Monday, January 11, 2010

Oh, Berlin. You and your weiners.

So Berlin. I had high hopes before leaving because I'd heard some really good things about the city. And of course I was excited to use some of my German, or if nothing else, to listen to some real live Deutsch on the streets. Just a 'lil eavesdropping, no biggie. The 14-hour busride wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be, but stillll..riding the bus has sucked since the 2nd grade. Just because you add real seats and a light over your head doesn't make it more fun..
Anyway, got to the capital okay, although a bit tired. I took a night bus so I wouldn't lose a day to travel, but it kind of messes you up because you're exhausted from a crap bus ride and then hello! time to visit a new city! and ps. it's 9am, Guten Morgen! And one last thing, your suitcase is at least 86 pounds.
I'd forgotten what it felt like to be a tourist. I mean, I know I could say I'm kind of a long-term tourist here, but for the time being, I have my own little corner of the world, and it feels like home. I hate not knowing a city. Not knowing how the transport works, not having any reference as to where you are, not speaking the language very's frustrating. I'm so used to navigating Paris with no second thought that I forget what a pain in the ass it is in other places. I figured it out eventually, and was rewarded for my fine navigational skills. Walking up the stairs from the metro, sweaty as a mofo and desperately in need of some caffeine, I was given The Best Day-After-Christmas Present EVER. Behold: the Germans have DUNKIN' DONUTS! IN THE METRO STATIONS. That is all.

I had a really nice hostel in the former Soviet half (Eastern) of the city. It's trendy now, close to a big plaza called Alexanderplatz, but some of the buildings still have that squared-off, very..Nazi? Soviet? look. Gives it a 'lil charm. Now there are a ton of little boutiques and lots of restaurants and I think it's pretty great how the city has blended back together in just 20 years.
Berlin was smaller than I thought it was. I started out taking the metro, but after a day realized that I could just walk--it wasn't that far. Plus, I like to see where I'm going. Basically from the Brandenburg Tor (Gate) to Alexanderplatz is a straight line of monuments. I walked down the infamous Unter den Linden, which was very nicely decorated for the holidays.

Speaking of the holidays, the Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) were everywhere! I just kept running into them on what seemed like every street corner. I ate a lot of cheap street food, but it was delicious!
On my last day there, I saw all these men in yellow selling bratwurst from these grills that were attached to their body. It was like a jetpack, but with a grill on the front, and the power source on their back. Each vendor had a little belt with mustard, ketchup and a coin-machine (think A&W). They were flippin' and squirtin' and takin' money all at the same time, with no time for hesitation. A guy was was walking around with a cooler, filling up each vendor's bratwurst, making sure they had enough supplies, and they were doing okay. I was impressed. The Germans have this weiner business figured out!
Didn't take a pic, but thank you, Google! Something like this, except that while you're waiting for the weiner, your nose hairs are freezing into icicles.
[via flickr @snowbank]
I met a friend at the hostel and we went on a rainy day to the Holocaust Memorial close to the center of the city. The rain seemed appropriate.
I was pretty pumped to see the longest stretch of what is still around of the former wall. I think it's something like 1.3km of former wall that is now painted as a sort of memorial. Not just by German artists, either. I thought it was cool and made for very color-happy photos:

Overall, I left Berlin a little bit disappointed. They have good bookstores. Always an advantage in my book (heh). But the modern and almost sterile feel sometimes left me a little..meh? I was only there for three days, so I'm sure some Berliners would swear by their city. And it was f-ing cold. I just didn't..feel it. Nice to visit, but I'm not sure I could live there. Germany felt a lot like the US sometimes, though. Same kind of customer service, same sort of big stores, a lot of them speak English incredibly well (even the homeless, which is kind of sad, huh?)...
I think I would be better off going back with someone and in the summer. Glad I saw it, though!

I left the capital and went onto Amsterdam, which I'll get to very soon. Off to bed for moi. Long day of school ahead and hey, it's 20 to 1 and I have to be up at 6am. EXCELLENT!

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