When Iām travelling, I get hit by culture shock pretty regularly, pretty hard. Itās just a fact of the life I aspire to lead, and Iām resigned to simply riding out the vertigo that seeps in when Iām first treading the concrete of a big new city. There are certain things I do when I feel overwhelmed to keep myself grounded. A familiar meal or foodstuff usually helps. Chocolate. Pizza. Normal, everyday food. Also beer. Alcohol is extremely good at conjuring a false sense of belonging. I also find music is hugely powerful when it comes to giving the strength to keep plodding on; to delve further into The Strangeness. Continue reading
I am ill. The whole hostel is ill. Berlin is ill. Iāve never lived in a city this big before, and if youāve not experienced it let me tell you: if one person is sick, everyone is. Every Berliner has a cold, from seemingly nowhere. Maybe I was patient zero. Maybe this is the start of the zombie apocalypse. Exciting! Continue reading
I Googled āThe Berlin Diairesā yesterday afternoon, trying to find my own blog, and it turns out The Berlin Diaries is also the name of a harrowing account of Second World War Germany, which makes my own Berlin Diaries seem rather unimportant and petty in comparison. So Iāve decided to cease writing it.
Nah just kidding letās carry on talking about all the weird shit Iāve seen. Continue reading
So, after collapsing onto the sofa at 8.30am with Tommy and Tianna, I was absofuckinglutely out of it for the next few hours. It was the first time Iād been to sleep since I woke up two days before on Friday morning. At 11am, I was prodded awake by the guy on reception at the hostel. The reception desk is in plain view of the sofas, and heād been watching us snore for almost three hours. Continue reading
Today was awful. Just, awful. I lay on the sofa half-drunk for most of the day, groaning quietly, unable to sleep on the uncomfortable chairs. People came and went into the hostel, happy and healthy, going about their days, and I was just strewn across the room like a plaster floating near the drain of a public swimming pool. Alcohol can fuck you up. Drugs can make you a mess. But lack of sleep dissolves the very fabric of the universe around you and renders you a manky, gibbering globule. Continue reading
Thus began the weekend.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Continue reading
After the blissful mayhem of the night before, I woke up in a smiling golden haze, bleary eyed, no hangover. The Austin girls were gone, left for an 11am flight after a couple of hours sleep. I got dressed and floated through into the lounge and kitchen, greeted by everyone I passed on the way, all smiles and hi fives and back slaps. I felt like the coolest guy in the world. Continue reading
I woke up around 11. Sleeping later and later every day. Staying up later too, so I suppose it evens out. I bumped into Tom, who was heading out exploring again. My exploring has slowed now. Flat first. Fun later. I mean thatās absolutely not been the case and it has in fact been quite the opposite, but thatās the motto Iām trying to stick to, anyway. Continue reading
I woke up late and sat in the hostel on my laptop after grabbing my usual 90 cent breakfast. I spent a couple of hours applying for flatshares, but dear god, itās dull, and thereās so much fun to be had. I overheard two guy talking about some light show that had taken place nearby, and I got talking to them. One of the guys was called Dave. Dave was English, and perpetually stoned on brown hash that he smoked all day on the hostel balcony. He looked like a replacement keyboardist forĀ Blossoms, all oversized corduroy jackets and luxurious flowing hair. He was studyingĀ to be a mathematician, working with ābig dataā to create softwareĀ (I didnāt understand, either). DaveĀ was in the same boat as me ā he was trying to make a life in Berlin. When I asked him why he wanted to move here, his answer was ābecause the UK is shit, fuck Brexitā. I feel you, man.
Hereās the thing about Brexit: my savings are in pounds. Canāt transfer them to a German bank account because I canāt get one without a registered address. Therefore, as Theresa fucking May spouts baseless nonsense about how Brexit means Brexit means hard Brexit, the pound is crashing and taking my hard earned savings with it. Day to day Iām sitting watching my savings decrease in value. Itās pretty much a pound to a euro over here, now, once you take into account transaction fees etc. Itās interesting to speak to people from other countries about the referendum. Everyone Iāve met has been just as shocked as I am.
Dave invited me to come with him to meet a mate of his. I shrugged and followed, and we got the U Bahn to way out in the city. We met Daveās friend as we got off the train; a German called Dennis, who dressed head to toe in black and spoke softly. It turned out that Dave had been put in contact with Dennis by someone he met at the hostel, and Dennis was doing him an enormous favour by registering him at his flat. This doesnāt mean Dave was moving in, it just means that as far as official records go, Dave is no longer homeless in Berlin, and can therefore open a bank account and rent a flat. Itās a nice little trick of getting around the absolute red tape piss take of getting registered here. I need to find myself a similar charitable Berliner to register me.
The guys walked to a park. I assumed we were heading to Dennisās place to chill and sort paperwork, but it seems they had other ideas. In the middle of the park, Dennis turned to Dave and mumbled āHere?ā
Here what? What are we doing here? Why is no one telling me whatās going on? I asked and received a murmured response that I couldnāt make out, and I felt too awkward to ask again. So I just followed quietly and for the ten thousandth time in my life, quietly resigned myself to the fact that I was going to get mugged and/or bummed.
Dave agreed that this was a good spot, and they sat on a boulder beneath a tree. Around the edge of the park, there were various circling men, idling in dark corners. They are drug dealers, and youāll find them in every park in Berlin. They look intimidating, however they seem fairly docile. They simply chirp āhashish?ā at you as you pass, and a simple āneinā is enough to deter them.
As we sat on the boulder, Dave pulled out his little tin box and started rolling a joint. Oh thank Christ! Theyāre just doing drugs. I relaxed and leaned against a tree, my hair getting dripped on as I was the only one not wearing a cap. Dave handed me the joint, but I hadnāt seen what heād put in it. I didnāt want to look like a 1950ās milk bottle glasses schoolyard dork in front of my cool new friends, so rather than do the sensible thing and ask what it was, I calmly took it and had a drag, hoping to fuck that it wasnāt something nefarious.
Please donāt be crack
Please donāt be crack
Please donāt be crack
It was weed. Okay. I had a couple of mouseās drags because weed messes my head up, and left the rest to the guys. Dave and Dennis talked about everything from drum n bass to Plato, and I struggled to keep up, being less stoned and less cool. At one point they asked me what my favourite kind of music was, and I gave the aggressively boring answer, āoh, you know, I like a bit of everything to be honest.ā
Iāve never seen two more blank stares.
We went to a cafĆ© after, talked half an hour longer, then headed back. Have you ever tried to talk to a stoned person while you are not? Speaking to someone whoās so laid back theyāre planking makes you feel like the most irritating, jumpy dick head in the world. On the U Bahn back to the hostel, every question I asked Dave was met with a one word answer or half laugh, after a 15 second delay while my words registered. I wanted to talk business, and figure out how to get my own address documents. He wanted to look at interesting patterns on his phone and talk about how amazing computers are.
I whiled away the rest of the day applying for flatshares. Evening came and the hostel filled up with people returning from their days exploring. The Austin girls headed out to a bar, and Tom and Bob stayed with me, chatting over beers. I am drinking too much in this hostel. Thereās nothing else to do but drink and socialise!
Okay, an aside: I realise that last sentence is literally describing the best situation in the world. The only downside is that my money is ticking away. Which means my time here is ticking away. They say time is money. Right now, money means time.
Tom, Bob and I headed out to meet the girls at the bar. We found them in a snug little place near Schlesisches Tor, sipping cocktails out of pint glasses. We joined and spent the evening swapping horrendous stories and smoking inside. We realised that each of us has a shit tattoo somewhere, and rolled around laughing while comparing them.
We walked back via McDonalds, chilled in the hostel for a bit, and hit the hay. Every single day something happens. I love waking up each morning wondering where I will be that evening. Whenever things get tough, I always repeat the following mantra in my head: a lot can change in a day. In Berlin, a lot can change in a minute. I love it.
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 Iām on holiday, because Iām not ā Iām here to work, and to live. Iāve been spending too much and drinking too much. Iāve not applied for any jobs yet, although Iāve applied to dozens of flatshares. I canāt get a German job yet because they wouldnāt be able to pay me as I donāt have a bank account. Canāt 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 heād 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 ā I know my way around, Iām learning the tube system, and buying tickets is a thing of the past. Iāve got a hundred trains and never seen one conductor. Itās a ā¬60 fine if youāre caught, so I reckon if I get caught once in every 30 journeys Iām 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 whoās gone stark raving bonkers. Itās 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.Ā Each lampshade is different, and blackened pots and pans hang above the sink. Thereās a gold trimmed classical painting hanging skewwhiff on the wall, and all the characterās faces have been adorned with googly eyes. Potted plants skirt the room, slumped on beaten up cupboards. In the centre thereās 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.
Iām 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 6ā4, 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. Iād 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. Iāve found that I can eat breakfast for under a euro a day ā 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 Iāve 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 heād 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.Ā The drinking games soon started, and it wasnāt 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 ā everything from the wrongdoings of the Bush administration, to the psychology behind horror movies, to the girlsā 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 Kerouacās 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 Iām in over my head and Berlin is nothing like I imagined. On that 5am street corner though, it was everything Iād wanted.
I went to bed with a smile on my face.