I’m not going to lie…when I first arrived in Berlin, I thought I had never seen such an ugly city. But somehow, it got in my blood. When one of my best friends came to visit last week, I showed Berlin off with pride, and that made me realize how much I’d come to love the city in a few short weeks. Berlin is fascinating and full of history, color, energy, and creativity. It’s one of the only places in the world that I have felt like I could totally be myself – not thinner, smarter, prettier, richer, whatever.
Here are some other impressions I’ve had of Berlin:
-I like that people will look you in the eyes when they pass you on the street. I mean, yeah, if you smile at them they still look at you like you’re crazy…but hey, at least you acknowledged each other’s existence.
-As my friend Anne-Mai said, the official Berlin animal should be a dog, and not a bear. I saw more dogs in my 4 weeks in Berlin than my 5 months in Norway. They are everywhere, even on the trams! None of them wear leashes, and none of their owners pick up their poop. Seriously, walking up our street (nicknamed “Poop Street” and not by us) to the tram stop is like playing hopscotch, leaping and skipping to avoid the fresh piles laid every day.
-Fredrichshain, the area we lived in, was so freaking cool. It’s populated by yuppies and also anarchists who are against the system and form squatter communities in five story buildings that they completely cover in graffiti. They even have steel doors to keep out the police when they try to evict them. So there’s all these beautiful European buildings punctuated by amazing colorful graffiti. Okay, and funny story about that: I was walking down our street and a guy was walking a little Jack Russell dog that started to jump up onto my friend’s legs. The guy said, “Don’t jump, Pete!” and my ears perked up when I heard he was speaking English. So we had this little conversation:
Me: Hey, where are you from?
Him: Canada. You?
Him: Oh, cool. What are you doing here?
Me: I’m on a missions trip. What about you?
Him: [Laughing cynically] I’m an anarchist. I live here [points to graffiti covered entrance to squatter flat].
Me: Oh, cool.
Him: [Sarcastically, as he enters his flat] Have fun.
-Berlin is SO full of history. I totally want to learn so much more about it, especially about life in East Germany under the GDR.
-There’s a bunch of Starbucks locations in Berlin, but you know what? It doesn’t matter, because you can’t freaking get iced green tea outside of the United States. Boo.
-I love that Berlin has its own dialect, like they say “ick” instead of “ich” for “I.” Like I went to a concert down the street from my place and the local band had a song called “Berlin, ick liebe dir” which is “Berlin, I love you” in the local dialect. I bought the t-shirt.
-I can’t say this definitively, but it seems like Berlin is devoid of “scenes”, at least for a metropolis with a thriving population of young people. For instance, when I went to a ska/reggae show a couple weeks ago, there wasn’t a certain type of person or style there. There was every size, shape, color, and style there. It’s so freeing!
Okay, that’s all I can think of right now because I’m watching “What Happens in Vegas” and it’s much funnier and more interesting when I’m not watching it on an airplane in the middle of the night!
In closing, I think I can identify with JFK when he said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Although, I’m still a little unclear on what he meant by that…
Pictures below. If you want to see more, look at my Facebook albums. Oh, and shout out to Katie, who flew all the way from Southern California (ahem, with an extended stopover in London) to Berlin to hang out for a couple days. I love the way we keep meeting up all around the world!
My team on our first day in Berlin; that’s the Reichstag, the government building:
Starbucks at Brandenberg Gate – alas, alack, no iced tea. 😦 Too cold anyway.
Walking through the Holocaust Memorial
Pretty buildings in our neighborhood of Freidrichshain and one of the punk squatter buildings –
Katie and I in front of a chunk of the Berlin Wall…this is ranking up there with my favorite pictures of us!