i’ve really been wanting to go to germany since i was 18 and got super into german industrial music. i’d never really formed an idea in my head of what berlin would actually be like, though. some places you picture, some you don’t.
my train arrived in the evening at berlin’s central station, the hauptbanhof. as soon as i got off the train, i realized i was in for an entirely new travel experience. up until now, on my travels, i had stayed in rome, florence, belgrade, budapest, krakow, and warsaw. all of which are large cities… but berlin is massive. previously, i’d been able to easily walk from the central stations to my hostel/accommodations. berlin was a whole new world. not only did i have to first find my way around the absolutely massive hauptbanhof, i also got thrown straight into learning how to use german public transportation. i’m glad of this, as it pushed me to be more comfortable with public transportation in strange places.
berlin has different sections. the central station is in mitte (which is very central and has a lot of tourist things and museums), i was staying in kreuzberg, which is a really, really cool neighbourhood and is a bit quieter.
after checking into my hostel, meeting one of my roommates (joonas, we’ll revisit him later), and getting settled, i went out and discovered the magic of food in germany. a lot of people say that germany is very expensive, but i found it to be quite affordable as i didn’t spend my money on nights out of any sort. also, i think the food is somehow subsidized in germany which makes it very affordable and good. the first place i went to is a really fantastic american-style diner called jack’s & lewis. in addition to having good food, their server was a really friendly and helpful young woman from california who let me use a charging cord for my phone and the free wifi. score! also, the owner had a really cute dog named dakota who just hung out at the front of the restaurant.
all seemed well.
which is, of course, when everything goes comedically awry.
i don’t believe i’ve mentioned it yet, but, i have obsessive compulsive disorder as well as general anxiety and depression (both of which are mostly exacerbated by my OCD). my OCD, for the most part, manifests as a severe case of emetophobia. i had a period of several months where i would barely leave my apartment, and would avoid having to take public transportation at all costs, just in case someone was hungover or something and threw up on a bus. i’ve gotten a lot better since then, mostly thanks to attending university, medication (i no longer take this), and taking up LARP as a weekly hobby when i’m home in BC. but, of course, i’m not cured of it and i assume i never will be. anyway. basically this means that i’m afraid of people throwing up near me. what kinds of people tend to throw up at random in public? drunk ones. this isn’t going exactly where you probably think it is, but on we go!
so, my first night in berlin, i went out to eat, and then went back to my hostel, where i cozied into bed and watched ferris bueller on netflix. (netflix is amazing and works in every country i’ve been to so far)
at about 2-3 in the morning, i was still awake and i had the volume in my headphones turned down enough so that i could hear CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP along the hallway. i laughed to myself and the thought “sucks to be in that person’s room” literally crossed my mind. do you see where i’m going with this, dear reader?
the door burst open, slamming against the wall, and two massively fucked up people stumbled in, and i really mean stumbled. one of them fell against my bed. so now, it was late as hell, and i was trapped in a room with at least two people who were roaring drunk. remember my OCD? remember how i’m afraid of drunk people? yeah, great. i decided it would be a great time to make myself deaf to the world, so i glanced out from behind my towel (i use it as a privacy screen along the bottom bunk of bunk beds), and accidentally made eye contact with a random guy. i’ll note here that he was not a guest at the hostel (which is against the rules). he decided eye contact was a great excuse to come squat next to my bed, and move my towel to stick his head into my bunk. yikes, pal. thankfully, he quickly realized he was being a weirdo, and removed himself from my immediate vicinity.
i ducked out again to get my ear plugs out of my daybag. my fool-proof way of not being able to hear anything at all, and thus keeping myself from having anxiety attacks in certain situations, is to put my earplugs in, and then put headphones over top blasting music. the earplugs make my world nice and quiet, and the headphones cancel out any background music.
this would have been fine if tweak and tweaker had kept to themselves. but then this wouldn’t be half as hilarious of a story.
suddenly, my towel was pulled aside and a naked woman climbed into the foot of my bunk sitting on my blankets. she was staring at me and her mouth was moving, but i couldn’t hear anything she was saying. i don’t recall exactly what i said, but the gist of it, is that it went from me politely but firmly telling her to please get the fuck out of my bed, and it quickly amped its way up to me hysterically yelling at her to fuck off and get away from me. she just sort of stared at me blankly. fiiiinally, after what felt like a solid five minutes of shouting at her, but was probably just a minute tops, she got out of my bed.
… only to get back into it, still naked, a few moments later. argh! this time, i went straight to shouting, because omg there’s a crazy person in my personal space, get out get out get out. her mouth just kept moving, though, and i finally re-engaged my hearing. she wanted shower gel. i told her i didn’t have shower gel, i didn’t care that hers was lost, and to seriously get the fuck out of my bed and away from me in general. again, she finally got out of my bed, and bumbled off to the bathroom or something. i have no idea where the random dude went, but i packed up all my important, expensive things and went to the front desk about a hair away from a panic attack.
they were really lovely and made me tea and told me they’d take care of everything, which they did! they escorted me back to the room, brought me new sheets, waited while i packed my backpack, and then moved me to an empty room down the hall. a dorm room all to myself! it really was a continuation of “jordan pays for a dorm room and ends up alone” that had happened in belgrade, budapest, krakow, and warsaw. the perks of travelling in the off/shoulder season, i tell you!
so anyway, that was my ultra-bizarre first night in berlin.
the next day, i went to the east side gallery, which was a short walk from my hostel. the east side gallery is what’s left of the berlin wall. it runs along the riverbank of what used to be east-berlin, and it’s now covered in works of art.
i packed a lot of activities into my first few days in berlin because my original plans were to only stay for 4 days.
the next day, i went on a walking tour and took a lot of pictures. unfortunately, i lost my sim card in prague, so my phone pictures will have to suffice. i’m glad i took many on my phone.
the walking tour took me all over mitte and made me some new friends! on the walking tour i met rhiya (she’s from london, just graduated from oxford, and has been travelling allll over and had some really great stories to tell), and juan (he is from costa rica, but lives in germany now for work). once the tour had finished, the three of us stuck together and made our way to alexanderplatz and found a thai restaurant for dinner.
this is the holocaust memorial in berlin. it’s really profound and difficult to illustrate with just one picture. it’s very large and when you go inside, it’s like the sounds of the city fade out and you’re alone in a somber, concrete world. it’s quite vast, so even though there will be many people in the memorial with you, you won’t necessarily see them.
and the brandenburg gate on the gloomy day i did the walking tour. it’s really rather stunning up close.
here i straddle the line between east and west berlin where the wall used to stand just near checkpoint charlie.
here are juan, myself, and rhiya in alexanderplatz just near the tv tower.
and this is the funny note we left under the glass-top table of the thai restaurant.
i got a new roommate. he accidentally introduced himself as ireland instead of adrian. so we just called eachother ireland and canada for the rest of my time in berlin. he’d moved there from ireland to start a new life.
another person i met was laura! laura will feature heavily in my next post, but for now, this is laura and i. she’s from nyc, went to yale, and speaks way better german than i do.
we went to the 24hr kabab shop next to the hostel at a ridiculous time of night and i was introduced to halloumi cheese (which is the best thing ever) and ayran, which is a salty yogurt drink (which is also the best thing ever and something i drank a lot of while in europe from this point on).
the reason i stayed longer in berlin than originally planned, was because of laura! i didn’t have any easter plans, and because i’d neglected to plan ahead, pretty much everywhere in western europe was full or ridiculously expensive for the holiday. laura and i decided to travel briefly together to hamburg for easter as they have interesting traditions there in the north. more on this later, though. suffice it to say, i was in berlin for an extra three days!
which brings us back to joonas! joonas is from finland, but goes to school in scotland, and when i met him, he was studying abroad from studying abroad in barcelona. but was obviously vacationing in berlin. he was one of my original roommates from the first room i occupied. y’know. the one with the crazy naked lady. joonas and i reconnected and decided to hang out and see more of the sights. this time, it was a nicer day than it had been when i went on the walking tour. we visited the holocaust memorial and the specific gay holocaust memorial in the park across from it. lovely park, weird memorial. it’s a sort of black monolith with a video screen and inside it’s just a video of two men kissing.
here’s the park, and here’s one of my favourite pictures of the entire trip, joonas and i in front of the brandenburg gate.
while we were there, there was a very colourful public wedding nearby, so we had fun watching that!
in addition to hanging out with my friends and sightseeing, i also splurged a bit in berlin and went to the berlin dungeon. some people probably dismiss the dungeon attractions as hoaxy tourist traps, but they’re probably some of my favourite generic amusements.
if you don’t know, the dungeons are a chain of attractions with locations in amsterdam, berlin, blackpool, hamburg, london, san francisco, edinburgh, and york. it’s a sort of mashup of a haunted house, a wax museum, a history lesson, a live show, and several themepark rides. if you like history and/or jump scares, i highly recommend any one of the dungeons. i’ve only been to london and berlin so far, but i hope to expand this. it was more expensive than any other activity i did, but it was worth it.
berlin has a really special artgrime atmosphere that i loved. i would easily go back and stay for a few months in a shitty apartment, just to get to be there for a while.
leaving on the saturday with laura was definitely bittersweet.