It’s approximately 15:30 (3:30 p.m.) and I’m having a late lunch here at Kiez Vegan, a small restaurant in the trendy multicultural Berlin district of Kreuzberg. Tearing away a second slice from the small (klein in German) margarita pizza with vegan cheese and tomato sauce that I ordered, I look out onto the picturesque street and reflect on the last few hours.
Waking up this morning at 05:30 in Stockholm, Sweden, I did a final pack of my backpack for my inaugural visit to Berlin, Germany. My birthday was last month and this 6-day excursion is my belated gift to myself. In my previous blogpost I detailed how I needed to wait for approval of my visitor’s permit before I could travel outside of Sweden.
I flew out of Stockholm Arlanda Airport through easyJet, my first time flying with them. My experience so far has been that it’s relatively inexpensive to fly between countries once you’re in Europe. The flight from Stockholm to Berlin was $108.00 roundtrip and took about 90 minutes. This is approximately the same amount of time it takes to fly from Los Angeles, California to my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.
As predicted, the plane touched down at Berlin-Tegel Airport at its arrival time of 11:15 a.m. As with most European metropolitan cities, getting from the airport to the centre of town is also inexpensive if you use public transportation. So once I was off the plane, I headed to an information desk and got help on how to get to the Airbnb apartment that I’m renting. The woman behind the counter suggested I purchase a 7-day ticket, which covers all busses and subways within zones A-B. Thus, with my newly purchased ticket in hand, I strapped on my backpack and headed out into the brisk cold to the bus that would take me to Junghernheide subway station. It was on the subway when I realised I wasn’t in Stockholm anymore.
As an English friend, who’s lived in Stockholm for many years once shared with me, being in Sweden for extended periods of time can lull you into a sense of relative calmness. I can now attest to this. After being in Stockholm for a few months, I experienced sensory overload and light shock once I was on the Berlin subway. In Stockholm, most people look at their phones when riding subways and busses. Talking is usually nonexistent or at a very low volume. And there is absolutely no touching. Even if you’re sitting next to or across from someone. Not so in Berlin. When I sat down, a man and a woman sat on either side of me, their hips, legs and calves firmly pressed against mine. There were also several animated conversations surrounding me. Clutching my invisible pearls, I think I imperceptibly said ‘Oh, dear’ at least 11 times.
That being said, within several minutes I warmed up to the electric energy and hip vibe of the people around me. Getting off at my designated stop and walking the 8-10 minutes to the Airbnb apartment, it seems that the entire city is infused with this energy. So far, Berlin reminds me of New York, in that it feels vibrant, chic and funky.
Now let’s talk about the area and the apartment where I’m staying. The apartment is located in Bergmannkiez, a neighbourhood in the western part of Kreuzberg. The area looks like the photos and films I’ve seen of Berlin in particular and of Europe in general. I immediately felt like a character in a movie, soaking in the cute shops, restaurants and cafes. And as a fan of espionage films, I must admit that as I walked to the apartment from the subway stop, I imagined myself a secret agent on an important and top secret mission.
The apartment itself exceeds my expectations. It’s much larger than I expected and oozes boho chic and old world charm. So it goes without saying that I’ve fallen in love with it and am now fantasising about living and frolicking through the streets of Berlin. With the walk from the apartment to Kiez Vegan, I’m sure I’m aglow with an effervescent expat lustre.
So there you have it, my first few hours in Berlin. Stay tuned! Pictures will be taken and more stories will be collected to share with you. Now let me get back to finishing my margarita pizza. I gotta get back out there and explore more of the city!
Until next time, auf wiedersehen!