Saturday, 20 September 2014

Exploring Schöneberg

Fantastic news: I've found a place to live! I will now annoy everyone who has ever hunted for a room in Berlin, by saying that I got it through contacts.
For that reason, I only have a limited time with this area on my doorstep. I'd probably never have thought to explore it otherwise. It sounds really silly to say that I'm surrounded by history around here, because that's precisely what you'd expect from Berlin. But read on...

My mind was blown this week when I found out that I live five minutes away from where President Kennedy gave his 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech: Rathaus Schöneberg, which is essentially a town hall! I mean, I always knew it was there - it's where I tried to register - but I found out completely by accident. I mean, I'd been using the train station named after the building almost every day! It came as a surprise as I'd always expected the place where he gave the speech to be somewhere in Mitte, for some reason (which wouldn't make sense as that was not in the American sector at that time).

The area used to be very Jewish. As well as providing services to residents, Rathaus Schöneberg houses a free exhibition called Wir waren Nachbarn (we were neighbours). It focuses on the lives of individual Jewish locals around 1933.
At Bayerischer Platz station, the underground walls follow on from this exhibition. They are covered with facts - in German and English - about former residents and the gradual destruction of their homes, businesses and places of worship. There have been recent school projects which are depicted on the walls too, with children writing the name and birthday of a person on a brick.
I wasn't expecting to come across all of this when I arrived at the station, and so its effect was rather disarming. It was the first time since arriving in Berlin two weeks ago that I had really faced this aspect of the city's history. It's something that, as a new Berliner, I will have to learn to navigate for myself. I did cry at the Jewish Museum in Kreuzberg a few years ago, so it is difficult. But I feel that saying that is making it about me, yet that consciously avoiding it is irresponsible.

Grunewald Straße

Today, I explored the area around Eisenacher Straße station, particularly Goltzstraße. As I walked along the street, I got the pleasant (though not smug) feeling that I was stumbling upon a well-kept secret. Cafés everywhere, little boutiques, a very healthy vibe. Rumour has it that David Bowie - who famously came to Berlin to work on three of his records in the 70s - still maintains an apartment in Schöneberg.

There was a craft fair going on near the pink building

I made quite a discovery: Sorgenfrei Café. Well, it's not just a café; all around the place there are authentic vintage sunglasses, storybooks and other bric-a-brac for sale. The name translates as "worry-free", which after reading the website, seems to be a nostalgic nod to the 60s, a time that some people look back on as "easier".

The little cloths on the tables reminded me of when my grandma used to get out my mum's old Sindy dolls and their accessories, like blankets and rugs. I felt a little bit like Alice in Wonderland, sipping on my coffee while taking in all the weird stuff around me. I had actually come to the area in the afternoon to find somewhere to sit down and work, but I felt too nervous to ask if there was internet there, let alone get my laptop out! It would've been completely anachronistic.

I've heard Akazienstraße is pretty good for cafés and restaurants, too, so I will definitely be back here. I'm going to miss the U4 line when I move. It's yellow and so cute! It is five stations long and only ever made up of two carriages. Plus, I love Nollendorfplatz and its 24-hour Kaiser's store, always got my back.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Things I witnessed on the U1 last night

A man about my age in a shirt buttoned up to the neck, skinny jeans and brogues, with a battered brown leather bag on his lap, reading an thick English novel. Sitting next to him were a group of German teens, making a not-abnormal amount of noise. Every so often, he would look up, roll his eyes at them and tut.

A kid in a wheelchair who got up and started walking when he got off the train, his friend still pushing the wheelchair.

A ticket controller who came on and straight-up said 'Tickets, please', not 'Fahrscheine, bitte'.

A man using his laptop!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Welcome to Wilmersdorf

As I said in my last post, I was lucky enough to find a room, for the month, before even arriving in Berlin. I am in the southwesterly Wilmersdorf area. It's relatively residential and peaceful; at the moment it feels more like living in Germany than specifically living in Berlin, if you see what I mean. Even though it is lovely and there aren't so many temptations and distractions from what I need to be getting on with right now, I've decided that when I do find somewhere for a long-term basis it needs to be in a more central or eastern neighbourhood - somewhere within easy reach of alternative bookstores, music events, vegan eateries. After all, those are a few of the reasons why I moved here, and I'm already finding the U-Bahn journeys  right across town to be a bit tiring and time-consuming.

In the four days since I arrived here, I've tried and failed to register at the Bürgeramt (no appointments til October!), had an assessment for a job, and opened a bank account. On a social note, we went to my housemate's friend's house in Wedding, and we sat up on the balcony over the night-time street, planes from nearby Tegel Airport taking off over us. This friend was about to move, so was giving away a load of free stuff - I got a couple of books and a jumper even though I'm really trying not to accumulate! Yesterday I met up with Alix and ate a heavenly slice of cheesecake at Chaostheorie, a vegan café in Prenzlauer Berg. And I'm attending a literary reading this weekend, which I'm looking forward to!

I have to keep reminding myself that a) I haven't even been here a week yet, but also that b) that I am not here as a tourist with a time limit. Therefore, I don't need to rush and do everything at once! I have no idea what my situation will be this time next month, but I am just trying to put myself out there, do what feels natural, and hopefully the rest will follow.