Our last stop in the itinerary took us to Berlin, Germany.
Easily, this quickly became a favorite new place that I’d love to go to again. Kelly’s also a fan of die Deutschen, having been there before and feeling an affinity to it above other countries (she bet on them in the past World Cup when they
played beat Argentina).
Plenty of beer was drank from huge mugs and the food was unpretentiously awesome; we didn’t look for fancy dinners, we instead feasted on huge traditional and old fashioned German treats such as currywurst and Shnitzel. One very entertaining and economical (aka: free) thing to do in Germany is to try to speak German without having ever spoken a word of it before. To spice it up, you could even try reading some of those crazy long words out loud to a local, with bonus points if you can pull it off with a straight face.
I felt that Berlin was the most “homely” city we visited of all. Somehow, despite the language barrier, it’s easy to feel part of the city after just a few days of being there. The welcoming vibe might have to do with their absolute lack of open container laws, and everyone having a beer at any time of day, whether it’s someone sipping from a cold one in a business suit on the subway during the morning commute or just a dude crossing the street downtown. It’s almost like Burning Man!
The biggest highlight of the trip was seeing my friend Dinah, who I hadn’t seen since the end of our AFS exchange program in July of 2000. Her and her boyfriend, Basti, drove all the way from Hanover just to hang out with us for a couple of days!
Seeing Dinah was great. We were young kids back in 2000, and although we’ve both obviously grown and matured, we both felt like each other hadn’t changed much. It’s like the old cliché says: “We picked it up just where we left it off”. Kelly and Dinah quickly established a connection sharing experiences and thoughts about teaching. I had no problems getting to know Basti, who is a pretty goofy but brilliant guy who evidently makes Dinah very happy. We were pretty well set for an extended international double-date.
Our first full day in Berlin, we took a tour through the folks from Fat Tire Bike Tours. Dinah and Basti didn’t really know much about Berlin, so they came along for the ride too. We went on a nice and long visit through most of the common sights, learned some fun facts about Berlin, got to have lunch at a beer garden, even got rained on for a bit. Most of the pictures from the trip (which are here, by the way) are from the bike tour.
Having gotten most of the touristy stuff with a cool bike tour, the rest of our time was spent hanging out without many plans. As it happens to be, this is something I really enjoy doing somewhere new: wandering and discovering, to experience firsthand things that you can’t learn from a tour. This is how we ended up stumbling into cute little colonial-like villages tucked away in the middle of the city and somehow walking over 20 blocks downtown without finding an open bar. Turns out, aimless strolling on Berlin’s uncrowded streets provides a great opportunity to talk, learn some fun German words and turn the whole thing into a very unique and memorable night out.
Dinah and Basti promised that Hanover was much cooler than Berlin. Our parting words included “see you soon”, so it’s safe to say that sooner or later, I’ll be stepping on Germany again.