Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Berlin Week One

A wonderful first week getting to know our new friend, Berlin. The first few days were absolutely miserable and grey, what I might have imagined Berlin weather to be like in the winter. And then miraculously, the weather turned to bright, sunny and 13 degrees. It's been beeeeaaaautiful. We've been all early-bird-gets-the-work stylez and have been getting up at 9am. We are starting (almost) every day with a German lesson and trying our best to ask for things in German wherever we go. It's a challenge but hopefully by the time we leave we will be able to have some basic small talk.

Christian, our awesome host and house-swapper, showed us around a bit and told us about the neighbourhood. We are in Mitte, which is a stone's throw away from some the last remaining remnants of the wall. When we leave the house, we walk down a path in park that used to be a death zone. It's pretty mind-blowing to think about. We also went to the a museum, Gedenkst├Ątte Berliner Mauer, which is a Berlin Wall Memorial that contains the last piece of Berlin Wall with the preserved grounds behind it. It's been shocking how much of the wall still exists and it sort of brings you back to reality, makes everything that happened here seem that much more real. It's hard to believe it the wall only came down in 1989. It's amazing to see. The history feels like a living thing in Berlin. Walking around the other day, Dave spotted some bullet holes in an apartment building.

Also down the street is Mauer Park (translation: Wall Park), which has this totally crazy and massive flea market on Sundays. It has everything under the sun. One of the nicest things that I've seen in every place we've been in Europe so far is that Sunday is not all about shopping -- it's about hanging out. And in this park, a HUGE crowd gathers to do just that. On the hillside, there must have been like 1000 people sitting there watching a stage where people sing karaoke. And on the other side of the field was a techno dance party with another 300 people. Apparently just an average Sunday afternoon in Berlin. Pretty wild.

So far, we've been to the Pergamonmuseum, explored some neighbourhoods including Prenzlauerberg (way more to explore there) and Kreuzberg (way more to explore there too). Yesterday we did a Kreuzberg Krawl... an afternoon drink turned into a bar crawl, which led us to my favourite bar so far, where darts were all the rage and people looked at us strangely because normally, the only people that go there are the regulars. Super kitschy, beer steins, lanterns, old couples that looked like they hadn't moved from their table in 30 years. We had a blast and felt like it might be our new Cheers by the end of the evening.

A nice picture from a restaurant we went to...

The food in Berlin, so far, is really making me miss the food in Toronto. I know I'm always complaining about the food in Toronto (I do think there's tons of room for improvement) but I'm seeing that Toronto does ethnic food really well, and I'm missing that here. But on the plus side, it's encouraging us to cook. I think we're both going to into a bit of sugar withdrawl since we've been here... the treats aren't all that tempting, but we did find an awesome little coffee shop that was a dessert utopia, and we got our fix.

Beer, however, is another story. I fear that I may return with a Berlin Belly. Beer and wine are SO CHEAP. Like a bottle of a decent wine is 3 euros??? I don't even like beer that much and I can't help but drink it because it feels like I'm saying no to a bargain every time. And I unfortunately discovered a drink that I love, which is called Berliner Weissbier Sch├╝ss, which basically means that they put a magical raspberry or green apple elixir into your white beer and it's delicious. Too delicious.

It's been a pleasant surprise to get here and find things are even cheaper than we thought they would be. I haven't done much shopping but so far I've seen sooo many vintage and used clothing stores. I really felt like I was in Germany when we went into a thrift store and they actually had a whole rack for lederhosen and this cute little German hat.

Our houseswapping partner has gone off to Canada (I'm sorry to hear there is snow there!!) and we have been left to settle into an apartment that is nothing short of incredible. I absolutely love it. Dave has a room to do his music, I have a room to work on my doodles, and there's lots of room to spare. Here's a sample, but more pics with the link below!

I think I've been getting a little bit better with the camera too! Inspiring subjects all around.

:::::::::::::: SEE MY BERLIN WEEK ONE PICTURES HERE ::::::::::::::

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