There are some things we feel close to for no particular reason: favourite countires, cities, languages, people etc. and we imagine ourselves living in that country and city, speaking that language and interacting with those people.
After several trips to Berlin throughout the last five years and especially during the one completed just a few days ago, I`ve tried to imagine myself living there. It`s no surprise for those who know me, as I have always been fond of the German language and of Germany in general – for no particular reason, like I said.
My friend R., who has been living in Berlin for one year, says it`s a city for young, crazy people, who like to have fun and take life not too seriously. He was more or less saying that Berlin is not the best place to be if you want to settle down and have a responsible life.
However, I`m not moving to Berlin any time soon (although I see no problem in the way R. describes the city), I am still charmed by Amsterdam and still happy to return here even after a visit to my favourite-city-for-no-particular-reason Berlin.
It has become standard when we travel to go for a genuine local apartment instead of a more comfortable, but empty-of-meaning hotel. The experience can be wonderful (remember Lisbon) or, in any case, more interesting than staying in a hotel room.
It was not love at first side between me and the Berlin studio, but the relationship improved in the following days. No cozy brick houses on the canals with big windows, instead, concrete buildings, with big entrance doors and stairs, housing spacious apartments with high ceilings and small windows. Quite a difference!
On our third encounter, Berlin appeared to me as huge (probably spent half of trip in the U/S-Bahn, commuting from one area to another), rough and definitely focused more on the functional than on the esthetic. Nevertheless, I found it as interesting and special as always, a city under construction, continuously reinventing a redefining itself.
Tiergarten and Charlottenburg areas – with their big shopping streets and other attractions, Mitte – with its historical buildings and musea… All these proved of no big interest to me anymore. This definitely had to do with the fact that, this time, I have finally reached the real Berlin the moment I set foot in Prenzlauer Berg. And this is how I resumed my belief in love at first sight!
Not only that we have discovered this lovely neighbourhood situated in the Eastern part of the city (which was not by chance anyway, but more the result of some previous research), but we lived there in our studio on Stargarder Straße for four days. What an amazing experience!
They say about Prenzlauer Berg that it`s the favourite residential area for artists, writers and the like. It`s also known as one of the most children populated neighbourhoods in Europe. Not sure what the passers-by were doing for a living, but I don`t remember seeing so many kids. Maybe that was because of Winter`s gray and cold days.
We`ve seen a lot of Berlin during this trip, but we were always happy to return to Prenzlauer Berg, walk down its streets, get inside its cozy cafes and restaurants (a coziness impossible to get elsewhere in the city – at least that`s how we felt), check the original local shops, look at the differently colored buildings or visit Mauer Park, just a few streets away.
We didn`t go to Mauer Park to see the Wall, but to take a look at the Sunday flea market instead. And we were not the only ones, as it is a habit for the locals to do this on a Sunday late morning, most probably after having a nice brunch in one of the many cafes nearby, just like we did.
It is during this walk in the park that I`ve seen a child completely dressed up in water resistant clothes, jumping happily in the ponds created by rain just besides the paved alley, dancing on the sounds of music coming from an instrument player. His father was doing the same dance, but on the pavement and without wearing waterproof clothes.
The image of this rebel child, that of an affectionate couple in the U-Bahn (when the man was trying , with assumed clumsiness, to adjust the woman`s scarf) and that of a young “old” boy, also seen in the U-Bahn, are the things which touched me the most while in Berlin this time. I didn`t feel as much during the visit to the Reichstag, Museum Island or Brandenburger Tor, let alone the walk on Kurfürstendamm, Friedrichstraße and the short visit to Potsdamer Platz/Sony Center. The empty Tiergarten is worth remembering though.
I must say I liked a lot travelling by U-Bahn (because this way I could see a lot of interesting faces) and I totally loved being able to have breakfast in cafes until late in the afternoon (as everyone seems to be brunching here) or to buy from organic/bio food shops, which are abounding in Berlin.
As always, a selection of photos to upload on the blog is very hard to make, especially after leaving a city you know for sure it was experienced only partially – still so many things left to be discovered, most probably for future visits, preferably in Summer.
Good thing is: it was not hard to leave Berlin. We liked it (in my case, re-liked it), but it was enough to see Tom`s smile when back to Schiphol, on our way to the eternal Albert Heijn to-go, to realize that we were both feeling the same.
“I can imagine myself living here for a month or so!” – this is what Tom said while returning to the studio in Prenzlauer one night. It is also the imaginary stamp we put on Berlin for the time being.