This is not my first time in Berlin, in fact I’ve been to been at least five times previously. Since my very first visit I can’t deny that the city has changed slightly, its not quite as edgy but it is definitely still sexy.
I arrived in Berlin almost two months ago. Despite the airline loosing my baggage, I was in a good mood and I instantly felt at home. After being in London and Paris for three weeks, suddenly there was a sense of space and openness. I could actually see the sky, it wasn’t lost in between tall buildings on narrow streets.
My first day was less than amazing. I had booked an Airbnb in Wedding, but once I arrived I realised I hadn’t been given a unit number – I hadn’t realised that in Berlin, units don’t actually have numbers, the occupants names are on their doors so all you have to do is ring the right name — In a panic I asked the nearest cafe for WIFI and they sent me to the closest pub…
The bartender told me that in order to use their WIFI I had to buy a drink, however didn’t actually offer me a choice. So, at 10am, I found myself with a full glass of wine sitting in front of me, WELCOME TO BERLIN.
Ok, I have a drink, now can I use your WIFI? To which this wonderful woman replied.. NO!! ABSOLUTELY NOT! – Can I at least use your phone? NO WAY, NOT EVEN AFTER BUYING A DRINK!
I was fuming, sitting in a bar at 10am with a full glass of wine, no bag and no way of contacting my hosts. I was just about to storm out when I decided that I couldn’t possibly give this Berliner the satisfaction of drinking a wine that I had paid for. One minute later I was back on the street a bit tipsy at 10am when a bird shat on me in my only change of clothes – WELCOME TO BERLIN
Such a welcome has only made me love Berlin more. It’s a place on contradictions, freedom, joy, energy, curiosity, love and acceptance. I am well travelled and I’ve never felt at once both so comfortable and thrilled by a city.
After almost two months the closest I’ve come to seeing a ‘sight’ is.. actually, its just not happened yet… I almost went to Check Point Charlie to catch a night bus home after a night out… but… I didn’t
So what exactly have I been doing?
FINDING A PLACE TO LIVE
The first two weeks were almost entirely filled with searching for a flat. People tell you its hard to find a flat in Berlin, but it is not hard, its gruelling! Some people get lucky but mostly its just hard. ( I arrived in September when every Student in Berlin is also looking – I’m told its easier to find a place mid-semester or in winter)
The website to use is WG-Gesucht.de, its the most popular. There are so many rooms posted but you should only reply to posts that were created in the last 3 days to a week. Flats offering a room get literally hundreds of replies and are usually filled quickly so theres no point searching in posts that have been created two weeks ago.
Replying to a post – make your reply personal and honest and more than two lines of text – they’ve bothered to write a mini novel and they expect you to do so too…. and make yourself easy to contact (put in your Facebook page or a phone number).
Then the fun part – FLAT VIEWINGS — this is what took up most of my time, traipsing across the city seeing three flats in a day or more. Some viewings were lovely, I stayed for hours, made dinner, drank wine.. and others I couldn’t leave fast enough ( I was asked in one flat if I’d like to try the bed out – meh, maybe some other time). I wasn’t picky, I would have happily lived in all of them but I was only offered one (the competition is that fierce in September), so I took it.
It’s not all bad, it was actually pretty fun as I was meeting some great people everyday. Out of the experience I joined a Volleyball team and got an invite to a regular big BBQ by the Spree. As difficult as it was, I really value the experience and I met a lot of Germans (and also a lot of real Berliners – which I’m told there are only about 10, so now I’ve met most of them). Also, if you want an easier time, you can just rent short-term rentals and move a few times during your exchange, its much easier and you meet more people.
So now I live in a great place in Wedding. Its not the most popular area, there are more bars and fantastic cafes in places like Kreuzberg and Neukölln, but Wedding has its own amazing charm. The bars are small and local, the people friendly and you can often see some of the same people again, so its easy to make friends – it has more of a neighbourhood vibe, similar to Redfern in Sydney.
My housemates are fantastic! I’ve brunched with their parents, started tango dancing (a huge challenge in intimacy with total strangers), had dinner in an artists Studio (that had pet cockroaches and a bathtub full of goldfish), been to one off events, parties in the suburbs, live music, swimming in lakes, naked swimming in lakes, kayaking, food halls, Oktoberfest and general bar & food exploring.
Berlin is such an incredible city, there is so much to do everyday – and generally pretty affordable (a theatre show / event might cost 8Euro for students) The music scene is beyond brilliant and there is so much quirky art, and the shopping is AMAZING!! – I accidentally bought a vintage jacket a week – so cheap. I plan to do some tourist sights soon.. just the outdoor ones, all the museums can wait until it gets cold (its already starting!). I’ve never been so active and I’ve never been so tired, I find myself doing all sorts of things when I’ve only had a few nights sleep the night before, there is just too much fun to be had.
German is a tricky language, but its definitely worth learning. They have a lot of sayings to explain situations that we don’t have in English, and I’ve sat through enough parties not understanding the bulk of the conversation to know that my experience would be more enriched if I could speak decent German.
Elise Gouvernet 12028092