My big news is that I’m relocating to Berlin for the next 6 weeks so I can try out living as a European expat.
This is possible for me because I’m not working for the next several months and I don’t have a home base since i’m always on the road with work. Since i can live anywhere it might as well be somewhere interesting and I’ve recently wanted to live in Europe for a chunk of time. Living abroad is a challenge and I feel like I’m ready for it. I looked through the European cities and decided on Berlin because it had a relatively low cost of living (for Europe) and I hadn’t been to Germany. Plus Berlin seemed like a cool city with lots of artists and expats and it was near Eastern Europe where I’ve never been either.
While 6 weeks isn’t much time in the scope of a life, I’m hoping a get a feel for the city and the community. I have a bunch of goals for my brief expat life, the top few of which are:
1. I want to get into the community enough to meet local Germans and get invited to someone’s house for a party or dinner or something.
2. I want to take German classes and make a solid effort to get by in a language besides fractured English/charades.
3. I want to get into the expat community, meet people, have regular hang outs, see things in Berlin I wouldn’t see as a tourist.
I’m setting a rather low bar for myself, I realize, but the hard part for me is all the change, the newness and the challenge of meeting strangers. I’ll get all my feelings about these subjects later in the week.
I flew direct to Berlin out of Chicago. It’s the first time I’ve ever flown overseas on a direct flight and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Especially on a half full plane with dozens of empty rows. Air Berlin has sketchy food and a strange selection of ancient movies including Titanic, Gone with the Wind and You’ve Got Mail, but we flew to meet the sun
And arrived in Berlin at midnight Chicago time, which was 7am Berlin time.
I don’t sleep well on planes (or cars or buses or trains) but I had my whole row to myself so I took a little disco nap during the flight and felt pretty good when we landed. The Berlin airport is small and the entire Customs process in Europe is so relaxed that I wonder why we bother. No one asks questions, nothing is declared, they just grab your passport, stamp it and shuffle you through. Welcome to Berlin, whoever you are. I’m sure you’ll be fine. Next! I get 200% more hassle just driving over the Canadian border!
My taxi driver regaled me with Berlin history on the drive in to town. He moved here in 1987, 2 years before the Berlin wall came down. He said on new years eve 1989, everyone in Berlin came to the destroyed wall for a giant block party to drink “sparkly wine” and cry at midnight. The first new year for reunited Germany. Incredible. And incredible that it was all within my lifetime. I remember being back stage prepping for a college production of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead when I heard the wall had come down. As momentous as I knew that act was, I really had no idea of the scope. I’m sure the Berlin of today is so dramatically different as to be unrecognizable.
I’m staying in the Mitte district, down in the center of Berlin and very near Checkpoint Charlie, the original crossing point of the wall between west and east. I had no trouble finding the apartment but a fair amount of trouble finding the check-in girl to let me in. Jet lag, early morning and not having a working phone all combined to an hour’s worth of hassle followed by a 4 floor walk up with 2 suitcases. At least it’s 6 weeks before I have to haul them back down…
The apartment is darling with incredible views over the rooftops
It’s bigger than I expected from the pictures online and sparkling clean. Sometimes Air BnB does a really great job. Exhaustion set in once I got into the apartment so I took a couple hour nap and then rousted myself up. There’s no good way to handle jet lag but I know that if I don’t nap and I push myself thru the day, I’ll crash around 6pm and be wide awake at 3am. Hopefully a nap will stave that off and I can stay awake until closer to 9pm tonight. let’s see how it goes.
The weather today was PERFECT, low 70s and beautifully sunny.
Everyone was outside in the parks so I ate a late lunch outside at the Ballhouse Gipsy Restaurant, a rather incredible biergarten and dance hall with a lovely garden
German weiners and potato salad with dunkel beer. What else am I going to eat my first day in Germany?
The rest of the afternoon involved buying groceries via charades (always a good time) and orienting myself to the neighborhood
So much beautiful graffiti and street art, the apex of which is this artist squat called Tacheles. I’ll post a lot more about it later.
In the words of my flight attendant today “Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the entire crew I would like to say goodbye to you now.”
More Berlin tomorrow.