A lot has happened in a very short time, and my intentions of writing a blog post every day have been booted right out of the window and into the street. I need to get out of the mentality that I’m on holiday, because I’m not – I’m here to work, and to live. I’ve been spending too much and drinking too much. I’ve not applied for any jobs yet, although I’ve applied to dozens of flatshares. I can’t get a German job yet because they wouldn’t be able to pay me as I don’t have a bank account. Can’t get one of those without a German address. And so on. So a flat is priority number one.
I checked out of the Generator hostel on Sunday morning at 10am, passing one of the Kiwi guys on my way out. He was just getting in. He looked like he’d had a fun night. I checked out, nicked a towel, and stumbled under the weight of my bulging backpack to the U Bahn, then headed back to Kreuzberg. It feels like home in this district now – I know my way around, I’m learning the tube system, and buying tickets is a thing of the past. I’ve got a hundred trains and never seen one conductor. It’s a €60 fine if you’re caught, so I reckon if I get caught once in every 30 journeys I’m saving money.
I arrived at Come Backpackers hostel for check in. I was a little unsure when I first entered. Generator was a big corporate hostel, elevators and stark corridors with hundreds of rooms, a big brightly lit foyer. Come Backpackers looks like the living room of a sweet little old lady who’s gone stark raving bonkers. It’s all in one open space – kitchen, longue, reception desk – and is full of knackered looking, mismatched furniture. The walls are strewn with off-kilter, faded wallpaper. Each lampshade is different, and blackened pots and pans hang above the sink. There’s a gold trimmed classical painting hanging skewwhiff on the wall, and all the character’s faces have been adorned with googly eyes. Potted plants skirt the room, slumped on beaten up cupboards. In the centre there’s a mannequin dressed in baggy jeans and a Disney t shirt. It gave me a heart attack the first ten times I walked past it.
I’m in a dorm with two thick-eyebrowed, thick-accented French guys who are staying long term too. The first night there was also an Aussie girl whose lips had randomly swollen up to three times their size after a night out and were causing her a great deal of embarrassment. My first evening was spent reading quietly, desperately wanting to make a friend but too shy to dive into a conversation. I went to the bar on reception and got a beer to read with, and this enormous ginger man asked if I was queuing. He was at least 6’4, and made me look like a midget. We got talking. He was called Tom, and was a 22 year old Australian from Adelaide. We sat together and started buying rounds. I’d not eaten much all day, and was absolutely crossed eyed wankered in no time at all. A couple of Aussie girls heard us talking and chimed in, which I took as my cue to slip away for a kebab and bed, world spinning from strong German beer.
Next morning, I bashfully bumped into Tom in the corridor. He asked why I just got up and left without saying anything, and I bumbled and flapped around with excuses while he watched me, eyebrow raised. He headed out for the day, and I set off out for breakfast. I’ve found that I can eat breakfast for under a euro a day – a couple of bread rolls, a banana and a glass of water make for a decent meal. I walked around Kreuzberg a little more, exploring roads I’ve not been down. I found a community garden full of allotments and shacks. It was like a little eco-village in the middle of the city, a fenced-in garden the size of a city block with mini windmills and outhouses containing everything from bars and cafes to a mini library. I spoke to a girl working there, and she said I was welcome to come down and help out on Thursdays and Sundays. I bloody well might.
That night I was sat with Tom again, discussing all kinds of rubbish, and I got up to make a phone call. When I came back, Tom was sat with a table full of people he’d invited over. I was introduced to Emily, Mary-Alyson and Gabby, three lively girls from Austin, Texas, and Bob, from outside Toronto, Canada. Bob had a tattoo of different twenty sided dice on his arm, an ode to his love of role playing games. The drinking games soon started, and it wasn’t long before we were falling out of our chairs laughing and pissing off the whole hostel. Our personalities meshed perfectly, and no topic was out of bounds – everything from the wrongdoings of the Bush administration, to the psychology behind horror movies, to the girls’ explaining how girls were just better in bed than guys, full stop.
Tom and Mary-Alyson copped off, and disappeared into the dorm room. The rest of us talked until 5am, when the room had emptied of almost everyone else. We went out to a shop and stood on a street corner talking about our favourite books. 5am, street corner, talking about Jack Kerouac’s writing to role-playing Bob and two lesbians from Texas. That moment encapsulates why I had to move here. It was just perfect. Spontaneous and free and inspiring and everything I hoped it would be. I know there will be tough times ahead, and times when I feel like I’m in over my head and Berlin is nothing like I imagined. On that 5am street corner though, it was everything I’d wanted.
I went to bed with a smile on my face.