In an attempt to find the beach I was able to explore parts of Spandau and Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. The first stop was Spandau, when we got off the subway the first thing I noticed was how busy the area was, everything moved so fast. People walking fast, cars speeding away, and the bikers moved so fast they basically appeared out of thin air. This area seemed like it had a smaller immigrant population, the people seemed to be primarily well off and dressed similarly to Americans. Sweatpants, leggings, sweatshirts all very casual clothes but mostly all name brands such as Nike and Adidas. For the first time I felt like I fit in with my leggings and sweatshirt. We crossed under a big bridge and then it felt like we really entered the city. The streets were wide and the buildings were all very tall. On the left there was a big festival geared toward kids, food trucks and large bouncy houses, my kind of party. On the right there was a shopping mall filled with American stores such as a T.K Maxx and fast food such as McDonalds and KFC. I have noticed that the fast food restaurants here are much tastier and fresher than the ones we have back home so, I had to try the KFC. Once again the food was much better than at home although they were lacking some of the custom American sides like coleslaw and mac and cheese. Once we realized we were not near the beach we hopped on a train heading south on the edge of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf in hopes to make it to a beach later on I learned we were heading to the Havel river. From the train station we walked through a residential area with huge modern houses, types of architecture you very rarely see in Ohio, it was a refreshing change from the graffitied apartment buildings here in Kreuzberg. The area reminded me a little bit of the north shore of Chicago, lots of white privacy fences and gated mid-century modern homes with long driveways. I could see myself settling down here with a family. We decided to take some trails heading towards the water. My family enjoys hiking so I was excited for the walk, the trails reminded me of the ones I hike in northern Michigan. The trails were sandy and full of roots, there were many different kinds of trees and plants which is something you’ll find in Michigan. One thing I did notice was the size of the pinecone, here they are very small and hard. Perhaps, it is because it is early in the season. But even the smell of the trails as you head towards the water was the same. When we reached the water everyone was a little disappointed, the water was murky and covered with lily pads, there wasn’t a “sandy beach” and the wind was freezing. We ended up eating at a boat restaurant, the Alte Liebe Restaurantschiff. The menu contained lots of adventurous seafood options such as pickled fish and a fish soup, I don’t eat seafood so I settled on a Coke light and a side of potatoes, which still tasted pretty fishy. We sat and ate our meals on the water all the people around us came prepared and wore warm clothes and sat and drank wine and sipped their soups, we stuck out like sore thumbs with our swimsuits and flip flops beneath our sweatshirts. We sat on the dock and watched the sail boats go by, all of the sail boats had motors which is something I was not used to. I have been on a capsized sail boat before and vowed I would never ride one again but seeing these I wished I could try again.. until we watched one flip. Across the water was a tiny little beach filled mostly with dogs running in and out of the water, I love the freedom dogs have here.
This week I had the opportunity to explore Mitte, of all the boroughs I have seen thus far Mitte has been the most beautiful. It was one of the few places that I have seen that wasn’t covered in graffiti or under construction. Mitte had many of the embassies, all beautiful tall buildings with elaborate architecture and embellishments. Many of the buildings had statues and murals of men and woman on the tops. Just about all of the buildings were the same the same neutral beigey tan color. For me, this color allows you to truly take in the glory of the buildings. I noticed the buildings all had many columns, it is the little additions like these that make the beauty of a building stand out. The Konzerthaus Berlin was perhaps the most beautiful building I have ever seen. The copper statues on top of the building were discolored green and the front of the building atop of the stairs was lines with colossal columns. The steps leading up to the Konzerthaus reminded me of the steps of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The steps were staggered with people eating salads and sandwiches during their lunch break, similar to what you see in New York.
After taking in the beauty of the buildings it was time for lunch, because we were in such a nice area we knew we had to eat at a nice restaurant. We landed at the fancy German restaurant with traditional German food and liters of beer. For lunch I had two sausages on top of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. I come from a fairly traditional German family so I am very accustomed to eating pork, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut but the sauerkraut and mashed potatoes I have had in Germany are very different. Obviously the sauerkraut here is fresh opposed to the can sauerkraut we eat at home, it is much thicker and crunchier which I enjoy but the taste is not as strong. The mashed potatoes are much thinner here and typically much more sour than I’m used to. After lunch we headed over to a little gelato café. The first thing I noticed was the sizing options were very small and they had exotic flavors I had never heard of like whiskey cream and buttermilk lime. In my previous blog I mentioned how Germans are typically very fit and thin I can see how based on the small sizes of sweets and no free refills, it is such an easy way to cut sugars out of your diet with completely eliminating them.
After lunch we walked around the surrounding areas, it was a beautiful day and I noticed how much better the area is cared for. Little to no trash on the streets, clean sidewalks, fewer cigarette butts and new trees that appeared to be in their first or second year. Many of the business men were out for their lunch breaks, all wearing expensive finely pressed suits and animal skin shoes, definitely something I could get used to.
Following the tour of the Stasi Museum I had some time to explore Lichtenberg , a borough located in east Berlin. As my dad would say, it was a rainy downtown day. While I am still adjusting to life in BerlIn. Lichtenberg most closely resembled home. Stepping of the train I immediately noticed the train station was filled with diverse restaurants. Foods from all across the world, there was truly something for everyone. The area around the train station was bustling with people and very modernized. At one point we became lost and stopped and asked a young man for directions. Unfortunately, he was new to the area but exchanged some cigarettes to some locals for directions. This seemed new to me, I am very accustomed to getting around on my own, even when I don’t know where I am going I never feel comfortable to ask for directions. As an American I was very concerned we would not be very excepted by the natives, but thus far everyone has gone above and beyond to help us. I also noticed the diversity of the people throughout Lichtenberg, people of all different races, ages and sizes. I specially mention sizes because prior to this trip my uncle and I had discussed how health conscious the Germans were and that you would almost never see an overweight German. I don’t suspect there are many tourists in this area, it seemed to be decently residential. One side of the street was lined with what appeared to be apartments and decently kept outdoor areas, which is different from what I have previously seen. The other side of the street was lined with practical store fronts, no tourist shops or silly stores. Simply day to day business such as an Aldi or a local tailor shop. It was hard to calculate how long you had been walking because all the buildings and streets looked the same, lots of white tile and stone. While most of the building were pretty bland there were some that I suspect were original building based on exterior crown molding an embellishments (See photo). This area also had a lot more vehicular traffic and less bicycles compared the other areas I have seen, maybe because Lichtenberg is decently far east. One of the most interesting things I saw was a homeless man, probably in his mid 20’s sitting under a bridge smoking a bong, Carly went on to explain that Germany has very good support for homeless people, from my understanding being totally homeless is more of a personal choice, But hey, this guy didn’t seem to mind. The closer we got to the Stasi Museum the more residential it got, it almost started to feel like a hometown. I began to imagine families in the apartments living their daily lives. I have noticed in more central Berlin locals are typically draped in scarfs and dark colors, in Lichtenberg I saw much more diversity in aesthetics and fashion. All in all I felt like Lichtenberg was a much more real representation of a German town, but what do I know.
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