The following story is the first part of an account of my trip to Berlin and Dublin in the week after Christmas holidays. I split up the whole story because it was getting too long for just one post. The second part, which describes my experiences in Dublin, will be uploaded soon.
After having spent nearly two weeks at my parents’ place in Utrecht during the Christmas holidays I craved for some kicks. Fortunately, I had four more weeks of holidays and enough money saved to entertain myself for at least a couple of days, so I went to Berlin.
Because the Mitfahrgelegenheit had cancelled the day before I was forced to book a plane taking off on Sunday afternoon from Eindhoven airport and arriving a little over two hours later in Berlin Tegel, to take the shuttlebus to Hauptbahnhof. There I was, walking into home sweet home Berlin Mitte, where in my absence already some five new buildings under construction had been erected. A gentle shower stroke my face and I couldn’t stop smiling about everything I recognized: the grumpy passer-by’s, the stinking alleys, the Reichstag, the river Spree and the homeless woman with the accordion on the bridge to Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse whose lovely tunes once accompanied a magical breakfast at the Spree on a sunny morning in the summer. After unpacking my gear and changing clothes in the six-bed dorm on the fourth floor of my hostel I called Alexandra, a Lithuanian who is currently doing an internship at her embassy (I had met her one week before I left Berlin in September), for a date later that evening. The Heart of Gold hostel in the Johannisstraße was only two blocks from where I had previously lived, and I still had plenty of time for a stroll around Mitte. In contrast to hip and thrilling Kreuzberg and Neukölln, Mitte is nice and safe, but these trendy neighbourhoods are swarmed by scary drunks. I like my bubble in Mitte.
I was really in for some excitement that night and I was a little disappointed when Alexandra said she needed to go home to do some work after having drunk a green tea and a cherry beer, I just had a couple of Erdingers and we had shared a Flammküchen with shrimps. A very short evening walk along the Spree was all I got and I went to the hostel at ten thirty to sleep. I wasn’t too concerned as I knew I would be able to convince some of the interns at the Dutch embassy to follow me to a bar the next day. And so I did. After checking the view over Berlin from the Panorama tower at Potzdammer Platz, which was sad because of the awful weather, I spent around two hours in the embassy high-fiving, catching up with people and playing Foosball with the interns (yes, they have a football table at the Dutch embassy – it’s pretty amazing – they also have a table tennis, a roof terrace and a gym). The day passed by in an instant and we went to have a couple of Rieslings in a trendy bar in Neukölln. As most of us were having a tour in the Bundeskanzleramt the next morning we departed after gossiping about the embassy staff for a couple of hours. Another night without excitement, but the catching up and the drinks had been quite satisfying.
The Bundeskanzleramt was nice and clean, as everything that is German, but we had to rush through the tour because Merkel was welcoming Samaras later that day and the Bundeskanzleramt people didn’t want any interns to hang around in confidential Eurocrisis meetings. I can tell you that most of the art in the Bundeskanzleramt is – uhm – interesting and that the meeting room for the council of ministers is surprisingly small and modest but the big balcony on the front of the building with a view over Tiergarten and the Reichstag is amazing, perfect for superawesome Bundeskanzler drinks during summer. After that, the other interns – amongst others my friends Alexandra from the Lithuanian embassy, João from the Portuguese embassy and Roos from the Dutch embassy – went back to work and I went to the Jewish museum. I am fascinated by the German history but I hate the kind of in-your-face examples you can find everywhere in Germany but mostly in Berlin which are supposed to remind you of all the cruelty. Fortunately, the Jewish museum, its design resembles lightning (or scars), provides you the entire history of Jews in Germany so you also get to see the happy family stuff, although a bit scarce. Whether it was frustration, too much energy or the paintings of really beautiful Jewish ladies – and if you know the supermodel Bar Refaeli you know Jewish women can be stunning – at some moment I couldn’t hold it anymore and I secluded myself to the lavatories. It was already five when I got out of the bathroom, I had spent four and a half hours in the museum, and I figured my friends would be finishing their work by now so I tried to arrange drinks but I couldn’t find free WiFi to contact them on Facebook so I just called Alexandra and João, after which I bought a salad, a Club Maté and a whiskey shot at the supermarket and waited at the Bahnhof for my friends. Ten Erdingers for me and João and a hot chocolate for Alexandra later, they needed to go home to sleep and I went back to the hostel. I didn’t mind not having gotten my kicks in Berlin, as I was going to Dublin the next day!