I am writing this in the yellow light of bar lights and candles on a rainy Sunday evening. Jazz is playing, there’s the familiar crack of billiard balls coming from the room next to me, and the sounds of cars going through puddles through the open window.
I ordered the haus bier – first time someone hasn’t spoken to me in English when they here how uncomfortable I am with my German. He used his fingers to show me how much to pay (2 euros) and I suddenly realized I had no idea how to tip in Germany. If something is 2 euros, do you give them cents? I gave him 0.60 – and felt really weird about it. But that’s more than 15%…
The beer has a slight metal taste to it. People are smoking in the bar, tastefully decorated, with young attractive people at the tables. I walked around the neighbourhood for awhile before finding this place.
It’s incredible the little places you find in these residential blocks. Random cafes, bars, and shops mixed in with playgrounds and courtyards. I stumbled upon a very ornate public garden – I’m not sure what it used to be, but it was quite grand with concrete columns, white benches, and manicured lawns and flowers.
There was a group of people having a picnic in the rain, and a group of kids singing a variation of kumbaya around a little fire (that they then joyfully stamped out into a waft of smoke). There were even people playing ping pong in a residential courtyard, blasting hip hop music. The streets around here are so alive – yet it’s a rainy Sunday evening! Berlin is an exquisite case study for urban design – I find myself thinking of Happy City case studies constantly!
Berlin Wall, Memorials, Checkpoint Charlie
I did a lot of touristy things today. Went to the East Side Gallery to walk the length of the Berlin Wall, then took the train to the area of the city where the Holocaust Memorial, the LGBTQ2S Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s bunker, and the Hall of Terrors are.
The area around the East Gallery was fascinating – and very foreign to me! Upon exiting the train, I found every possible surface was covered with graffiti and stickers. There were young people passed out on the street everywhere from a night of too much drinking, people awake and drinking, nightclubs still going strong and blasting the tunes at 8:44am on a Sunday morning. This was unlike anything is experienced before!
After I walked the wall (not particularly interesting – they were covered with mural art and I am not a fan of murals), I headed over to the memorials.
I did not have an emotional response to either of the memorials, which surprised me as I thought I would. However, it was hard to get into walking the monoliths with a grim mindset with the sun and blue skies above, children playing gleefully, people just chilling out on the blocks, and no artist statement.
The LGBTQ2S was a bit harder to find, but it was very interesting. It was built on an old cruising spot that had been at the Wall, and now it was a big block of stone with a loop of a same sex couple kissing. It was beautiful – and very few people were there.
I tried to find Hitler’s bunker, well I found it – but I couldn’t find the entrance. Me and a UK tourist commiserated on this, and I ended up lingering a distance from a tourist group to get the low down on the area.
Charlie’s Checkpoint was abuzz with people. It was very crowded. I was quite amused that McDonalds was there – any picture you took of the checkpoint had the iconic American fast food restaurant there. Also, I was amused to find that McDonalds coffee is expensive here! It was advertised for 1.86 Euros – pah! (I reviewed the menu at a non-touristy stop, so this wasn’t a hiked Charlie Checkpoint price).
I enjoyed the Hall of Terrors – the wall on display there was much more what I’d expected. There was a free museum and information boards too – I enjoyed it.
I then sought out the GDR Border Watchtower. It was down a quiet street, totally void of people except for a well dressed man sitting in a lawn chair next to it who was more than happy to tell me all about it. It was built in 1969 and is the oldest remaining watch tower in Berlin. I bought a postcard from him in exchange for his enthusiasm.
Transit & Food
I saw a few other things until hunger got the best of me and I headed home for a lunch/dinner (although I tied myself over with a roll that looks like a cross between a poppy-seed bagel and croissant).
I was very exhausted and confused by the transit ride home. However, I was amused by the sites, the tourists around me, the dogs riding the metro, and all the affectionate couples. People in Berlin really like dogs – and to kiss goodbye passionately on the platform with their lovers. Yep, I’m definitely not in Toronto anymore.
When I got home, I finished yesterday’s beer, chomped down on some smoked salmon and goat cheese, then set about hard boiling some eggs so I’d have something for a packed lunch tomorrow.
I troubleshooted my blog some more and went through the pictures I had taken before collapsing in bed. I set a timer for an hour nap, but when I awoke I felt no motivation to get up. I was so tired and my feet killed. I had to get up though – Berlin was waiting!
I had a shower, changed clothes, and headed out a sometime after 8pm. It was raining lightly. I enjoyed walking around – the residential areas are fascinating from an urban planning point of view. They’re not much from a architectural standpoint, but my god – I could live here. This city was not built for cars, but for people!
I just ordered my second pint. A half pint was 1.90 euro, so I paid the extra 0.10 to get a full pint. Seemed silly not too! The bar is slowly filling up with people. The music has changed from jazz to bluegrass to pop to indie – all English vocals, although I do not recognize any of it. The people around me are all speaking German. I remember thinking German sounded like an angry language, but it reality it’s quite pleasant. I’ve even found Germany words flowing across my mind as I am napping. It sounds quite nice.
I am really enjoying these pretzels. People around me maybe smoking, but I have my pretzel sticks. They are fun to eat, especially when slightly tipsy. Yummy too.
Well, I think I’ll finish off this beer and pretzel stick and meander on home… Connect to the WiFi and post this post! I haven’t been posting as I’ve been trapped in a wp-login redirect on my iOs devices since arrival, but my friend Anthony and my Mum has been helping me troubleshoot. We haven’t yet discovered the root of the redirect issue, but Anthony set me up with post-by-email and recommended that I further explore the WordPress app. I had to engrained in my mind that the app only worked on WordPress.com sites, not self hosted sites, but to my delight we discovered it worked for .org sites too (less obvious). Now I can post! Yay!
Now I sit here, finishing my beer watching a couple hold hands across the table, a woman elegantly smoke a cigarette, and some guys talking animatedly. I will eat another pretzel stick and head on home shortly… Mm… Pretzel stick…
See more photos from the trip on Flickr: Nell’s Photostream
Step count: 25,832