Eine neue Richtung: Berlin!
by Heidi Obermeyer
So…. I’m back in Germany. And it feels fantastic, and gemütlich, and familiar, and just plain nice!
And cold. Really, really cold. I have to be honest- before I left home, I was dreading returning to a German winter. I developed some very bitter feelings towards the very bitter cold last winter, but I think having gotten through November and December in both North Carolina (temperate) and Colorado (not-so-temperate, but it’s my main squeeze, so I let a lot of things slide with that state) I feel much more positively about surviving (part of) a German winter again. I think knowing it’s the new year helps too- every day post-solstice is another day that’s lighter than the one before!
I must hand it to the Germans- they are a tough bunch! One of my favorite winter-y things is seeing all the littlest German children bundled up in strollers that look ready for off-roading, complete with cozy wool liners and heavy-duty tires. When I have kids, I’m splurging on an all-weather German stroller for sure!
I arrived a week ago tomorrow, and I’ve been running around all over the place so much that my room has pretty much just been a landing space where I sleep deeply for ~7 hours every night and have eaten breakfast once. Last night I took the tram home and accidentally walked into a building that’s the same number as mine but one street earlier, thereby completely freaking out the poor German girl who actually lived there and happened to have gotten off the same tram as me. Entschuldigung! That must have been so scary- my bad! First Berlin note to self: do not follow your tram neighbors home.
Everything’s gotten going so quickly that I haven’t even been to the grocery store for real yet, although that didn’t stop me from picking up some yogurt on my way home today while I was at Galleria Kaufhof to get some letter-writing supplies. I wrote about how much I love German yogurt in Munich, and I have to say, my feelings remain the same. If only one could marry dairy products.
I haven’t been out and about to explore the city in the daylight yet, which is so strange. I headed home earlier than usual today and was enthralled with what I could see outside the U-bahn window- it’s the first time I’ve ever seen my trip home in the daylight!
Also of interest is how safe I’ve felt so far- Munich (and I find myself comparing the two more often than not) is about as safe as it gets, but I feel a similar sense of communal Sicherheit (security) here. It’s comforting to feel like the strangers passing you on the street are way more likely to be of assistance than dangerous or sketchy.
So far, I have a really good feeling about this city. I have never spent this much time in Norddeutschland in one stretch, and certainly not in an everyday-life fashion, so seeing Berlin- and what Berlin looks like in its core, not just around the touristy areas- has been exciting. There’s so much more variety than in Munich, and I’m loving it! People from all walks of life (and all over the world) are everywhere, and it makes for a really interesting atmosphere. Big businesses are mashed up against hip restaurants, and the guy with blue hair on the u-bahn is probably reading some book about physics. It’s like you never know what you’re going to encounter around the next corner, in a really good way.
And speaking of reading books on the u-bahn, I’ve started reading In the Garden of Beasts, a book about the U.S. Ambassador to Germany just before World War II (in the early years of Hitler’s dictatorship). So far it’s a really compelling read- I’d recommend it if you have any interest in German-American relations, World War II, or Berlin!
I keep getting on the train without knowing exactly where I’m going- it’s pretty amazing to realize how long it took to get to know Munich’s systems and street names, and it’s kind of fun to do the same thing in a new city. It’s also made me appreciate the extent to which I did get to know München, even if I thought I hardly had at all at the time that I was living there. It’s been handy to have had the experience of doing all the “okay-I’m-here-now-what?” stuff previously and from having my old German “Handy” handy upon arrival 🙂
This weekend I’m going to go get all my ducks in a row (barring any paperwork complications, which is kind of more-likely-than-not in a country known for extensive bureaucracy and sometimes weird requirements for things). That’ll include opening a bank account, getting some serious groceries, lugging a case of Mineralwasser home at some point, and attempting to get a new sim card that’ll let me cheat spontaneity and use google maps. What’s everyone else up to? Trying to stay warm like the Southern Californians? Or enjoying the snow and cold? Whatever your plans are, I hope they are relaxing and wonderful! 🙂