Berlin. I mean, seriously, Berlin!
I had no idea what I was getting into the first time I came up. It’s not just the counter-culture, the punk, and all the people mixed together. The Turkish quarters with portions of hummus so huge that they are hard to devour in two, the bite-sized baklavas, and the impeccably prepared coffee; the coffee that smells like home and maybe even feels like it. The Middle Eastern restaurant, Sababa, in Mitte district. Then a whole afternoon reserved just for Ethiopian food. My devotion to it knows no limits and I’ve been away for too long.
The bike rides from east to west, and not realizing when you’ve crossed the line. And by the way, biking around Berlin is the best way to experience the city. East Side Gallery; what it represents now. My friend and I biked through the entire wall and I kept thinking of him. He’d been there before and — I am pressed hard to admit this — based on his loose recommendations of what I might like, I was kind of retracing his steps. Berlin feels a little bit like stepping back in time; seeing all the memorials and the marks of the past. Like walking through a cloud or a ghost, if such a thing existed.
I came with no expectations, walked away with so much. But you do have to know the history in order to understand the city, at least some of it. Without being able to connect the dots, I am not sure my passion would be the same. Berlin captures me with its rawness and history. The past and the present mixed together, I felt as if I could relate to the city on some strange introverted level.
Photo booths and Club Mate. David Bowie paraphernalia in places you wouldn’t expect them. Parks, plenty of parks. Summer in the city. Memorials and museums. Spectacular coffee and food places. Streets of diverse, incredible people. PhD. students who look like they are homeless; then they open their mouth and you find out they speak eight languages. Jazz, new-age pop, reggae, and classical music; everything goes. You don’t even think about it. Oh, and Kreuzberg, the colorful neighborhood that I fell in love with. I’d definitely take a flat around there but settled for a flat white. Even in Berlin (especially in Berlin!), I followed the coffee.
The Barn, naturally. It’s my number one. They are pros and they are gorgeous. Roasters disappointed the first time and then they disappointed the second time. The coffee was scorching hot and couldn’t be even touched for ten minutes. Also: not strong enough for my Southern European tastes. But that’s just me. Bitte! Coffeehouse was a love at first sight. A little Greek shop tucked away unassumingly on a street. Apart from an excellent flat white, I walked away with a lovely homemade lavender soap. And saving the best for last: Five Elephant is a must, without a doubt.
In Berlin, you listen to the beat of your heart and let it lead you.