Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 12-21: Berlin

So what is there to say about Berlin?

Except that it’s probably one of the few indigenously cool places on the planet right now? Time and time again I hear that people compare it New York City and to be honest in my mind NYC was like this this some 20 years ago.

It seems to be The hub for many expats right now, in less than 10 days here I met people from both big cities and villages in Brazil, USA, UK, France, Holland, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Turkey, etc. I have also already had some coincidental meetings with people I sort of knew from hundreds of miles away. At the same time, at a recent party not too close to where I live right now I met two people who live next door to me and to each other.

In a certain sense Berlin might seem akin to many other capitals, there’s something going on every day and every hour, there’s no need to wait for a specific party for two months, you can go out on any day of the week and find not one but several and sometimes too many parties to go to. And yet it’s somehow different. First of all, you don’t need a lot of money to go out – definitely less than where I originally come from and it’s not even remotes resembles a multinational capital, secondly it’s not posh or glamorous in the sense that you are the expensive clothes and shoes that you wear. It seems like it would be considered much cooler to arrive to a party in a bathrobe than a designer dress.

The transportation system is extensive and quite easy to navigate through; signs, maps, ticket machines are to be found everywhere. And I’m saying that although I took the U/S-Bahn in the wrong direction twice last week. But I think it’s almost like a rite of passage with Berlin as I’ve come across many new Berliners who have had the same fun experience of pretending it’s all cool and nothing happened.

The danger of Berlin is that it’s cheap, but with some people that can lead to spending more.

It also has had an incredible and unexpected influence on me, namely I started drinking beer and I’m now planning a Transsiberian trip. Some people who know me well have been or will be surprised, I’m a very outspoken beer-tastes-like-urine person, but I guess not anymore, eh? I still can’t say I reckon that it tastes great, but I think I’m on the path to discover that it’s not so bad after all. Now all of it tastes the same to me, but maybe it’ll repeat the story of soluble coffee. The story when I was only able to drink coffee machine coffee and then I started to work for a soluble coffee manufacturer and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what difference it had from water or a used teabag tea. Later on, I was able to distinguish between Classic, Gold, Gold Mild, Gold Strong, Gold Montego, Gold Decaf, Alta Rica, Espresso. [The two worth drinking are: Nescafe Espresso, it’s ‘premium class coffee’ and Nescafe Gold Decaf.]

Concerning the Transsiberian trip, just read the description on the right and you’ll see what I mean about it being a sudden change of heart. Who knows maybe I'll start to lead a Simple Life in a farmhouse somewhere in Siberia very soon?.. And I'm only half-joking.

But back to the coolest place on Earth. There’s so much to do that I’m afraid I won’t be able to see all of it, but then there’s always the question of whether you have to see everything? Since several months ago it has finally dawned onto me that quality should come first and I more often than not am content with just sitting back and enjoying the ride. I have a feeling it’ll take me some place nice.

It’s nice to have a stroll down the Under den Linden, from the starting with the Bundestag, then taking a peek at the American Embassy, Brandenburg Gate, Russian Embassy, Berliner Dom, Humboldt University, Opera, bears, walk all the way to Alexanderplatz. It’s funny how Russian and American Embassies are guarded by people with seemingly lots of weapons and who look suspiciously at every by-passer and it’s just embassies, really; Germany’s main building Bundestag is guarded by two police cars with several people and they just sort of blend in without leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

I really can’t believe this city had a wall separating it in two parts and that people couldn’t really see each other and that they were blocked from their relatives, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, it just seems so unbelievable and improbable right now and yet it did happen and lasted for several decades! Because some people were playing politics and just didn’t know what to do with themselves. So, this is a place with incredible history and sort of makes you wonder and question things. Berlin also has some of the greatest street artwork that I’ve seen – of course the East Side Gallery is worth a visit, I saw it at night when no one else was around and suggest others do the same, it might be a bit eerie, but you’ll have this experience (mostly) to yourself. This site here offers great pictures from when the Wall was still intact.

I also like wondering off into streets that aren’t exactly part of most guides. Karl-Marx-Allee will give you a feeling of a boring Soviet Moscow residential area, worth a visit.

I’ll be going to Stockholm for an extended weekend tomorrow. On the one hand, I’m quite excited, but on the other hand, who would want to leave Berlin?! Oh well...
Next on: Neukölln, Schönenberg, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg.

And before I forget:
How Berlin functions - 1 (Berlin’s Underemployed, Well-Educated Expat Hipsters Lend City a Gritty Verve)
How Berlin functions - 2 (Dunkin' Berliner)


Anonymous said...

Berlin is so cheap that we actually spent less in Stockholm than in Berlin, cause we felt we were rich and could afford just about anything))))

True story said...

Yeah, that's the feeling I've had in the last days.. so I'm taking my spending under control starting now.

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