My fist week of classes and my first week back in this spectacular city are over. What did I do exactly?
So as Already said somewhere, but I don’t remember where exactly, I didn’t have class on Monday. It was Ascension weekend, which also meant that I totally forgot it was Memorial Day in the U.S., it’s really amazing how quickly you can lose track of holidays when you don’t see any ad campaigns about upcoming celebration sales. Anyway, I took Monday to do some on foot neighborhood exploration. I’m living very much outside of the center of Berlin, zone B close to Lichtenberg, I’d visited Lichtenberg briefly the last time I was here, but I was still totally unfamiliar with this area. So I explored, and there really wasn’t that much to explore, it’s kind of a semi industrial semi residential area, there’s a cute downtown sure, but it’s about two miles away, so I won’t really be walking there much.
Tuesday then was the start of classes, and even though I’m quite far out, getting to class is not complicated. I only have to change from the Tram to the U-bahn. No multiple changes or anything similarly inconvenient, I think it probably helps that I never leave the old eastern side on the journey, it guarantees that the connections are there.
I am really liking my class, it’s a little bit of a repeat of what I did second semester of sophomore year which is perfect since I haven’t really studied since then. In the next two weeks or so we’ll be on new material and I think I should still be able to cover one year’s worth of language study this summer, and maybe better if I’m really on top of being in German. I’m optimistic on that account since I’ve always had an easier time slipping into German than French, but that’s a different blog post.
So anyway, since I arrived with one week left in the month, it didn’t end up making sense for me to do anything besides buying individual tickets for each trip this week. (Or buying a four pack, which is a great deal). So as I mentioned earlier, after class I was hanging around the city a lot, which I’ll probably keep up with my unlimited tickets honestly. So during my loitering I took the time to visit all the places that I loved to go to last time I was here.
This is one of my favorite views in the world.
Walking around the Lustgarten, and Alexanderplatz, going back to Hackescher Markt, and Tiergarten, it feels so amazing to be back and I’m so happy I’m here again. I really love Berlin, and a year ago, when I realized that it had been a year since I arrived here I was so disappointed and sad. Being here last time really did change the course of my college career, and Being away for so long from this instrumental place was very frustrating.
Which brings us to the weekend. Yesterday carried on the theme of my last blog post, in that I did not go outside or do much of anything really. Just relaxing, trying to wrangle some sort of entertainment of an ‘I can’t believe it’s not sentient and screwing with me’ internet connection. Today though was Sunday, and possibly my favorite thing in Berlin is to spend a Sunday at the Mauerpark Flea Market, which is exactly what I did.
This flea market is not like a normal flea market, sure there are plenty of stalls that just hawk whatever weird stuff they happen to have, but most of them either specialize in one type of good, or they’re artists or crafters who make everything at their tables. It’s a really eclectic mix, and you can definitely find something to spend your money on no matter who you are.
And then there’s the food. I spend a good amount of energy not buying everything that looks cool when I go to Mauer park, but the one area I let myself buy whatever is the food section. There’s normally around twenty odd stands selling all sorts of different freshly prepared food and drinks and all of them we’ve delicious things. And it’s such a variety, there are the obvious, German and Turkish, and then there’s Japanese, Korean, Morrocan, Ghanian, and uncategorizeable, today : Fried Ice Cream (advertised as American), and whole grilled fish made to order. And if you’re vegetarian there’s no need to worry, plenty of stalls were advertising their vegan options. Now seems like a great time for some food photography right? Right.
After that I was unfortunately, stuffed and decided to head home, I decided to walk to Nordbanhof since I should have been able to get home from there without changing trams. (Apparently not but I don’t know why). Anyway, to get there I had to walk down Bernauer straße, which happens to be where the Berlin Wall memorial is. I didn’t realize it was here and it was really interesting to walk through this old death strip turned interpretation center. I really wish I had realized it was so close to Mauer park last time I was here, I would have loved to explore it with my mom and sister.
It was a truly fascinating exhibit, which taught me a lot of stuff I didn’t know. For example, Bernauer straße used to have buildings that went right up to the wall, in the first few months after the wall was built in 1961, 113 people escaped to the West through the windows of those houses. The East Germans started looking up the doors, and bricking up the windows on the ground floors, but the West German fire department stayed outside those houses on the West side with fire nets for escapees to jump into from the upper stories. One woman was 9 months pregnant when she escaped into those nets with her family, and she gave birth a few days later in West Berlin.
The Cold War has always been sort of mind boggling to me as someone who was born after it, and West and East Germany is one of the most foreign parts of that history even though I actually know and understand quite a lot of both country’s stories. But the Berlin Wall memorial today just reminded me how absolutely crazy the Cold War was. So I did what I do and immeadiately after I got home I bought a 500 page Kindle book about the history of East Germany. There’s an incredibly alienating effect for an outsider to try to understand an autocracy like the GDR, because they can only possibly function when they follow their own philosophy. I think I’ll be able to learn, intellectually, the why of the GDR, but I don’t know if it will ever be possible for me to feel the why. I think I’m too far removed in time and background for that.
So that was my week. I hope you had a good one, I’m going to be writing quite a bit this week on language and on East Germany so be sure to stay tuned. And subscribe to Soirishcream on YouTube to see the video I made about Mauer Park and the Berlin Wall! It’s out tomorrow!