You’ve not ‘done’ Berlin

‘I’ve got a picture of me with a Trabant, and seen the Brandenburg gate we’ve done pretty well.’ Direct quote accredited to the Frapiano-sucking British tourist near to me sat in Starbucks, Kochstraße.

My least favourite area of Berlin is the area near Checkpoint Charlie. As a student of Berlin’s history; the vague, over-capitalist and confusing promotion of this area bothers me no-end.

I’m here between work shifts, post having been to IKEA, looking extremely glamorous with my new cheaper than cheap 2 cushions and bedding shoved into the cheapest bin they had as part of my ‘making home on a budget as small as possible.’ I’m venting inside that I forgot my IKEA family card, meaning I could’ve saved €10, that’s an hour of my 6.30 am shift yesterday or the evening one I’m about to go on soon. I’m working on sucking up my mood right now sat here, or rather my exhaustion, but I think by the tone of this scribble so far we all know I’m doing a pretty miserable job. I’m still settling in and I’ve definitely not got to grips with managing both jobs, friends and exercise just yet.

‘We’ll get there’ I keep telling myself, and everything will be a little nicer when I disperse my IKEA haul into the small, overpriced WG room I moved into 3 days ago. I’m extra tired today and it’s presented itself in me walking through a red light and being sworn at by a German, begrudgingly paying for a Starbucks drink (purely for caffeine and a plug- ((because my laptop now won’t work at all without being plugged in))- despite the fact that I hate big coffee shop chains), and lastly through paying extra gratitude to the baristas who gave me my iced-tea and keep coming to wipe the tables because I know they probably want to flop into bed as much as I do right now.

By this point I’ve just realised I’ve been blabbing so long that the tourist specimen next to me which started this rant has now moved topics from how they’ve ‘done Berlin’ from what I can gather in a couple of days, to now what makes a proper Calzone. Sorry you might need to revisit the first 2 sentences of this scribble to remember that’s where I started off. I realise I’ve gone on a tangent…Apologies.

And before anyone tells me to stop earwigging, they did come and intrude on my personal space in the quiet corner with the plugs, and are speaking…no, ‘projecting their voices’ to each other using a volume which is most unsatisfactory. I should stop moaning and just not be in Mitte on a Saturday afternoon if I just want a bit of piece and quiet…a mental note for next Saturday.

Yeah so anyway where were we… Checkpoint Charlie. Not only is this fat slab of souvenir shops my least favourite area of Berlin but it’s one of the most touristy areas. In the last 10 minutes I’ve lost count of how many tour busses I’ve seen out of the corner of my eye, or how many people have mentioned the astonishing amount of steps they’ve done on their Fitbit so far today. I myself have done 9,398 so far, with another 3 hour shift at the busy fitness studio coming up I reckon I’ll trump them all.

ANYWAY…Checkpoint Charlie. Yeah, don’t like it. But where I was going with this is through being in Berlin for 2 Summers I’ve become so accustomed to hearing people say they’ve ‘done Berlin’ in a day, a weekend, -or the more gracious tourists- for a Thursday to Sunday city break. Time to get rid of this notion.

As I type through gritted teeth I can’t accurately express how much I disagree. Berlin is huge, it’s got such a turbulent, complex and long history and each ‘Kiez’ has it’s own complex personality. I’ve been here a while now in total and I wouldn’t ever say I’d ‘done’ Berlin. Something new pops up every day, and the more you get to know the city the more there is to explore.

People sat on their phones, bored and debating calzone in this Starbucks perplex me. Maybe I’m glad they’re only staying maximum for a ‘generous’ long-weekend. I don’t really give a shit what they do or don’t do here, but I’m amazed people are ‘done’ quickly here. Maybe that’s why Berlin is this special little island in the middle of Germany or Europe, because those of us that choose to stay and base ourselves here, usually have a lot in common. Many of us are drawn here by the way of life, the politics, culture, and excitement.

You can say you’ve done the google list of ‘top 10 things to do in Berlin’ (here if you’re interested) but that doesn’t mean you’ve ‘done’ Berlin. I’d challenge anyone wanting to really explore this city to take a chance and do some other things, go and swim at the Freibad at the side of the Spree, do an underground tour, go for a picnic in a park, go to a rooftop bar, go sailing, go to an outdoor cinema, go canoeing, go to an art pop-up show, get a beer and sit on a roof, or chill in Starbucks. But know that whatever you’re doing, you’ve definitely not finished exploring!

I’m not sure what this post was, to me it feels like a voice note vomited onto a page, but It was also pretty therapeutic to write. This post really highlighted to me one of the things I’ve noticed about living abroad; you don’t identify with the people from your own country here on holiday (as you have a completely different experience of the city as you do), but you also don’t really ever completely integrate able to have grammatically flawless conversations. It’s a little no-mans zone, ironically like Checkpoint Charlie. Bad taste? Who knows?! Maybe they’ll be more voice-note scribbles. Maybe they’ll just spend eternity in my ‘drafts’ section?! It depends on the reception to be honest!

Oh and if you’re the woman who was wearing the Metallica t-shirt or the man debating calzone at 15.46 on Saturday then thank you for inspiring what I think we can all agree is some pretty golden content.

Congrats if you made it to the end.

-Aimée

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