A bit of reflection

February 20, 2009

Its official: I’ve been in Berlin for two weeks.  Actually its been a little more than two weeks, but I’m just getting around to posting this, so I’m a bit liberal with my measurement of time.

Get ready, here comes the big cliché: I can’t believe it’s only been two weeks!  It happens to the best of us – time passes really slowly when you have no routine and everything is new and therefore interesting.  So I thought I would take a moment to embark on a bit of a retrospective.  What exactly have I learned in the last seventeen days?

1. Berlin deserves the hype.  It’s the best damn city in the world.  Come here.

2. On a related and explanatory note, it is a big city that feels a lot smaller.  I’ve talked to other people (especially other new-comers) about this and they seem to agree.  This is because the city is made up of a number of small neighborhoods (Friedrichshain, where I am staying, and Kreuzberg, which I discussed earlier, Prenzlauerberg, where I only heard American accents, etc).  Here are two comparisons: if each quadrant of Portland was a lot bigger and had about 5,000 more people per square mile, or if there were about six Portlands all squished together in one city.  Population size-wise, these comparisons work, too.  Though I probably could have used any city; my point is that each neighborhood in Berlin has quite a unique character.  This continues to amaze me – I get off the subway (sorry, “U-Bahn”) in a new place and it looks different from the other places I have seen.  This is nice because it means that there will be no end of possibilities for exploration. 

3. After 20 years, the Wall is still there in spirit.  East Berlin looks and feels different from West Berlin in many places, and people, especially older generations, are still territorial.  Also, its the 20 year anniversary of the fall of the wall this year, so there are all sorts of historical and artistic exhibits this year on all aspects of the fall of the Wall and the history of the DDR, culminating in some sort of giant celebration on November 9, the actual anniversary.  So if I came here in part to examine post-Wall culture and history, this is a good year to do it.

4. Turns out moving to Germany is not the best way to learn German.  I keep trying, but everyone politely notices my struggle to construct a sentence and starts speaking English to me.  I am hoping that moving into an apartment (WG) where I can force my roommates to be impolite will help.  However, people ask me for directions, so apparently I look like a local and I can often even tell them where to go.

5. Two things that go everywhere: dogs and alcohol.  Its still strange to see either one on the train.  And there is graffitti everywhere.  No joke.


One comment

  1. Forgot to tell you about the dogs. Yes, they do go pretty much everywhere.

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