Berlin! Berlinberlinberlin. While waxing poetic about my visit to my mom, she pointed out just how easily I seem to fall in love with cities or places. I can’t deny that she has a point, but guys, Berlin really is the bees knees. Instantly the hippest spot I’d ever been, I was thrilled to find a modern day bohemia still in existence, and I will try to do it justice despite writing about it so belatedly.
I stepped off the bus from the airport to the city center around midnight on a week night, and was surprised to find the streets packed with groups of young people crowded under graffitied overpasses listening to live music, smoking pot or passing around bottles of beer. I wound my way through this scene and eventually managed to find my friend Brady’s hostel, where he was working at the front desk. We spent the next few hours chattering nonstop, making up for three years of lost time, and then while he finished his shift I walked along the East Side Art Gallery back to his apartment with the super moon lighting my way and the sound of clanking beer bottles from the still crowded streets bouncing off the concrete.
Berlin is a big city, but after a year living in New York it felt clean and manageable. After sleeping in and a traditional home cooked east-German meal of mustard eggs (exactly what it sounds like), Brady and I took a stroll through many different platzes, eventually stopping to sit and enjoy an ice cream. That evening I met up with another long lost friend from Spain who took me out to see Templehof, a former US airport now turned into a giant public outdoor park, before he gave me the grand tour of his neighborhood, Kreuzberg, where we managed to find an excellent Mexican taco truck for a late dinner.
One of my highlights was a Sunday spent at Eberswalder, where I attempted not to spend money at a giant flea market and found a beer garden to escape the summer heat. I tried my first bratwurst (delicious) and after a couple steins of beer went to watch the karaoke at Mauer Park, an outdoor stadium where the rowdy crowd cheers on and/or heckles the brave singers.
In an effort to be a good tourist I rented a bike and did the grand circuit, visiting the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie and the Topography of Terror. Afterwards Brady and I walked alongside the river for some beautiful views of the city, ducking into an abandoned amusement park before our nerves got the best of us and we made a hasty exit. Brady has a sweet tooth to rival mine, so we rounded out each day with cake and coffee, which he claimed was a German tradition.
The last day we used bikes again to check out the graffiti on several abandoned buildings, and then to cruise around more of the city’s many green spaces. We enjoyed a simple picnic of hearty, grainy bread and fresh cheese, and I was treated to my first glimpse of FKK culture. FKK translates to something like Body Freedom Culture, and basically it means people get to be naked in public parks throughout the city. I kept mine on. For our last meal we found a taco Tuesday special, befriending our Italian table mates thanks to a shared love of tequila. On the walk home we took advantage of the photo booths found on nearly every corner, and then early next morning it was time to say a sad goodbye.