Every time I step foot out of my dorm onto the streets of Berlin, I can’t help but think about how I’ve fallen completely in love with the city, especially Kreuzberg (the neighborhood I live in). Today was warm (for Feb. 2 in Berlin) and sunny, so a friend and I took the opportunity to walk to a nearby park and around the neighborhood. Viktoriapark is home to a hill, the top of which is actually the highest point in Berlin (it’s an extremely city flat). At the top of the hill is an old memorial from 1821. I just learned yesterday that Kreuzberg, which translates to “cross hill” gets it’s name from a cross at the top of the monument.
So why do I love the city so much? It’s difficult to pin down all the reasons or the intricacies of the culture. But, I have a few things I love that I can definitely share with you all!
- The public transportation. Seriously, it’s not glamorous but the train system here is crazy efficient. There’s an U-Bahn (subway) stop less than half a block from my dorm, and a train comes every few minutes. The extensive train network means that I can easily get anywhere in this huge city in no time, which makes sightseeing just so easy!
- The markets. There is an permanent market hall just blocks from here with a ton of amazing stands: fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, bread, dried fruit, ice cream. The list goes on. It also has a ton of great options for lunch! And there’s a Turkish market twice a week just two U-Bahn stops away which offers an amazing variety of food (and crafts) for really cheap. My friend Gabi and I just discovered it this week during lunch time and I think we will be going back regularly in order to try all of amazing Turkish foods they have! There’s a bunch of other markets throughout Berlin so I’m sure I’ll continue to discover them.
- Sticking with the topic of food, my stomach is having a field day (every day). There is a bakery on every single block around here, and their pastries just can’t compare to anything I’ve ever had back at home. Street food is also really popular here, and it’s all so yummy and cheap. I regularly get meals sizable for 2.50 Euros or less. A turkish kebab or döner is a must try in Kreuzberg (I’ll have to include a picture in my next post).
- Dogs! They don’t have strict leash laws here and the dogs are all so well behaved that they’re always just walking alongside their owner on the streets and in the parks. They take their dogs everywhere including restaurants and the U-Bahn. I’m hitting my quota of insanely cute dogs and I just love it. On that same note, we’ve decided that there’s nothing cuter than a German baby decked out from head to toes in winter clothes.
- The local shops. Target’s are not the norm here. Most stores are small and specialized, which at first I was skeptical about because being a busy college student I really the time that’s saved by shopping in one central location. But, I’ve come to understand the charm of a small local store. It’s so much more personalized and once you get used to it and figure out where you need to go to get what, it really doesn’t take much time.
- The grafitti. It’s everywhere in Kreuzberg, it’s beautiful, and most of it’s allowed to stay. Most of it is beautiful and really brings color to the cloudy days. It’s art.
- The history of Berlin, and Germany. I’m probably the opposite of a history buff but Berlin’s history is so rich and deep that it entrances me. You could study Berlin’s history for an entire lifetime. I’m thankful to be learning so much about topics I didn’t know enough about, like the factors contributing to World War II and the Cold War. Last weekend, my entire program went to a small city called Weimar for a night. It was at the center of the German Enlightenment and the founding location of the Weimar Republic. We also visited a concentration camp, Buchenwald, during our time there. It was a tough experience but an important one. Germany has accepted the bad parts of their history and are truly making sure that all future generations learn from it. I think that in the U.S., we tend to glorify the good parts of our history and ignore the bad parts. And that’s completely understandable, but I’m not sure it’s for the best.
It’s been a while since I last posted (sorry), so I have a good amount of pictures to share with you. Here’s some that I’ve taken just walking around Kreuzberg. On the bottom right is the permanent market near me:
Here’s a bunch from a visit to the Berlin Wall (click to enlarge):
Here’s pictures from our trip to Weimar. It was a beautiful traditional German town. Besides the facts I already mentioned, it is also home to the Bauhaus architecture school and museum which had a profound impact on modern architecture. It was also home to Geothe, a famous German writer:
This weekend I’ll be traveling to Copenhagen, which I’m really looking forward too. Until next time!