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Letters from Berlin – part zwei

Letters from Berlin – part zwei

Hello again!

Ok, much more to report now after a busy weekend.
On Saturday, I just wandered around by myself.  It was a gorgeous day and I went back to Alexanderplatz, which is like the main square in the city.  It again had a crazy energy.  It was unlike any other square I’ve been to.  Loads of street performers and artists.  But they actually have semi-permanent stands or whatever that any street performer can sign up and use, so it gives them a stage, backdrop, and sound system if they want it.  I’ve never really seen that before.  Maybe I’ve seen one or two places that street performers can use, but there was like 6-10 of em.  Also, there were all these…”games”(for lack of a better word) that anyone can play, no money.  Its hard to describe, like large wrought-iron toys that are just there permanently.  For example, one game you had to roll a ball(like skee-ball) up into a shaft so that it rings a bell…or another one you had balance weights onto 4 posts that controlled the balance of a set of rails and you had to try to roll a metal ball along the rails into a central spot(kind of like that labrinthe game).  They are just there for people to enjoy.
Everyone told me that ohh everyone speaks english in Berlin, so I was expecting a very western city.  Its not….at all.  Everyone does speak english, but they don’t unless you speak to them first in English.  There is a very heavy eastern German feel to the city.  Some parts more than others obviously.  On Saturday night, I met the dj at the hostel bar and he took me and some friends from my hostel room to a place called Caffe Bourgher which was also very “eastern-bloc”-ish not having been redecorated in decades and playing old gyspy music.
A short story…so we started the night with karaoke in the hostel bar and after we were looking for another place to go.  As we’re waiting for the entire group of us to conglomerate outside to make a decision about where to go, I see these 2 girls who looked kind of interesting.  I wasn’t really even thinking that I was hitting on them, and I was feeling “the openness” of the city so I just wanted to ask them if they had any recommendations about where to go.  They didn’t even listen to my question, and I guess just assumed I was hitting on them, so they said they were going to bed.  I said, no no, i just was just wondering if you knew of a good place to go tonight.  They replied with “bye-bye!”…”bye-bye!”….I couldn’t help but laugh and say are you for real?  They replied with “bye-bye!”…”bye-bye”…ok rude bitches, you could just say your in the middle of a conversation, but bye rude bitches!  So anyway, from there, I saw the dj outside smoking a cigarrette, and wanted to bitch about the bitches, so I started talking to him.  Turns out he has a room in his flat that the rents out to tourists and its available for exactly one week!  Which is exactly perfect for me because I’m going to return to Freiburg next week.
I came to see the place yesterday, and its awesome.  Its in a great part of town, very central but not being in a touristy part.  Its a big room, and the guy I’m renting from, Patrice(from Switzerland), is a really cool guy.  Its a little pricey probably for Berlin, $25/night(although he gave me a free night, which really makes it $20/night) which is about the same price for a decent centrally located hostel, but its my own room!
So, now the plan is to spend this week searching for a flat for September.  I also need to make arrangements for Freiburg, but that shouldn’t be hard.  Switzerland is very close to Freiburg, so I may fly to Basel, and rent a car from there. The total time is probably the same as taking a train, so I don’t know.
So, also, because I met the bartender following the unpleasant experience with the rude bitches, he took us to Caffe Bourgher.  At Caffe Bourgher, i met a group of Germans that were real cool and they invited me to this Biergarten on Sunday where they were  to have a boxing match.  I didn’t really know what that meant but I said ok.  And so, I went yesterday, and turns out its like rockabilly themed boxing?? haha well, the boxers are normal, but everything else is rockabilly.  The models who walk around the ring between rounds were all burlesque performers.  There was a band that played…seemed like swing/gypsy/rock/bigband music.  Everyone had tattoos and was in fifties clothes.  Greasers and pinups.  I also tried something new, I forget how you say in German, maybe radler? but its beer + sprite.  It was quite good.  Also, the pretzels here are delicious, they cut them in half(somehow without breaking the pretzel) and smother in salt and butter.   Lekke.  That’s the one word I was told to make sure to remember in german.  It means, delicious.  Or so I was told.
Today, I’m going to try to start learning german.  I told a friend about Rosetta Stone, and she was like, oh, like LiveMocha.  www.livemocha.com  basically a free(mostly), socially/community oriented website to learn any language that uses principles similar to RosettaStone.  word.
Overall, I’m really diggin it here so far.  Its very “raw” here…a lot of things under construction, nothing is really fancy, and everybody is just relaxed.  There are no turnstiles in the underground, and you can just get on a tram, no problem.  They have agents who come around every so often to check tickets.  A couple of people have told me that you get caught every 20th time and the fee is 50 euros, which is the same price as if you were to just buy it, so everyone just does.  This feels like a very self regulated city, which I dig, and is interesting to see in a large urban context.   The bikers(like in Amsterdam) take their bike lines(which are everywhere) very seriously.  So you learn after almost getting run over not to stand in the bike lanes.  You can take a beer into the street, its ok, there are drunks and they manage themselves.  There are casinos(well, this applies to everyplace in europe) and similar to OffTrack Betting places in the states, they are mostly empty with the exception of a few dirty people.  When I climbed a tower in Freiburg, it was really high and swayed in the wind, and there was hardly any railing.  I mean there was enough to hold on to, but not a crazy amount that obscured your view or prevented you from leaning over and looking down.  When people aren’t idiots, they just figure things out for themselves.
The flat that I’m in now is in an area that I guess was very poor during the time of the GDR(German Democratic Republic), but now this is where all the artists have been living and now is on the cusp of gentrification I suppose.  Kind of like williamsburg but way more interesting and not as pretentious.  It was described to me that Berlin now is like New York in the 80′s.  I kind of see that in a sense but its not completely accurate.  The history here is unavoidable and casts a really interesting shade to everything.  Even the gentrified and westernized parts of the city aren’t that western and still have a strong east german sensability.  There is definitely a stark contrast from Freiburg, which is south west germany, and this being north east Germany.  I’m still sort of getting a feel for it, I suppose, I can’t quite find the words for it just yet.
Ok, gonna get some food, and get things going here.
Ciao!
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