As I’ve said before, this year has been one of reunions for me.
Back in January I met a half German, half Mexican Spain transplant who taught me a very meaningful German idiom.
man sieht sich immer zweimal im Leben
In English it can be translated to “you meet people twice in life” My semi German friend told me this phrase as a way to console me when our mutual new friend was moving on to other adventures in other countries. Since then I’ve said this phrase to countless people I’ve met while traveling. Of course not in German, silly! That’d be pretty weird being that I can barely count to ten in German! (Is it sEEx or sex for 6?!)
I met Shearlyn while studying abroad in Chile in 2010.
She was a straight shooter with a dry sense of humor and so different from me that we went together perfectly.
While I was in Italy this summer Sheralyn chatted me on facebook asking if I wanted to meet her in Berlin in November. Berlin?! November?! “Sheralyn, I’m on vacation right now! I can’t exactly plan my next vacation while on vacation!”
When I first thought of going to Berlin I was a bit turned off by the idea. I’d already been to Germany this year. My four nights in Hamburg were what let me check off that country for the rest of my life. I wanted to see new places and highlight new countries on my tripadvisor map. But how could I pass up meeting my study abroad buddy after being apart for two years? And wait! I’ve heard of Berlin! Funky city with big nightlife, interesting people and remnants of this silly, little thing called THE WALL.
Taking advantage of some random (and all too common) bank holiday in Spain I jetted off to Berlin one Thursday morning intending to stay the long weekend soaking up the bizarre culture, chomping down curry wurst and losing my hearing at massive warehouse nightclubs.
I expected the nightlife in Berlin to be different. I knew the techno/electro/house/IDFK scene was pretty big. Living 1.5 years in South America didn’t help me gain an appreciation for this music. I’d much rather go hasta abajo to some reggaetón than bounce around to loud, repetitive thumping beats high off of God knows what. Regardless, we decided to throw ourselves in head first and get club recommendations from the bartender at our hostel.
We wound up in some hole in the wall club. Indie music was blasting and the crowd was …well…weird. People were swaying to the music in a trance that can only be brought on by extreme meditation or E. We tried to dance along with the music, but I suppose we weren’t drunk enough because the Israeli guys hitting on us were starting to get on our nerves. In an effort to escape them we went to the bathroom for the second time in thirty minutes. The first time we went we laughed at the co-ed bathroom that had urinals on one side and stalls on the other. I actually saw some guy’s junk in the mirror! It was awkward, but all in all we were met with blank stares by the men.
The second time round we were stopped before entering. “Women’s toilets are there!” someone shooed us away. What?! We clearly read women on the door! Take a look yourself! ……waaaaaaaait a second….
Other nightlife highlights include: wandering into a tiny bar in what looked like a good place to get murdered where everyone was having the time of their f*cking lives hugging each other and singing along to 90s music. Sheralyn didn’t even take her coat off. At one point we saw a group hugging in a circle with a possibly lesbian couple kissing in the middle. I can now say that I have actually felt the fear that is possibly getting sucked into a group orgy.
The eats in Berlin were great! Berlin is a very multicultural city and you can find just about any culture’s cuisine represented somewhere. One of the most famous things to eat in Berlin is a Turkish Döner! Just while we were there we had German, Italian, American, Russian, Vietnamese and Taiwanese. Of course I took some of my classic,
shameless food pictures.
What should have been encouraging actually hurt my feelings.
We also enjoyed the German interior design. Everything was clean, simple and functional. What’d you expect?!Light woods and clean lines were everywhere.
There is no escaping German history while in Berlin. The city does not attempt to hide or mask it in any way, but rather live among it. Any walking tour of the city will provide sobering insights into the activities of the Gestapo in Berlin during the Nazi years as well as the tension and terror during the cold war.
We took a day trip to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The mood was somber knowing that some 30,000 inmates died on those grounds from not only exhaustion, disease and execution, but also from brutal medical experiments.
During an *ahem extra* day in Berlin I decided to join another walking tour, but this time an “alternative” walking tour. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was for the most part a street art tour. Kühl!
Not quite art, but an interesting story nonetheless during my tour was that of the treehouse. East and West Germany were always divided at 90 degree angles. The wall, however, was curved leaving behind a bit of no man’s land. Or errrm a bit of the East in the West. Osman Kalin, a Turkish emigrant, began to use this space as a garden to plant food for his family. Out of the garden, sprouted the treehouse which was built mostly with used materials. West German authorities could not do anything about it as it wasn’t in their jurisdiction. After the fall of the wall, authorities wanted to build a a road where the wall once stood. Kalin’s response? Cement every piece of furniture to the ground. In the end it came to light that the treehouse was on church property. Because the pastor liked Kalin’s way of life and family ethic he permitted Kalin to stay. Applaudable considering it was a Christian church and Kalin was of Muslim background. To this day it is still his home.
The end of our tour brought us near the Spree river where we learned of current events that risk changing the face of Berlin. A huge property investment project is buying out property along the banks of the Spree and putting in commercial buildings. Sadly the buildings that are disappearing are ones with a great deal of history in Berlin. One such place that we visited was YAAM (young african art market). YAAM is a beach bar/slice of the Carribean smack dab in Berlin. Almost as old as I am, YAAM is loved by many a Berliner. Currently this Jamaican paradise is struggling to survive on the banks of the Spree. Immediately upon entering the club we were asked to sign petitions for what is sadly one of many clubs in Berlin under threat of eviction.
Having now visited multiple cities in over 20 countries I’ve learned that what really makes a trip is either a beautiful city or friendly people.
From my hostel’s guide: “We’ll admit at once that Berlin is not pretty […] after WWII urban planners in both halves of the divided city showed little interest in rebuilding it the way it was. Instead, all they had in common was a deep affection for poured concrete. Yuck!”
Although I didn’t find the city the most beautiful in the world (remember Paris?) I had the most memorable experience with an old friend I adore and new friends I hope to “meet twice in life”
Do you know how much I loved Berlin?!?
So much so that I missed my flight and had to stay an extra two nights! My long weekend in Berlin turned into a full week! Thanks to a VERY
pitying kind, new German friend I was able to crash those days and check out places I didn’t get a chance to see with Sheralyn.
My cab driver that was taking me to the airport the day I was supposed to leave told me that it was probably subconscious. That I wanted to miss my flight. She proceeded to tell me a story about how a friend went to London for a week and stayed for four years. All I could think was danke schön, lady, but I have a flight to catch so quit yapping and step on it! Of course these words haunted me once I missed my flight. Getting to the airport the second time felt like I was preparing for a marathon.
So maybe afterall Berlin wasn’t the place for me to disappear to and call home for four years like my cabbie’s friend.
But I do hope that we’ll zweimal im Leben.