The Places I Ended Up in BERLIN
Let this post be one of those which provides you, the reader, with a general idea of how to handle and what to expect in various, completely random circumstances. The reason I traveled to Berlin in the first place was to attend classes affiliated with Humboldt University. I saved up a couple of credits necessary to graduate and decided to throw them into the “travel plans” which worked out much better than I could have wished for: I was the only member of the group who didn’t have to go back to our dreaded “real” University in September. The program I chose to study abroad through is called IES (www.iesabroad.org if you’re interested).
Want a little sample of a summer study abroad program in the party-city of Berlin?
You get the gist.
The previous photo depicts just about how much of a struggle the classes were; we went to museums, traveled to historic places, did interactive creative projects, and talked to our supervisors over cigarettes and the occasional drink (or 2). But that doesn’t mean that we weren’t challenged; it’s just difficult to reign in a group of 20-somethings in summertime Berlin.
Club Mate: Hangover Cure and Glorious Energizer Tea, 1.75€ with 15 cent Pfand Refund
I was placed with a German host family, a couple in their early 30′s who lived above a cafe called “The End of the World Cafe” in the Mitte district of Berlin. Although I was only living with this couple for a month and a half, I began to feel comfortable at their house. Unfortunately (and, perhaps, this is just a hang up of mine) when staying with strangers for a short amount of time, I tend to feel slightly intrusive, even when not doing anything wrong. I believe this feeling partially arises from the fear of making a mistake, which I certainly had the opportunity to. The second reason one tends to “walk on glass” in a temporary home could also be attributed to the fact that, for instance, if they have cats and the apartment reeks of surprisingly uncleanly and evil cats, you can not say a damn thing. I realize that you’re probably thinking, “Oh, I’m mature enough to tell them in a proper way that (insert unreasonably uncool thing to sleep/eat/drink/breath next to in stranger’s apartment).” No. You’re not. Because when someone is being nice to you and you don’t know what lines to cross, you will not want to cross any at all. This goes for you couch surfers, too (www.couchsurfing.com which we will get another day, I promise). To be completely honest, I felt as if they were acting as my parents sometimes… parents who had me when they were 10. At least with your parents you can flush any time of the night. I digress.
Sometimes when I got bored and felt adventurous I would wander into the empty lot behind our flat and take photos of things like this:
My search for good Mexican food began as soon as I arrived in Berlin. New friends from my class invited me to come to Que Pasa in Kreuzberg. I strongly suggest not going there as the food is a rough mixture of Indian and Mexican food (think: eggplant in a burrito) and the cocktails, although they’re really not that pricey (3.50€ , that’s a little over $5), are not worth sitting in a Mexican restaurant without good Mexican food. Maybe I’ve been spoiled as an American, but if anything I would suggest checking out Maria Bonita (Danziger Str 33). The guacamole I shared with 3 strangers (quite a large amount) was memorable, as was the layout of the restaurant and the fact that one of the employees gave me a discounted Corona. The reason I mention the layout specifically is because this place is GOOD (although portions of entrees may be smaller than one would expect) but it is SMALL. I can only imagine that the best idea when eating there in the winter is take it (mitnehmen) and devour the food in the comfort of your (or someone else’s) apartment. If you’re on foot you should certainly get a Corona to go.
After school had begun, and after I had realized that many of the people in my program were still in the “getting used to college” mode, I started hanging around with the folks in Hackescher Markt. Of course, because the only people I had truly interacted with until that point were people from my classes and my original hostel (The Helter Skelter Hostel), life became much easier once I made friends with people whom I could have a drink with, sit outside and practice my German. One of the best things about traveling and taking every opportunity is that even if you’re already aware, when you see someone like this:
you’d better just talk to them and hope that you’re as lucky as I to find a friend with whom you have a real connection. Trust me, even though the world is huge it is important to remember that any time you’re traveling and you meet someone with whom you get along and are completely comfortable: enjoy it as much as you can, while you can. As surprising as it may seem in regard to the ratio of people you will just acknowledge and people you will really connect with the only number that grows exponentially larger is that of the “people you will acknowledge.”
If you are poor, or making an intense effort to try to save money, as I was during my stay, and still want to have a drink or 3, I highly suggest investing in Sternberg Export. Sternberg is a beer that costs roughly 80 Euro cents with an 8 cent Pfand refund (I.E. CHEAP. never fear: I will explain that eventually) yet tastes much less like water/other mystery fluids than cheap American beers.
That is enough for both of us to take in today. Until next time…