My 35 days in Berlin, Germany have officially started. Now, Berlin wasn’t exactly a city that was on my list of places to go. I never really gave it much thought. Yeah there was the wall, and interesting design and the Bauhaus a few miles away, but other than that, I never saw the appeal. However, when the opportunity came up to study German culture and photography abroad this summer, I jumped at the chance. Leading up to the 3rd, the day our flight left Boston, I had major trepidations about the trip. I had no time to pack, no time to research, no time to really get myself excited about the trip. But I always love travel, always love experiencing new cities, so I knew I would have an amazing time no matter what.
So July 3rd came around, and I was Boston bound with a suitcase (under 50 pounds for the first time in my life), a backpack (also a first, I’ve never really been a backpack person), and my trusty eggplant longchamp (my go to when it comes to carry-ons). I arrived in Boston at around 12, went and picked up my friend Ben, and headed to Logan where I reunited with Paris for the first time in 6 months - there was a very public and long hug in the terminal.
After a long flight with questionable food but a rather solid movie selection, we landed in Frankfurt at 5:45AM Berlin time. It was early, and it was hot. We arrived in Germany during the hottest heat wave they’ve had in decades. DECADES. We were so lucky. Anyways, a short hour later, we were Berlin bound and were at Tegel airport by 8AM. We left the airport, and it felt like we had arrived in the Caribbean. It was 95 and humid. My favorite type of weather.
Our apartments are located in Kreuzberg, an up-and-coming “young and artsy” district of the city, so our next order of business was to unpack and settle in a bit. Once we were all settled, we took a trip a few stops down the U-bahn, the underground transit system in Berlin, to Alexanderplatz, the old center of East Berlin. Let me tell you, the U-bahn put the MBTA to shame. The trains were on time, they were clean, and they were well designed. Everything you would want in public transportation.
Once in Alexanderplatz, our first priority was to get German sim cards, as we did not have wifi in our apartments, and I cannot live without instagram/snapchat/twitter, I just can’t. After much frustration, most of it brought on by a lack of understanding of the language, we finally got our sim cards installed and working. Alexanderplatz was really not what I expected, it was extremely touristy and a center for all types of shopping. It felt like a very large outdoor mall. We were all extremely hot and jetlagged, so we headed back to the apartments so we could nap. It may have been the best nap of my entire life, cut short by dinner plans unfortunately, but it felt so nice to finally sleep.
The next morning, Paris and I decided to explore the city a bit by ourselves. We took the U-bahn to the Holocaust Memorial, where we walked around and took in the amazing public art. However, it was really hot, so we needed air conditioning or shade ASAP. Being Sunday, everything in Berlin is closed, so we settled for shade in the Tiergarten - the main public garden in Berlin. It was definitely a nice change of pace. We ended at the top of the garden at the Reichstag building, the German parliament building, where we got back on the U-bahn and headed to Mauerpark, a large open flea market north of Mitte.
We walked through the market, and then met up with Ben and his friend who were there to watch public karaoke. Yes, public karaoke. It was totally awesome. This random British guy, every Sunday at 3PM, sets up speakers, a laptop and a mic and people gather in an amphitheater to perform and watch karaoke. While I did not perform, I don’t do karaoke outside of Our House or Hong Kong, it was such an amazing experience. After a few hours, a sunburn, and a layer of dirt caked onto my arms and legs, we left Mauerpark and went back to our apartments where we grabbed dinner at a local Thai place.
I came into this trip with much anxiety regarding whether or not I would enjoy Berlin, and while it’s definitely a different type of European city, I think it’s going to be an amazing five weeks. I’ll be sure to keep in touch.