Welcome to Berlin and Welcome Back to Europe

by Ekua on February 24, 2012 in Germany

The first thing that stands out to me in Berlin is how geometric it looks. There’s so much symmetry, right angles, repetition. As I look up at buildings both old and modern, it seems that even in moments of creativity, there’s an underlying orderliness to the city. The scrawl of graffiti that I often spot at ground level wants to betray that.

I’m getting my first glimpses of Berlin from the backseat of a taxi. Collecting my luggage and clearing immigration had been so easy and efficient that I was almost confused and waiting for more of the airport intensity I’ve grown accustomed to. I’d stepped out of the airport into a overcast and wet evening and immediately caught a taxi. All of the cabs in the queue happened to be Mercedes. For a moment, it felt strange to toss my backpack into the trunk of what would be considered a luxury car at home and to travel to a hostel in such style. It’s funny to think that something we place such a high value on in the U.S. could be commonplace in another reality.

As I approach my hostel, what little bit the sun was doing has nearly ended. And the city suddenly seems more alive than it had appeared along the way. It’s a Thursday night and I’m staying in a part of the city called Friedrichshain — two factors that I eventually learn will guarantee a party atmosphere.

The name of my hostel translates to “Industrial Palace” in English, and it’s just as upright and rectangular as the buildings I passed by on my way. And it’s huge. Before I enter, I stop for a moment to crane my neck and try to take it all in. I’m jetlagged, of course, but I’m even more thrown off by how I haven’t quite felt that sense of adventure and slight fear that occurs when I arrive in  new place.

Europe, it’s been awhile. It’s been several years of traveling the global south, of visiting all those places Europeans reached centuries before me and left indelible marks on. It’s been rickety transportation and bargaining and adding new spicy flavors to my taste buds’ repertoire. It’s been ancient ruins, jungles, deserts. It’s been quirky and sometimes rundown hostels and local people who need no reason to talk to you other than the fact that you’re there. This has become my travel norm.

I never imagined that revisting Germany would feel so different, but it does. And at the same time, it almost feels too normal. But Berlin is a huge city with so many layers of history and so many layers of personality. And what I’ve seen so far only has me more curious to discover what’s beyond those stark facades, behind those never ending rows of windows, in the alleys between the boxy buildings, and around the corners.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dani | Globetrottergirls February 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Berlin, how exciting! We haven’t been there in so many year but we keep hearing good things. Looking forward to reading more about your trip there:)

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Ekua February 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Thanks. It’s such a fascinating city with so much history to absorb and I’m glad I had a chance to visit it!

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