Learning to Love Berlin
I try really, really hard to keep an open mind when travelling. This is easier said than done. It is exceedingly difficult to avoid getting over-excited about visiting new places and even more so not to develop an aversion to destinations that might not have quite met your expectations. For example, I’m in no rush to go back to Paris, which is completely irrational as it’s hardly Paris’ fault as a whole for what went down there.
Berlin was one place on my list that I couldn’t help but get excited about, as I outright expected to love it. I envisioned it as this revitalised city, filled with delicious food, groovy artistic types and its own unique vibe. In short; I was expecting another Iceland, where my expectations would not be met, they would exceed themselves beyond the parameters of my imaginings.
My Dad is always saying that “great expectations lead to great disappointment” and while I like to tease him about being a pessimist, I realise what he’s getting at. It is best to enter a situation with no clear ideal, or to take it one step further, keep your expectations as low as possible. Sometimes however, it is like telling a kid on the 24th of December that they’re not allowed to get excited about Santa’s delivery of presents; it just isn’t going to happen.
When I was ten years old, I went snooping in my parents wardrobe just before Christmas and found a CD player hidden back there. My feelings after my first day in Berlin were paralleled to those the morning that I unwrapped that CD player as my present from “Santa” – I didn’t know what to believe in anymore.
We had spent the day wandering around Mitte, observing many of the famous monuments and I had my first subpar meal in Deutschland of pork knuckle at a cafe near the Brandenburg Gate. The next day we decided to venture over to check out the Berlin wall. It was definitely worth seeing, but Berlin was just feeling like yet another touristy capital city. Nice within its own right, just not what I expected.
It wasn’t until day three that everything clicked into place. We had decided to do a bike tour that covered most of the historic sights of the city. After a hugely, satisfyingly, tasty lunch, we rode through Tiergarten. It was a beautiful day, so we saw many naked Germans basking in the sunlight along the way. The path was simple to ride along and I was able to indulge myself in a fantasy where I was a talented artistic type, living in Berlin and riding my very own bike through the park.
The deal was sealed the next day, which we spent in Kreuzberg; I had finally found what I had been looking for.
After visiting a food and flea market and being genuinely impressed by my findings in both settings (which included the best damn vegan ice cream sandwiches I had ever had in my life. And yes I say sandwiches because I ate two), it was unanimous. Berlin had not only made it onto the list of places that I will endeavour to go back to again and again in this lifetime, it was a city I could see myself living in some day.(Here are some other things to do in Berlin – it truly is a dynamic city.)
The trip ended with an amazing performance by London Grammar. Now, whenever I listen to their songs, I am reminded of the wonderful time I had in Berlin and am seized with an innate desire to return immediately. I will, in time. For now, there is still a lot of the world left to discover.
It just goes to show – first impressions are not necessarily the ones that you end up taking away with you. Thank goodness for that.