a taste of bERlin

noelle and i were only in berlin for six days. and two of those days, we felt miserably sick. so i didn't get to see as much of the city as i would've liked. i didn't get a real feel for it, the way i did in spain and france and holland. but we got to stay with born-and-bread berliners, and i think that's what's most important. i'll see the rest on another visit :)

the contrast of berlin was shocking after over two weeks of roaming the quiet, clean, charming old streets of amsterdam. these cities are complete opposites. 

berlin is loud and wild and grungy and expansive and new. 

the most noticeable difference is the architecture. about half of all homes in berlin were damaged by bombing raids in WWII, and over 10 square miles of the city was reduced to just rubble. so many of the buildings look relatively new. and it's eery as hell to think of why---to imagine bombs dropping and destroying everything in the very area that you're seeing... to imagine the horror and the rebuilding and the mentality that went along with it all.

the streets in berlin are much wider than amsterdam's very narrow pathways. everything in berlin feels more spread out, less compact, more distant. graffiti covers absolutely everything at street level--doors, walls, posters, street signs, light poles---especially the east side. it's got this inexplicable young, rebellious vibe about it.

the food was fantastic. noelle and i had our best/cheapest dining experiences in berlin. we had a new cuisine every day and could actually AFFORD IT?! whaaat? ;)

the german language is more difficult for me to understand that any of the other languages i've been around this summer. but man is it beautiful. it's not nearly as harsh as the stereotype claims and its much less cacophonous than dutch. i adored hearing it. 

germans are admittedly nottt the friendliest of folk. they tend to keep to themselves and be very to-the-point. that's of course not true for all, because we met some awesome, open people during our short week there. 

but next time i go, i'd like to know more. to really integrate myself with all the beautiful people i saw on the east side streets. to spend time finding out what makes them tick.  

 

In

the night i'm STILL recovering from...

our very first night in berlin, our couchsurfing hosts threw a huge party at their flat. before it started, i wondered how a party would even fit in the relatively-big-but-still-european-sized apartment. how many people are coming? where will everyone sit? will it get busted?

at 9 pm, eccentric hipster friends started buzzing in with bottles in hand. by midnight, there were at least 50 people packed into the confines of those narrow walls.

at first, everyone was sober and self-conscious about their english. so i listened to quite a bit of fun german conversation and observed these beautiful friends with such appreciation. soon enough, curious germans sat next to me and asked about my life. i've found that many europeans are better at speaking english than they give themselves credit for. especially considering what poor english i've heard in our own country, haha!

we laughed and played games and shared stories about travel. new friends poured mixed drinks into the disney princess cup that i picked out of the cupbard and held onto for the entire night. so i didn't keep track of what i was drinking one bit.

we drew pictures on the chalkboard, talked on stairways, smoked in the kitchen, and drunkenly belted out old backstreet boys songs in the living room. it was such silly fun.

the party lasted until 7am... and after everyone cleared out, my hosts insisted on THEN going to a night club... morning club?? they begged me to come along, to get the "real berlin experience". so i went and ohmygod do i regret it. okay, regret is a strong word, which i don't like using... but yes. yes, i do.

let's just say this night/morning caused me the WORST hangover i have ever ever EVER had. noelle and i were almost completely incapacitated for two whole days afterward. which unfortunately really limited our berlin explorations. are we getting too old for this sort of thing? i don't know! maybe we americans just can't hang. 

either way, the awful, torturous feeling i brought on myself only reminded me of how TOXIC alcohol is. whyyyy would i do that to myself?! my poor body!

its been almost 3 weeks since this night and i haven't been able to drink since... im thinking of making it a trend.

dirty pop

our berlin couchsurfing hosts were two german girls with an apartment in the hippest area of the artsy east side. 

our hosts had an awesome, huge place (as far as european apartments go--and their rent was cheaper than what i paid for my college apartment!). every bit of space had some kind of creative decor.  

the hallway was plastered with pictures of american pop icons, torn out of the pages of teen magazines--pictures of celebrities i hadn't thought of since middle school! the kitchen had a larger-than-life poster of bowl-headed bieber, other posters stolen on nights they can't quite remember, and half of a mannequin leg.

one wall of the living room held a map of the world with flags that showed their obsession with american culture stemmed from quite a few visits to the states. the adjacent wall was filled with black and white photobooth strips of friends, taken on the way to clubs. another wall had chalkboard paint with a "your mom" joke written in german. and some more stolen signs, of course.

it's strange how this foreign apartment, filled with familiar things, felt all the more strange because of the american stereotypes we're now not used to seeing.

hitchhiking from amsterdam to berlin

i've never had the slightest interest to visit berlin. but after our last hitchhiking experience, all signs pointed east. everyone we hitched with recommended it. and it just made sense. so off we went!

this hitching adventure, which we estimated would take about seven hours, ended up taking roughly fourteen.

we left amsterdam at noon (a bit too late) and caught a bus to the highway in search of a "liftplaats" which, believe it or not, is a designated hitchhiking spot in holland. when we found that strange thumb sign, there were three blonde boys from denmark already looking pretty desperate beneath it. so to avoid looking like an impossible group of 5, noelle and i carried on to a gas station near the highway for our first hitching spot. 

we had enough time to make our cardboard signs and scribble in our journals a bit before catching a ride with a nice dutch business man. he taught us about holland the entire hour and a half ride, before dropping us at another highway gas station down the way.

we quickly got a ride with a redheaded polish guy who spoke very little english. note to self: make sure the person driving you through a foreign country can FULLY understand you before agreeing to ride along! this sweet guy meant well, but dropped us off on the other side of a town we shouldn't have been in. 

after some brief anxiety at a very quiet gas station in god-knows-where holland, a young dutch guy came to our rescue and got us back on track, dropping us right where we needed to be.  

at this next gas station near the border of germany, noelle was still in the process of writing out our new sign when a polish guy looked over her shoulder and comedically spelled out what she'd written so far.   "you going that way?" he shrugged his shoulders and said mayyyybe, before running off to talk with his friends. 

we rode with this group of polish guys over 3 hours into germany, and it was one of the funniest car rides of my life. we took vodka shots, talked about american culture, and learned every handy polish word (although we have no plans of visiting poland). 

they dropped us off at a huge gas station which we should've quickly gotten a ride out of, considering all the traffic coming through. but something about this new german soil felt noticeably less friendly. so we set up camp, had a picnic, and watched the sunset while we waited. we got a couple encouraging smiles from people with full cars, and even got an offer to ride in a semi truck (!!!), but had no real luck until the sun was fully down and exhaustion set in.

an eccentric german man wearing black frame glasses and tight green pants finally drove us all the way into berlin. he gave me coffee and blared electronic music to help us stay awake--as if it was necessary. this crazy person was driving 180 km/hr at one point and swerved a bit more than i'd like. i maybe feared for my life the whole. damn. ride. 

but alas! we made it to the outskirts of berlin alive. we caught the metro to our couchsurfing host's street at about 3 am. never have i been somewhere so alive at such an odd hour of the night! young, hip party-goers were swarming all over the place, as if the gig was just beginning! 

a sure-fire bit of foreshadowing of our week-long stay in berlin.