Good Things about Berlin:
1. Blackberries! Cranberry juice! Bagels! All those foods that were once mere mirages across the ocean are now actual tasty realities!
2. Brunch…yes, there’s definitely a food theme here. Oh, how I’ve missed American breakfasts, pancake houses, all-you-can-eat buffets, potatoes in the morning! Many locations offer Sunday brunches with a wide variety of hot and cold dishes, and some even have ethnic themes, so if you want a Russian, Korean, or Serbian breakfast, you can find it here. If you just want fruit and toast, you can get that too.
3. Diversity: Here you can get any kind of ethnic food (again with the food) you can imagine. You can hear Spanish, Italian, and English…you can learn Wolof, yoga, and belly dance. International artists perform here, people from all over the world meet here. It’s definitely cosmopolitan.
4. Berlin is full of hidden beauty. Because it’s not a traditionally beautiful place, that makes it more of a challenge to find the most beautiful corners of this vast metropolis. And it does have beautiful corners; behind torn-down Walls, construction sites, and ruins, there are quiet oases of light and trees and flowers and architecture and color, so much color. It just makes it that much more worthwhile when you stumble across Berlin’s jewels.
Not-so-Good Things about Berlin:
1. Mullets, mohawks, and moustaches, oh my! Apparently the infamous Wall blocked more than just politics. People here are finding out too late that mullets and Dali-esque moustaches are no longer in style…some of them still haven’t gotten the memo.
2. Prices: So confusing. Prices for fruit are sometimes per kilo (as is normal), soemtimes per 500gr. You never know which it’ll be. Also, they have this thing called the Pfand, which is the return you get for plastic bottles and such. Sometimes it’s included, sometimes it isn’t, so you pick up a 20-cent bottle of water and when you get to the register, it’s 50 cents. Ridiculous.
3. Diversity: Sure, you can get things from all over the world…what you can’t get is anything German. There are few restaurants serving “traditional” German food; as soon as native Germans hear you struggling in broken German, they immediately switch to English, not even giving you a chance to whip out your handy German phrasebook. Sure, there’s beer (LOTS of beer), but it doesn’t go much farther than that. Of course, Berlin has historically been a safe haven for the un-German among the population (i.e. immigrants, Jews, punks, gays, etc.), so I guess it’s fitting to continue the tradition.
4. Graffiti: Oh my god, Berliners will tattoo anything and everything. And I mean, everything. I would say that they add graffiti to everything that’s not tied down, but actually, they paint moving vehicles too. I’ve seen buses, walls, roofs, vans, TVs, windows, sidewalks, and the inside of subway stations (where you think you’d get electrocuted trying to get across) plastered with all manner of tags. I really like graffiti and think it’s generally undervalued as a valid art form, but there’s a difference between a spray-painted mural with a message, and someone who’s written their name over every feasible surface in the city. I’m planning on creating a graffiti photo album with shots of some of the most interesting works of street artists.
There are so many more things to be added to this list – it’s just a starting point to give you an idea of the day-to-day here…oh, Berlin!