Impressions of Berlin

I am going to try to document my Spring trip to Germany again. I tried in July, but I put myself to sleep while writing the post. This time, I will focus on impressions. Since I was in Berlin the longest of the three cities I visited, I obviously have more to remark upon, so here goes:

Whimsical and suspicious...
Radio tower, whimsical and suspicious…

Berlin is pretty big, most of our visit was limited to a central, but large area stretching from Ku’Damm (think the Mag Mile, but more relaxed and park-like) east to Alexanderplatz, in the former East Berlin and home to the Death Star(actually a radio tower). The city was very clean, with the exception of one area, but I will get to that later. Graffiti is pretty common in the city, that’s sooo 80’s to me, but I have been told it is seen as artistic expression than a nuisance.

Shop.Eat.Repeat.
Shop.Eat.Repeat.

The S-Bahn, which is an elevated train line with stops at Ku’Damm, the Hauptbanhof-central rail station, Friedrichstrasse, Hackescher Hofe and Alexanderplatz. The cars are clean, I didn’t see any crazy people (yay! they stayed in Chicago!) and you an even bring your pet dog on with you. I hardly noticed any pee-smell in the subway, which is a wonderful break form the smack-you-in the-face smell you get in Chicago. Rail stations here, and probably in the rest of Europe are really neighborhood anchors. You can bank, shop and eat at the large stations here. They are so much more functional, making Union Station in Chicago look like someone’s red-headed stepchild who gets no love or visitors.

More than trains at the Hauptbanhopf
More than trains at the Hauptbanhof

As for the exception to the general cleanliness in Berlin-we visited Kreuzberg, which is just south of the Brandenberg Gate area. Imagine climbing subway stairs and seeing the backs of police officers greeting you. If I were travelling alone, I may have turned around and got back on  the train or demanded the people I was there to visit come and get me from the safer bowels of the U-Bahn (subway). Thankfully I wasn’t alone, so my father and I soldiered on and pretended we weren’t walking through a protest. The area was fairly dingy and old. The main street, Oranienstrasse went underneath a large apartment complex which was many years overdue for a power washing, if you ask me. We kept walking, past stores I would describe as “janky”, but also mixed in with trendy cafes, sushi spots and young, happy caucasians, so I was put at ease greatly. However, the fascination with graffiti must stop. The entire doors to apartment buildings, which are built up to the sidewalk without setbacks are covered in it.

I have not addressed the food here, I had to silence my foodie side while writing this post. There is so much bread and coffee to be found, it’s silly, but I resisted the bread for the most part. Coffee was different; I had it all the time, mainly because the temperature was ten degrees colder than the week before when I was packing. Dunkin Donuts is popular, with even more colorful icings that what we have in America, but I may have had a donut once there. I had coffee a few times, and guess what, I actually saw a lady cleaning off a table in one!

Street food is popular in some areas. Currywurst is a sausage covered in a ketchup-py sauce with curry powder mixed in and served with fries-hold the mayo, yecchh! Doner Kebabs are popular. They are similar to Gyros here. But I don;t know how to pronounce Doner; see, the “o” has umlauts over it, so do I say “dinner”, or “durner”? somebody tell me. I did not consume any McDonald’s whatsoever during my trip, and I wear that with a badge of honor. I only had Burger King because I realized late into the evening that I had not eaten enough. KFC was in many places, but I didn’t fly for nine hours just to eat at the Colonel’s.

I was in London ten years ago, and it hardly felt foreign to me, so I expected with the language barrier in Germany things would feel a bit different. Not so, however. This world has gotten so small, and half of German words have their English counterpart contained within them. The people there are just as diverse as in a large American city and so many people spoke English, but I asked in German first. I was so comfortable in Berlin, I can see myself going there alone if I needed to.

Next post, Cologne and Frankfurt. Stay Tuned!

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