Sunday, 19 April 2015

How's it back in London Town?

This week I was in England for a few days. I had chosen the dates based on the lowest flight price, but by the time the trip actually rolled around, it was very welcome.

Truth be told, I've been feeling rather burnt out in Berlin over the past month or so. (Could I have ever imagined saying such a thing a year ago? No way. More proof that visiting a city and living there are totally different.) After talking with fellow metropolis-dwelling friends, I just think it's something that's part and parcel of city life, no matter how strong the passion that initially brought you there.

We concluded that although in a city you're surrounded by possibilities, the key is to be ambitious but to do everything step by step; to not want or expect everything all at once. Definitely something for me to keep in mind as I start my new part-time job, while at last having the proper time and energy to dedicate to my freelance work.

I spent some time in the countryside with my family before making a day trip to London.

Ah, London... unfortunately, for me it's more like "Aargh, London". I can only really spend one day there before getting too stressed out. I won't deny that it's given me some great memories over the years, but I just cannot get to like it as a whole.
I was eager to find out whether my feelings about the Big Smoke would be different now that I have been living in a large city for six months - in the past, was it simply a case of culture shock?

It was a bit of a whistle-stop tour of friends I hadn't seen in ages. In the morning I met up with Adam, one of my uni best. We'd talked about finding some kind of brunch and Google did yield some results: alas, it seems that London is only really vegan on weekends. Still, we ate and drank the usual for a few hours at Wetherspoons by Camden Lock. Afterwards, we did stumble across a little raw-vegan place called Inspiral where I had a "roseberry" sorbet (a combination of strawberry and raspberry), which was a nice surprise.

Afterwards, we walked from the Embankment up to Exmouth Market. I sat in a nice café while waiting to meet up with Alice and Andy, and reflected upona how it had been a long time since I'd seen buildings that looked like this.

For dinner, we made a visit to Hummus Brothers in Holborn. There are a few branches in London and as a self-proclaimed hummus lover, it was long overdue. I got some kind of falafel salad, and it all tasted good, but still, the vegan options weren't marked as clearly as I'd have liked. This is pretty important when it comes to places selling this kind of food, as often they add things like yoghurt or feta as a matter of course. We then hit Covent Garden and had some drinks before I caught my train back to the country.

It had been a lovely day but I was totally shattered at the end. Admittedly, my time was spent in Central London, where it seemed to a lot more efficient to just walk between stations instead of going through the bother of the barriers and positively sweltering on the Tube. Unlike in Berlin, there's less of a sentiment of "I may as well use public transport, seeing as I've paid for the day/week/month" because in London, you pay per journey and according to distance.

Anyway: I'm back with a renewed appreciation for Berlin!

Thursday, 2 April 2015


How are you all doing? The clocks went forward last Sunday but spring seems to have, ahem, sprung back. It's been blustery, hurricaney, hailstoney and snowy.

I've been getting up a little later than usual these days... weird, not only because I tend to wake up naturally at 8:00 or so due to light beaming into my room, but also because I just love to get stuff done in the morning. When I get up too late, I'm irritable. During sixth form and university I definitely would have described myself as a night owl, but those days are gone.

Recently, I have also been finding myself in Steglitz suspiciously often. It's a district in south-west Berlin, and quite an odd place... being there reminds me of this Rugrats PlayStation game I had once. In the past, I had passed through it a couple of times before, on my commute to the language school in 2010 and also when I travelled to Zehlendorf to register my new flat.

Its "high street" is Schloßstraße (with a whopping six occurrences of the letter S in its name). This is almost the only part of Berlin I've seen that could be literally anywhere in Germany - or indeed, Europe - with all the usual stores. The only thing is that when you look up, you'll see this most peculiar construction: der Bierpinsel. As far as I can tell, it was built in the 1970s and does not serve a particular purpose these days.

There's also a Goodies tucked away inside a branch of hiking/travel shop Globetrotters. It's tiny, and I guess in this case I'd only stop there if I was in the area and really couldn't find anything vegan to eat - it just has the way overpriced salads.
Another discovery I've made recently is San Francisco Coffee Company. Since the Freie Universität is in this neck of the woods, I guess they had to put something in that would attract students. There are two in Berlin - one in Zehlendorf on Teltower Damm (heads up: great place to do some work), and then one in the Boulevard Berlin mall in Steglitz. I like the atmosphere - it's nice and turquoise and the coffee is pretty good, if not a bit expensive.

Overall, for me, this area around Schloßstraße epitomises this inimitable West Berlin kitsch that hasn't quite gone away. Meanwhile in Mitte, there's a lot of new building going on and a lot of renovation, yet nobody seems to be in a rush to do anything around here, despite Steglitz-Zehlendorf being the wealthiest of the Berlin boroughs. Is this because most of the population there (aside from FU students) are Urberliner, and so no-one bothers trying to get new people to move in there?

I hope it doesn't change. I may as well love it, anyway, as it's the closest retail area to where I live!