Just A Couple Things About Berlin
Okay, so no surprise, I’m black. And no, Berlin isn’t chock full of chocolate. And yes, I definitely still get stared at like the I’m last unicorn. Even by black people trying to figure out where in Africa I must be from. BUT I’ve only been here a couple weeks and already feel less like a sore thumb than I thought I would. Not only is the city a nice melting pot but you can see it every time you step out your door. On the platforms of the U+S Bahn (the German transit system) you barely have to open your ears to realize people are speaking not just German but Dutch, Arabic, Chinese, and English. Locals appreciate when you can start off in German, but will often want to practice their English, or they would rather not decipher my German ( I’ll never know) and will switch to English. Pro tip: People-watching in the S+U Bahn is amazingly entertaining, and if you think you’ve caught a glimpse of your true love only to never see them again, think again. There is even a transit system website for missed connections where you can post an ad in the hopes that the love of your life is looking for you too. I am not joking, look it up: https://www.bvg.de/de/Meine-BVG/Meine-Augenblicke
Curry Wurst or Döner ( hint: there is no wrong answer)
Everyone knows drunk eats are basically the cherry on top of a good night out. And one thing Berlin does right serve up some unreal eats. In many of the more popular train stations, there are mini cafes and shops full of the perfect pastries, sandwiches, and snacks. However, it is the famous currywurst and döner places that have stolen my heart. Currywurst is basically, a delicious, well-seasoned brat, topped with curry powder and a boatload of ketchup (fries are of course a necessity).
Not only is there a currywurst stand or three on every bus route there is also a booming Turkish population which has made Berlin famous for Dönner Kebabs as well. I am not ashamed to say I probably indulge in döner tri-weekly. It is also really cheap, fast and very filling. My favorite döner so far is from Barlys, however, there are so many places on almost every corner. It’s easy to find your own favorite since every place does it just a little differently, most offer lamb, the original döner but many places also offer a chicken roast vegetable option. I was apprehensive about it at first but actually tastes really good, my favorite chicken döner has been from Gemüse Kebap. So, moral of the story: don’t leave Berlin without trying them, and I won’t judge you if you end up wanting them for every meal.
If you know me you know I don’t really come running at the sound of a beer can opening, I’d take a nice shot, no chaser any day. That’s not as much of a statement about taste, as it is about mentality. I’m a sprinter in all things. On the off chance you see me at the gym, you won’t catch me on the treadmill for more than 20 minutes at a time, and when I hike (which is my least favorite activity) I always pick the steepest, shortest route because I’m in it for the calories burned and the view at the top; same goes for drinking.
So this whole beer being “cheaper than water” doesn’t really do it for me. However, I have already come to enjoy the casual “sip and chat” pub atmosphere, because you can only enjoy sipping on a vodka cran for so long. I definitely plan on getting to know the hundreds of beers offered in a simple corner store for less than 2 Euros. Added bonus: when you order a beer it comes in a fancy glass that not only adds to the experience but makes pictures more fun. I will also say that there is no better trio than a good beer, bratwurst, and pretzel. The real end game here is that I leave Germany with a more sophisticated beer preference than Natty Boh or Miller Lite.
I have yet to see more than a few pieces but from what I’ve seen I love. The first sentence about Berlin in many articles is usually something about how it isn’t known for its stunning beauty. Something I am inclined to agree with after having spent the first couple weeks of February here. Now with that being said, don’t underestimate the power of the sun. I definitely remember Berlin from my summer family trip to Europe a lot more fondly, and even now on a day where it peeks out even the grayest wall seems a bit more cheery and inviting. My favorite cafe so far is called Cafe Cinema and opens into an alleyway full of colorful murals, graffiti and street art that stretches around the corner and upstairs. Inside is cozy and dimly lit with black and white portraits of customers and other artwork on the walls. It is also open until 3 am so it doubles as a bar, and who doesn’t love that?
Alright, in all honesty, I thought of this about 2 hours before I found myself completely lost and distraught in Berlin’s main train station. So, as I write this I am still recovering and the ordeals of today which although they were traumatic did not hinder my love of this transit system. Especially, when I think back to hailing taxis in Thailand. Where we were constantly overcharged, and dropped in questionable places or just flat out not picked up. The main transit options are the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, and regular buses. They have Uber here, however, it’s insanely overpriced and it has become entirely too easy for me to blow money on them when I feeling lazy, impatient or cold. I have easily gotten off or on at the wrong stops and while it is annoying you are usually never delayed by more than about 5-15 min because everything runs so quickly and smoothly. I will admit that I heavily rely on my iPhone and without it It would take me a while to figure things out. My new favorite app is City Mapper which has one of the most user-friendly interfaces and has yet to let me down, so if you are going to a new city I’d check it out.
Bikes on Bikes
You know how bikes get a bad rep in almost every city? Well, Berlin the second largest city in Europe has somehow managed to integrate bikers with the rest of traffic both on wheels and feet pretty well. German drivers get a bad rap and people assume they are all crazy drivers and are obsessed with cars. But the bikers here appear to be unbothered by the idea of being struck off the road and people actually enjoy biking both for fun and to get where they need to go. The bike lane is usually a part of the sidewalk so keep your eyes open as I have almost been run over while I was standing directly in their path waiting for a bus. If I moved here I would most definitely get a cute cruiser and go about my business.
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