So this post has been sitting here reading “to be updated when I’m done procrastinating…” fooorrrrr almost four months now. I guess it’s time to finally write it up. I will do my best given that I expect this may feel like an detective investigation to recall what happened. This is definitely unfortunate in a way because I remember Berlin being one of the biggest culture shocks to enter into to and I simply won’t have the feelings that I did in those first hours after arriving in Berlin as I write this. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best.
When Eimi and I got to Berlin, it was by Flixbus, and we arrived in Alexanderplatz. This is the bustling city center (if Berlin has a city center) that is very touristy but also very lively. We walked out onto the street and watched a trio of figure roller-skaters gracefully moving to the music of a cello player who was playing solo and looping his riffs.
We slowly made our way on to Friedrichschain, the district where our Airbnb stay was. Berlin is broken up into a ton of different districts, each with a very unique and distinct feel. The rich history with the way that the city was divided for decades under the control of four different countries has made it one of the, if not the, most interesting layouts for a city.
Friedrichshain, which is in former east Berlin, has a very hip feel to it. There is so much going on, from cheap eats, to trendy clothing shops, to art galleries. The California hipsters could learn a thing or two from Berlin. People here really dress the way they want to. It’s a city to go to to not be judged. I have seen some absolutely crazy outfits and haircuts that would just stick out like sore thumbs in any other city.
So we got to the Airbnb, and met our host, the lovely and very german Esther. It was Saturday night…okay sweet, I think this is the perfect time to mention this. I found a note in my journal from Berlin! This is fun because I definitely wrote this for myself, not the public. I write differently for sure. It’s more of an endless stream of thoughts.
Sunday at almost midnight Monday morning)
Berlin is so crazy! My sleep schedule is so messed up. We went to the club at 4am. Elza (Esther’s friend) was ready to party! The club was super super weird. Oh and apparently they still have actively demonstrating Nazis. Okay I gotta sleep. But definitely more on this tomorrow.
Afternoon at a coffee shop. The internet connection is super slow. I’m still benebelt from yesterdays cupcake and this crazy weekend. Maybe I should start writing in german. I’m starting to think predominantly in german. So we got to Berlin Saturday, and met up with Esther and her friends. Like Lukas, they love drinking, but are otherwise very different. The techno scene here is crazy. They drink until 6am and then go out. I think we went out at 4:30am. It reminded me of that Daniel Tosh skit where he talks about daylights savings and how if it was bright when you left the bar, you wouldn’t take home the pterodactyl you were talking. It was bright and watching everything in this sleep-deprived kinda-drunk haze was so weird. It almost didn’t feel real. People here don’t seem into touching when dancing, but they will make out intensely on the sidewalk for minutes without a breather. The club was so crazy. First they ask “Kannst du reden?” to check how fucked up you are. We went to About Blank. They let us in no problem. The music was incredibly repetitive. People shake back and forth more than dance. I had three separate accounts of people asking me for drugs. People are laying around on speakers with pillows and blankets. No photos are allowed. The one room had the smoke machine going so strong the person in front of you was just an outline. People were smoking cigarettes in the club. Oh, I forgot to mention, the clubs are all abandoned warehouses in super weird parts of town. People walk around at 8am in this haze, having just left the club. The big club, Berghain, opens at midnight Saturday and goes till noon on Monday. They had to cut the hours down too, because people were getting ill. It used to start earlier.
I went for a walk yesterday with Esther and her dog (at 2am). Or later? The days melt together here. There was a super fucked up guy on the sidewalk that inspired us to cross the street. We went by Bergain to check it out. Walking up to Berghain, I couldn’t tell what I was hearing. Was it industrial machinery? Or music? It feels fitting that the clubs are in abandoned factories. “Proper partying” is on drugs. Stoff is slang for drugs. Esther was explaining that there are weird advertisements that make ironic jokes about drugs. “Heute mal, kein Stoff” was an ad for leather bags, saying “Today, no textiles” but it could also mean, “Today, no drugs” which could be interpreted as a pro-drug joke, not an anti-drug campaign. Okay, hand hurt. Maybe I’ll talk about WunderFrau and communication and such soon. Oh and Nazis! (pronounced like Brad Pitt. Nahzees!)
I hope you enjoyed that. Yeah, so Berlin was such a culture shock. Esther had some friends over the first night and her one friend Elza was particularly hilarious and all around great. She’s the one that took Eimi and I out to the club at sunrise.
I can’t totally remember what we did the next day, but I know that night we went out to see Wonder Woman (WunderFrau) dubbed in german. It was so entertaining. I understand a substantial amount of the dialogue, but when I didn’t I spent my time focusing on the other context clues of what’s going on. Especially for as predictable of a movie as a superhero movie, this was perfect. The part I found particularly entertaining was the body language used in communication. I can’t remember if Wonder Woman and 6-pack-whatever-man ever even kiss, but if you watch the movie on silent there is no way you can miss that they are basically having sex on screen the entire time. Bite my lip. Stare. Grab your arm “we have to go this way!”. Grab your waste and pull the other way “no we have to go the other way!”. It really reminded me of the truth of the whole “10% of communication is dialogue” statistic. It’s something like that. Who cares exactly.
I don’t really remember what the note was about Nazis, other than that there are apparently active skinhead Nazis in Germany still. They wear pins that mean nothing to a traveler but once you’ve been here for a while you start to notice the different symbols that identify the groups.
Some other things that happened in Berlin…we watched the first episode of Game of Thrones season 7 on Monday (ungh, a whole day later). Stupid not America countries. I got to meet my no-good-friend Nomin (she’s great) and Charles from California. This guy was hilarious.
Umm…oh! I went to the Bitwig studio, thanks to an indirect connection from one of my distant relatives, thanks Andrew!!! It was really awesome to see the studio where they make it happen. It was modest, but plenty of fun toys laying around, and it seemed like they have a very streamlined development process thanks to the small size of the team.
Afterwards I walked to the Berlin wall. It was a long section of the divide between East and West Berlin (which I think is a little different from the parts of the wall separating West Berlin from the rest of eastern Germany). Fun fact: the Berlin wall is actually two walls, an inner and outer wall. There was a no-mans land in between the two. You can still see massive light fixtures that used to illuminate this gap 24/7 in order to deter and would-be defectors.
We kept pushing our plans back later. Eimi and I ended up staying an extra 2 days in Berlin. We didn’t have any of the trip planned after arriving in Berlin before she arrived in Europe.
Die Hackeshen Höfe is a cool little maze of an area in Mitte, a pricey but simultaneously nice and hip district in Berlin. Friedrichshein and Kreuzberg are definitely grungier. We walked around and checked out some amazing street art. Then we went to Fuki Sushi. The place had mixed results, and I won’t say the service was anything particularly impressive, it was pretty bad, but the sushi was alright and it was soo so so cheap. I recommend for that one reason.
I think this was our last night…crossed the river south from Friedrichshein to get to Kreuzberg, which is a very similar district but provides more to explore. We went to Burgermeister for dinner. It’s a former public bathroom under the tram that was converted into a burger joint. There are still signs for Männer and Frauen on the sides. In line we met an Australian couple that was traveling around Europe. They seemed to have taken a way more expensive approach to traveling. They booked a guided tour for the first leg, busing around eastern Europe, and now they were bouncing around some other cities via plane, I think. Either way it was fun to chat with fellow travelers. They provided some interesting insights into life in Australia as well. One of the things that stuck with me is the culture around drugs and alcohol. Alcohol is crazy expensive there. I don’t think that deters people too much, but maybe they consume it differently as a result. The perception on drugs seemed similar to Europe as well. They are big into party drugs like MDMA, there. In the states I feel like this is big at music festivals that come around every summer, but not as a year-round lifestyle.
After downing some burgers, we went back across the bridge to check out the East Side Gallery. It’s the largest standing section of the Berlin Wall, although, to be technical, it’s divided into many sections because there are small gaps for cars to get through and for access to businesses from the sidewalk. This was a really cool thing to check out in Berlin. The story is: the outer wall (along west Berlin was always doused in graffiti, but the inner wall, on the east side, was never accessible because of this no-mans land between the two walls. Maybe two years after the collapse of the wall, artists from all around the world were invited to Berlin to paint the inner wall in celebration of the unity of the two halves. There is some spectacular art and also so very powerful art still standing from this gathering of world artists.
Okay, that’s about it. I think I did pretty well for having written this four months after the fact. Finally caught up on everything! for now…