's airborne psychological drama, Flightplan. On this sunny day, she could just be another young LA woman with energy to burn, all of her considerable life force focused on the city that has become such a passion that, she says, she has in her bedroom "a very famous photograph of the Russians planting a flag on the Reichstag when they took over Berlin."

Foster recently returned to Berlin to film parts of Flightplan after numerous visits in the past. "I have to say it is actually the most exciting city in Europe," she says. "I'm a big fan of Paris, and I've spent a lot of time in Rome, but Berlin's got something going on. It's this new excitement about the future and possibility. I love the city - I could blab on about it forever." And with that, she's taking me through Berlin without taking a breath, oblivious to the oblivious world around her.

How much has Berlin changed since your first visit?
The first time I went, the Berlin Wall was still up, and I was a kid. My mom took me to Checkpoint Charlie, and we went to East Germany, and we went to the opera and to this beautiful, old, old, old coffeehouse, and then kind of toured around East Germany. At that time, there was no regular lighting. Everything was only lit by neon. There were no signs anywhere in Eastern Germany. So many of the places had been destroyed by the war, and they didn't really bother to fix them. It was just a completely different place. Then I came back as the wall was coming down, which was really exciting. All everybody wanted to talk about was politics, social issues, and moral ideas, and all that kind of stuff. Then I went just after the wall came down, and it was a city of, like, cherry pickers and cranes! When you looked through the Brandenburg Gate, where the wall used to be, it was just nothing but cranes and construction sites. The most amount of construction sites I have ever seen in one place.

Today, Checkpoint Charlie apparently is one of the most visited sites in the world. There's a tiny little white building that looks like an outhouse, and there is a Checkpoint Charlie Museum, where they have all the artifacts from the wall and some of the artifacts from Checkpoint Charlie, from people who tried to scale the wall, or tunnel, or tried to get in … Now, it's like the moneymaking thing there, where they have the T-shirts and the buttons and the "I went to Checkpoint Charlie!" mug. It's become like a souvenir shop.

What is your image of Berlin from films?
Did you see Wings of Desire? That's my image of the Brandenburg Gate. Bruno Ganz and whoever the other angel is, in trench coats, standing on top of the Brandenburg Gate, the camera going around with the angels on top. Also, in Berlin Alexanderplatz, it's very lush and beautiful-looking. But the actual Alexanderplatz is probably the ugliest place in the world. Nobody knows why. But it's so ugly that I'd like to make a movie there. It's like our images of the Iron Curtain, visually oppressive Russia. In fact, now that's where they all shoot when they want to shoot Moscow at that time. They shoot it all right around where Alexanderplatz is.