This past weekend I spent in Berlin with my dear friend Jessie from high school.
I flew there and I was shocked. Since I stayed in the EU, they actually didn’t check my passport and the security was super simple, I didn’t have to take my shoes off!
I landed in Tegel and Jessie met me. She showed me her lovely apartment and we went to go explore Berlin! We went to the liberty tower and Tiergarten. Then she had a class so I went too. They were watching a silent horror film about the Weimer Republic. I can definitely say that I will never be as confused in a class as when they were discussing the film in German!
I had a local food called a Doner for dinner. It’s a special type of bread with a sort of sandwich usually filled with meat and vegetables and sauce. I chose to use sheep’s milk cheese instead of meat and a garlic sauce! It was super yummy. I also tried a club mate which is the “hipster” drink of berlin. It’s a mixture of organic herbs and juice with carbonation. It tasted sorta like iced tea, apple juice, and carbonated water. We also tried some yummy candied nuts. We went to meet some of her friends and hung out their apartment and got a drink.
The next day, we went on a biking tour in Potsdam. But first, I got to taste an organic carrot walnut muffin and a Berlin-style pretzel! We went with two of Jessie’s roommates form her apartment. I sincerely enjoyed getting out into nature! We rode from the edge of Berlin into Potsdam through forests next to a big lake and then through castles! We ended at Sans Souci a castle in Germany with a French name! It means “no worry” because Fredrick the great had no worries when he lived in his castle in between war times. The countryside and castles were gorgeous. I was super lucky to be with Jessie and her roommates. One of them is very knowledgeable about European history so he could tell us all about the history associated with each castle and landmark! I’ve attached lots of nature photos here!
That night was really cold so we had a wine and movie night with her roommate. We watched a victorian style movie about “the ideal husband” and then we watched a Disney movie called Straight Story. I had never heard of this movie!! It is phenomenal. It is about a life journey a man makes across the middle of the United States on a lawn mower! It’s based on a real story too, I suggest you check it out!
The next day we road bikes across the city to the biggest flea market in Berlin! It took place in a big park where there was live music, and drumming, and people hanging out. The market was pretty crowded, but it had EVERYTHING. There was a section with jewelry and handbags and second hand clothing (for only 1 euro!!). There was tons of food, lots of Turkish-style food, and coffee! There was a yard-sale type section with miscellaneous household goods. I ended up tasting a chai latte and some fresh squeezed orange juice!
We then road bikes into the center of Berlin to see some of the tourist-y sites. I have photos of these too. My favorite of all the tourist-y sites was without a doubt the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe (I’ve also heard it called holocaust memorial, but there are many holocaust memorials). From a distance, it looks just like some square rectangle blocks, but when you walk inside them, the heights of the blocks change, the ground curves up and down and isn’t level. Jessie had studied this memorial in school and said it was designed so each person could interpret it differently. I felt trapped and easily confused, which definitely embodies the holocaust. We finished by riding bikes through the Tiergarten and going grocery shopping.
The grocery stores in Berlin are HUGE. They even have shopping carts. We got ingredients to make dinner, and I also got some “berlin” things I wanted to try such as special beer only available in Berlin (I got raspberry flavor of course since I’m not a big beer person), and German-style sweets, etc.
I loved my experience in Berlin. I found it incredibly different from Paris. Berlin is a more modern city (after all it was rebuilt fairly recently). There are wide huge streets, modern buildings, and lots of parks. Berlin did lack the architectural beauty of Paris (in my opinion). Furthermore, everything is cheaper than Paris! The major ethnic minority is Turkish. We went to a turkish bakery one morning where huge pastries were all less than a euro. I ordered a circular bread thing with sesame seeds… and the bread was sweet dough! I definitely wasn’t expecting that. Everything is bigger in Berlin. I mentioned the grocery store, but also just the roads, rooms, apartments, portion sizes, and general space. Berlin is also cleaner. I never really thought of Paris as dirty because it’s all I know as home for right now, but after visiting Berlin I can definitely say that Paris could put forth a greater effort to clean the streets and subway stations. Oh, and fewer people smoke in Berlin.
The language barrier was also very different. I guess awkward is the only way to explain it. I didn’t know what to say and I couldn’t understand so I would just stay quiet, smile and nod. I was grateful to be with Jessie and her roommate who speak German!! I did, however, hear people everyday speaking French either on the streets or on the subway. German has a character that is different from French and English. It resembles sort of a Beta and it is the equivalent of two s’s.
As a review of flying Air France: I loved it! On the way there we got little biscuit snacks along with beverages, and on the way back we got a lunch sandwich! I searched numerous cheap flight websites (like ryanair and easyjet) before booking the tickets. Surprisingly Hipmunk found the cheapest flight via Air France from Paris CDG (the closest airport to me) to Berlin Tegel (the closest airport to Jessie) so it was super convenient! They also played all their announcements in French, English, and German so it was super considerate of the different people on the plane. Also, free newspapers in French and German… I didn’t see any in English (admittedly, I didn’t look too hard), but I read about American politics in my French newspaper. I also read about Frankenstorm… good luck to all my friends on the east coast and I hope Cornell cancels classes already!