Backpacking 201-Berlin. Part 1

Pardon me while I gush. ‘Coz that is what one does of someone you love and love is blind and I fell in love with Berlin before I visited the stadt. Like an image that I built in my head, a fantasy and a dream. I’d always heard only good things about Berlin.  So knew the place but it turned out even better.

I felt it the moment I landed at Schonefeld Airport. At home. Like I had been here before; like my soul had wandered through and lingered a bit, a lot. This has happened to me once before when I was in Sikkim. A strong sense of deja vu and recognition; an intense feeling of belonging.

Ya so I am weird. I was a monk in my previous life who lived in the Himalayas but have come back to do some unfinished work before I attain nirvana.

To a touristy type or to many Indians Berlin is not on the map of places to visit. Why would anyone want to go to Germany!? For the arty types, fans of Western classical music (not me, I just about know the names of some composers but I do listen and have gone for concerts), for those on their Europe OE, Germany is a must-visit. And Berlin has this reputation of being a place for the creatives. I was not disappointed.

Schlafmeile is owned and run by Kiwi bloke Glenn Stevenson. It came highly recommended by German writer Ingo Petz who has written about Germans in New Zealand and also by a work colleague whose daughter stayed at the hostel. The Aotearoa New Zealand Cafe does the most amazing breakfast and burgers. The staff (or those that work there-they are my friends now) are warm and helpful.  And Glenn is an absolute hardcore Kiwi bloke from Masterton.  Loveable. I stayed in a five bed mixed dorm with room mates ranging from a Swiss girl to two Aussie teachers who worked in London to a Dutch girl and three Dutch guys who wanted to explore the night life in Berlin. Conversations with fellow travellers is an integral part of any backpacking trip and so it was with my room mates as well as those whom I encountered in the kitchen. Americans, Italians, Swiss, English and also Kiwis. The Dutch dudes asked me if the Flight Of The Conchords was really the fourth most famous group in New Zealand. They loved Jemaine and Brett. It was funny to see two Dutch guys grooving to Inner City Pressure on their i-pod and trying to do a Brett McKenzie. 🙂

So, Berlin. The first day I reached there was the Long Night Of The Museum. An extended evening that went into the next day 5am, a single ticket and free transport between as many museums as possible. And Berlin is full of them.  I catch a bus full of kindred museum nutters near the Berliner Dom and go the the Museum Of Kommunication and hang out there checking out the Deutsch postal system, the history, the changes and the meaning of communication. To me, post offices and related places are very attractive. The mere act of writing a letter and posting it signifies more than just a system. It is about human engagement and emotion. But more about that in another blog. That long night at the museums I revel in history, tradition and a simple night out.

The DDR museum comes highly recommended by Costa at the hostel.  There is a long queue to get in. Songs from the old communist country play on the PA system and the couple in front of me start dancing. They obviously grew up with that music. Inside is the story of the German Democratic Republic. The lifestyle, the food, the living, television, holidays, school, indoctrination…parents show their kids how they lived under a communist regime. One thing I learnt (among many) is that nudity was sanctioned by The Party, the DDR regime-because there was no money to manufacture swimwear. So summer time at the beach meant going naked. It was and is normal. If you ever see old Germans in skimpy swimwear then it is not ‘fashion’ or a ‘Western’ thing. Highly likely they are Ossies and forcing themselves to be ‘modest’ for the sake of others.

That was my introduction to be Berlin. I spent eight days in Berlin and everyday was an experience to savour. Not enough I can write in one blog. Except to end this one by saying that I got hit upon the most in Berlin. Men stopping me and talking to me, asking for my number, for my email and ‘get to know me’ 😉 I liked.  Ich leibe diese stadt even more for that.

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