BERLIN, the city with its own set of rules, its own heartbeat, full of Attitude, full of funk. I love the don’t give a fuck/let me be me feel I experienced in the city’s architecture, fashion, and biking culture. Rules? What for? I think a good Berliner makes his own rules. And the BLACK, so much black. They make an all black attire look GUT/GOOD. They make androgyny look GUT. They make me want to shave my head Sinéad O’Connor style. They make me want to die my hair blond and adopt a mushroom shaped hairstyle. . . and I say this with all my respect. Berliners are Authentically themselves. No apologies. Staying on the east side, where the monuments were few and the funk/graffiti/alternative crowds were many, I noticed things flowed differently. I liked it. I liked being away from the Tourist trap areas, marching to the beat of my own drum. Or better said, BIKING to the beat of my own drum. And boy did I bike with the best of them.
BIER anyone? It’s not taboo here to drink at any hour. It’s not taboo to drink in the morning, or in the public park or on a chair, or in the air. It’s just how they roll. Also, they run things a little bit differently here. They are more relaxed. “Honor system ” for the metro? Unheard of. You buy a ticket to use the U-bahn (their Metro system) and yet, if you don’t buy a ticket there is nothing stopping you from walking right down into the subway and riding that train. I did it many times with conviction. I guess it was risky at times, but it was the only danger I experienced during my entire stay (except for being harassed one late night by what could only be described as a demon of sorts. So grateful I wasn’t alone this night, but that’s a story for another night over a bottle of wine). Berlin’s urban culture excited and satisfied me, and I felt GUT in this city.
*****UPDATE: having visited Berlin this October, I encountered 4 officers who asked to see my ticket while on the U-bahn. If you didn’t have a ticket, they were handing out a fat 60 EURO fine. Luckily, I had purchased a ticket most of the times I rode the U-bahn during this visit. Make sure to Validate it in the machines too, because if you don’t validate it before your ride it’s worthless.
Berlin has quite a history, let us not forget this city has seen its dark days. . . But I’d rather focus more on what the city is today. BERLIN is diverse. Walk the streets and count how many languages you hear spoken in a span of 10 minutes. It’s a city full of the coolest neighborhoods with various cultures constantly criss-crossing, mixing and not mixing. Coming here without expectations and with an open mind and heart was key. Initially, Berlin was meant to be a short 4-day stop to explore and to reunite with a friend from Los Angeles, who had chosen this city for our rendezvous. In the end I kept coming back, never gone for more than four days.
I spent a total of 22 days around Berlin’s various neighborhoods, splurging on all my international food cravings, loving this city by foot, bike and Ubahn, Soul-a/alone and other times in great company.
Miss Rachelle and I got lucky celebrating another year of friendship at a local BIER Festival (together in Europe). We partook in the “world’s longest biergarten” (Guinness Record and all). . . but the important thing was that we tasted an array of German Biers together in BERLIN, including a delectable honey bier and cherry bier that we both loved. I have so few pictures to share here though, because in these Berlin days I rarely took out my Canon camera to take photographs. Maybe I was really living the moments (the present moment is something to savor), maybe I just wasn’t inspired by the dismal skies and rain, or maybe I couldn’t quite figure out the image of Berlin I wanted to share with each of you. . . I mean, I did a serious walking tour of the city on my second day there and yet suffered complete apathy for photography.
Reflecting now on what exactly caused it, I have some ideas. Firstly, some of the sensitive subject matter discussed and the monuments and places visited on the tour were just too sad for me to be snap snapping away. When nazis, Hitler, Communism and all the pain and division caused by the Berlin Wall are being discussed at nearly every turn… you are allowed to feel in those moments, and say FUCK IT ALL. And that’s what I did. In those moments I just needed to be present. . . to enjoy the silence after explanations from the guide and to pay my respects. I swear there were times that I’d look up and the guide was gone already, having moved on with the others while I was still processing and feeling the energy in some spots, in some physical spaces of the city, absolutely needing to pay my respects. Seeing remnants of the Berlin Wall was shocking too, on both the East and West sides of the city. Another day, I explored the East Side of Berlin specifically to see the famous East Side Gallery. This is a long strip where Artists have painted murals/street art on the piece of the Berlin Wall that’s still standing. Even here, where color popped and some of the Art was thought-provoking, I couldn’t take even 1 photograph of the colorful painted wall. I took it all in, I appreciated the creativity and many of the art pieces, but instead I opted for a few pictures of the river and bridge just a 2 minute walk from the wall. By the water I pulled out my notebook, more inspired to put pen to paper than to snap snap that camera of mine.
A few things that caught my eye
Sorry if my Berlin post is disappointing to you. . . I know it lacks dozens of photos of all the eye-catching monuments this city has to offer. For me, Berlin was a part of my continued spiritual journey this summer. It is here that I learned that when you are open to all the Universe’s messages, in a place you had intended to leave on day 5, well it is precisely then that you receive great gifts like Growth, Friendship, and LOVE! Love came to kiss me on the cheek in Berlin and to tell me that I was taking all the right steps. . . Love told me to just keep on keeping on, that I was ready, and that I was headed for a new chapter. So Berlin became like the soundtrack to my PRESENT MOMENT, where I shared so many beautiful moments and many many firsts. It will likely hold a huge place of memory in my heart for years to come and I am so grateful that this summer unfolded in right timing.
Things BERLIN taught me that I now want to pass on to you:
Don’t rush your present.
Don’t rush your Travel either, if you can avoid it.
Take moments, or minutes and appreciate, give gratitude.
Talk to strangers. Talk to the person next to you, who you like and are choosing to share time with.
Put that phone down often. Put that camera down often.
Be honest in all ways. Be authentic.
Laugh a lot. Use those smile muscles in your face.
I laughed and smiled so much in those Berlin days and it felt amazing.
Play like a child. Play PING PONG!
Seriously though there are public ping pong tables in every neighborhood in all of Berlin.
Splurge on some things, like Mexican Food and margaritas in my case.
Spend your time in great company. . .
and the Most Important: Love Thyself. You are a QU-EEN.
My favorite days in Berlin were the unplanned days, mostly while BIKING. Berlin is a very bike-friendly city and you can discover more of its little streets, great KAFFEEHAÜSER/COFFEEHOUSES and restaurants to make a foodie swoon if you have a bicycle. Vegan food? Done. Healthy Vegetarian spots? Easy. Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, and Greek anyone? JA!! (YES) Happy belly indeed. My favorite Italian and I biked and ate our way around this city in those days. . . One day we (plus his roommate) did nearly a full day of biking starting at the East Side Gallery then heading over to the city center and throughout the well-known tourist parts passing Brandenburg Gate, on over to Tempelhofer Feld (the coolest old Airport turned Massive outdoor park), and finishing up at Alexanderplatz late in the evening. This day was one of complete randomness since the only thing planned was cycling. Food, biers, friends, a powerful freak rainstorm, a gorgeous sunset, and lackluster but strong cocktails to round out the night.
Lastly here are a few photos from a day trip to nearby POTSDAM, just 40 min/1 hr by train from Berlin. Opulent much? Well Yes. Of the several palaces you can visit, we only paid the 4 Euro entrance fee to Orangerieschloss. The interior was gorgeous (but there aren’t too many rooms, 30 minutes is enough to see it all). No pictures are allowed inside either. But the gardens, oh there are endless free gardens to wander around throughout. I even opted for a bit of a siesta near one of the palaces, since it was a perfect day for enjoying summer in Deutschland. My recommendation, take an early train and spend the majority of the day in Potsdam. I wouldn’t have minded a few more hours there.
Day Trip to POTSDAM
Thank you Deutschland for all your lessons and for an amazing summer, that #summerofAriana. I took a little piece of you, Berlin, with me. Sometimes when I want to feel all kinds of good, I call upon a memory, a moment lived in those 22 days and I cannot help but smile. In just 5 days, I’ll be back (and Open) for whatever you will offer me this time around. Gratitude and love to each of you.