Monday, August 9, 2010

What I'll Miss

Obviously there are a million billion things I am going to miss about life in Berlin, but here's an attempt at a list.

1. Plentiful Delicious Falafel
Berlin is the first place I had really really awesome falafel...and now I'm addicted. I already made a post about my top 5 falafel places in Berlin, so go check that out for more details. Main point is that I can't even think of 5 decent falafel places round these parts, much less have trouble narrowing down a top 5. Sigh.

2. Good Beer, and Cheap

Cheapness is a major factor in things I will miss in Berlin, and beer is no exception. The variety pictured above is one of the cheapest beers available, our beloved Sterny, or Sternburg. That bottle you see in the picture is .5L and costs 65 euro cents. Swoon! We even knew a place where you could get 'em for 55 cents each, and buying a case at Kaufland was even cheaper. This beer is far superior to the cheapest beer brands in the US (Natty Ice comes to mind) and costs less. I'll have to drown my sorrow with Hamm's.

3. Adjustable Windows
In most apartments and offices in Berlin, at least in my experience, they have these nifty adjustable windows. You can open it just a crack by tilting it open at the top, or open it sideways all the way. Even our big balcony door functioned this way. It was a great way to get some air flow without freezing, or to air out a kitchen when cooking, or whatever. I found myself wondering why all windows aren't so elegantly engineered. I've never seen such a window stateside.

4. Less Stress
Coming from New York, I'm used to a somewhat frenetic atmosphere in large cities. That was why the calm pace of Berlin was a nice change. Even though it's the capital and has a population of approximately 3 million, Berlin is super chill. My office started work pretty late in the morning, by American standards. Though I lamented shops being closed on Sundays, it was kind of nice to be able to truly relax--knowing that nothing was open anyway, so no point in getting all fussed. Despite the German reputation for rigid efficiency, they, like all Europeans it seems, know how to take a break way better than the Americans.

5. Our Balcony
Our corner balcony with its view of Neukölln rooftops and the Rathaus Neukölln made me so so happy.

It seemed that many more Berlin apartments had balconies than is common in large US cities.

6. Things in Tubes
An aspect to grocery shopping in Berlin that I at first found hilarious (see the picture at the end of this entry), I soon came to appreciate the wisdom of having mustard, mayo, ketchup etc. in toothpaste tubes. Cheese and caviar though? Still really weird.

7. The Stadtbad
Berlin has tons of public pools. Our local one in Neukölln was super sweet, with soaring columns, pretty mosaics of people in togas, and even great statuary:

One visit only cost 2.5eur. It was a great way to get in some exercise in the cold winter months, even though Germans don't seem to believe in proper lap swimming.

8. Prepackaged Hard-Boiled Eggs
No matter what time of year (Easter or otherwise) one can always find packages of colorfully dyed hard-boiled eggs in the supermarket, and hard-boiled eggs can usually be found at bakeries at well. This was extremely convenient. I love hard-boiled eggs. I ate one for breakfast every morning before work and didn't ever have to bother boiling water. I'm surprised that I can't seem to find this in the US, land of convenience, but there you are.

9. Bakeries
1eur sandwiches? Delicious fresh-baked bread? Incredible pastries for a euro or two? On nearly every street? NOMNOMNOMNOM

10. Bread
European bread just tastes better somehow. It's more often and more easily available in fresh-baked form. And in Germany, they have all these wonderful dark breads with seeds. My favorite was pumpkin-seed bread. So much more tasty than gross American white bread *shudders*.

11. Mini Liquors
Late at night? Need a pick-me-up? Don't worry about finding a liquor store or what time of night it is. Every little Spätkauf will have a selection of miniature liquor bottles for your convenience, as well as beer and often wine. Go forth and party! And remember...

12. You Can Drink on the Street
And on the U-Bahn. 'Nuff said.

13. Cheap cheap cheap
My day-to-day expenses were waaaay cheaper than in the US. Rent, food, and alcohol have, I believe, been mentioned. There were also cheaper toiletries that I liked better than all the fancy brands here. Now buying bodywash is such a trial. Numerous brands with bewildering lists of ingredients and uses, with nothing less than 6USD. In Berlin I would buy a big bottle of 1.5eur drugstore-brand exfoliating bodywash and call it good. Le sigh.

14. Staying Out Late
Berlin is the true "city that never sleeps." NY almost never goes til dawn in my experience...unless you're super rich. But in Berlin any night out routinely can, and will, go on well into the next day. No need to stop the fun. The city keeps going and so can you. I'll never forget the time I was awakened by my roomie at 8am calling me to say, "We're going to Poland! Wanna come?" I had left him at a party sometime during the previous night and he was still going. Priceless.

15. Markets
I miss the Turkish Market so damn much. Bountiful fresh produce, cheap!, plus fabric, jewelry making supplies, shoes, clothes, household goods, anything you might need really. So simple and easy. Love it. And then there was the Mauerpark--huge flea market/crafts market/karaoke sesh every Sunday. Why ever shop in a store again?

16. The U-Bahn
This one rings even more true now that I've spent a few weeks on the NY subway system. When standing on a hot, sweaty, dirty platform with no clue when or if my train will come and if it will go to the places I expect it to, how I miss Berlin's clean, efficient and reliable transport system and the little signs telling you how many minutes til the next train. NY needs to take a page out of Berlin's book on this one.

17. Bike Lanes Everywhere
Berlin is easily navigable by bike. This was a plus considering there was no way I was going to drive on those crazy roads and with those gas prices. Plus it's so much nicer to fly through the open air than to ride the underground trains in the dark--at least when it's above freezing outside. I most definitely will not miss the bike cops though.

18. Picturesque Cobblestone Streets
In my neighborhood in Brooklyn, which is a designated "historic district," there are two blocks of cobblestones that everyone swoons over. Well in Berlin it's par for the course--as are shady trees and genteel old buildings. For a history lover and art historian, it was paradise to find such a large city to be so aesthetically pleasing.

19. Seasonal Produce
This might seem like a weird one, but I kinda liked how not everything is available all the time. In the US the supermarkets are always stocked with everything, and while this may seem advantageous, it disconnects you from reality in that what you are eating has no connection whatsoever with what's local and what's in season. Whereas in Berlin, shopping at a combination of Kaufland and the Turkish Market, I really noticed and took advantage of the changing of the seasons. In spring, I grabbed a bagful of fresh peas, and they were the best peas I'd ever had. In the middle of winter, I embraced root vegetables. Etc. I really liked that connection to the earth and to actual growing cycles.

20. Cheap and Plentiful Concerts
I can't even count the number of amazing concerts I saw of bands I love that cost me less than 30eur. It seems that every band on earth comes through Berlin at some point or other and when they do, they charge a much smaller amount than they would in the US (at least the bands I was interested in). I saw The Mountain Goats, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Vampire Weekend, Spoon, Yeasayer, Camera Obscura, Passion Pit, Grizzly Bear, Owl City (man did I get crap for that, haha) and much more, and usually in tiny venues where you can get right up close and even sometimes meet the performers after the show. It was teh sweetness. I will miss that a lot.

21. Diversity
At any given party, you will hear at least 3 or 4 languages being spoken at a time. You get to meet people from all over the world every single day. People think NY is a melting pot? Ha! I found Berlin's diversity to be much more obvious and integrated than in the States. It was great meeting so many different people from such diverse places and backgrounds at every turn.

So there you have it. Many more items than on the "won't miss" list! So much to love about Berlin and, frankly, living abroad in general. I hope I have another chance at it someday.

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