The Berlin Diaries – Heideglühen


Vic and I were complaining to each other a couple of weeks ago that although we’ve been in Berlin for a quarter of a year now, we’ve only gone to a few night clubs. I’ve been to Chalet, Monarch, Sisyphos twice, Kater Blau four times, and yet there are dozens of clubs I’ve never gone anywhere near. So, when Michelle text me last week saying she was off to the near-mythical Heideglühen for a day party on Saturday, I was well ready for mayhem. Mayhem I tell you! Continue reading

The Berlin Diaries – Blinding My Boss


I always start these diary entries in the same way and I’m gosh darned bored of it. So here’s my newest introductory paragraph:






See that^^^^? 100% Original. OG literature. Mark Twain said there is no such thing as a new idea. Well, I just proved him wrong. You’re full of shit, Twain.

What’s that? Joyce already did it?

Kerouac too?

Fuck’s sake. Fine. Whatever.

ANYWAY Continue reading

The Berlin Diaries – Homecoming

I’m in a wonderful mood this morning. I fly home to England tomorrow for the Christmas holidays. I’m finally returning home, and I never expected I’d be doing it on my own terms. I didn’t fail, I didn’t crash and burn like so many others I’ve met along the way here; the French guys I met back at the hostel who spunked all their money in one month; the homesick kids who come in their droves and fly back after a couple of weeks when they miss sleep and sense; the poor buggers who are overwhelmed and turfed out by the ever unspooling red tape. Moving to Berlin is an upstream salmon odyssey,  battling against the current with hungry bears pawing the shallows. It’s a mad dash for safety under sniper fire, friends being picked off seemingly at random. You’re only ever one U Bahn fine or job interview rejection away from complete failure and a disgraced Ryanair home. But despite everything, somehow, I made it, and it feels so good. Continue reading

The Berlin Diaries – 15th October

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

The Berlin Diaries – 11th October

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, it’s dull, and there’s 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 for  Blossoms, all oversized corduroy jackets and luxurious flowing hair. He was studying to be a mathematician, working with ‘big data’ to create software (I didn’t understand, either). Dave was in the same boat as me – he was trying to make a life in Berlin. When I asked him why he wanted to move here, his answer was “because the UK is shit, fuck Brexit”. I feel you, man.

Here’s the thing about Brexit: my savings are in pounds. Can’t transfer them to a German bank account because I can’t 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 I’m sitting watching my savings decrease in value. It’s pretty much a pound to a euro over here, now, once you take into account transaction fees etc. It’s interesting to speak to people from other countries about the referendum. Everyone I’ve 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 Dave’s 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 doesn’t 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. It’s 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 Dennis’s 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 “Here?”

Here what? What are we doing here? Why is no one telling me what’s going on? I asked and received a murmured response that I couldn’t 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 you’ll find them in every park in Berlin. They look intimidating, however they seem fairly docile. They simply chirp ‘hashish?’ at you as you pass, and a simple ‘nein’ 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! They’re 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 hadn’t seen what he’d put in it. I didn’t want to look like a 1950’s 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 wasn’t something nefarious.

Please don’t be crack

Please don’t be crack

Please don’t be crack

It was weed. Okay. I had a couple of mouse’s 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, “oh, you know, I like a bit of everything to be honest.”

I’ve never seen two more blank stares.

We went to a café 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 who’s so laid back they’re 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. There’s 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.

The Berlin Diaries – 10th October

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.