Thus began the weekend.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Friday came, and I’m going to be honest, I can’t remember much of the day. If it was anything like my other days here, I’ll have got up around 11 and sat applying for flatshares until I got bored and wondered off for a kebab. All my friends had now left. Bob disappeared in the morning, checking out at 10 before I surfaced. Farewell, sweet Bob.
I’m getting used to saying goodbye to people. It’s just a part of daily life now. Hello, let’s be friends, goodbye forever. It’s literally every day. It’s a little nauseating, but there’s nothing to be done. I’m stuck in this hostel with backpackers zipping in and out. It’s like a time lapse in the opening credits of a sit-com where one person sits looking bored while a million things whiz around them in fast forward. I’m the boulder in the river, silent and stoic and slowly being eroded. The stubborn skidmark in the toilet bowl that stays there for weeks. That’s me.
So, the day is a non-entity. Nothing happened. Let’s skip to 7pm, ish.
I went out and bought a pizza, brought it back, burnt it, and sat writing at a table in the hostel. There was an American guy called Zach and a German guy from Bavaria called Max, and they were chatting. I offered to buy them drinks and we got talking. Pretty soon, as is often the case, we were asked by more backpackers if they could join. Two Aussie girls joined, one of whom had spent the past ten months in London and had apparently completely lost her Australian accent and now spoke like Keira Knightley. Hmm.
A few more joined us, including Tommy from Norn Iron and Curt from the States. If you’re working your way through my Berlin diaries, I bet you’re sick of names and countries by now. Well, how do you think I feel?! We drank together and did the usual getting-to-know-you thing, but my heart wasn’t a hundred percent in it, having only just said goodbye to my old gang. It feels a bit like treachery, being so fickle – regardless of whether I have any choice in the matter.
It feels fake to have literally the same conversations you had just three days earlier with new people – new people whose enthusiasm is still brand new, while your own wanes a little each time, inevitably. Imagine having Christmas day eight days in a row and having to look happy and surprised opening the same presents each morning. I know it sounds painfully cynical, and it is, but that’s how you get after a while in a hostel. After saying goodbye to enough people, you realise it’s painful to get attached. You invest a lot of time and effort into getting to know people, and then they leave you. It’s easier to take a back seat.
I got drunk anyway, and we eventually had about 15 people around the table once more, although I was far less integral to the group discussion. I spent a lot of time talking to Tommy, who in his Northern Irish drawl pronounced his name ‘Torrrmay’ and wore a flat cap. We were also joined by a black girl with silver dreadlocks called Tianna, she was cool and political and I got on with her because she likes Jeremy Corbyn too. Tommy wanted to go to a club, Chalet, and he found some tickets selling cheap online for him and I.
The Ohio siblings came back from their last day exploring. I don’t know why, but I bloody love them. There’s Christopher, the bearded chef, Maria (or Mo), freckly social media pro, and Calvin, the perma-smiling architect. I left Tommy and the others drinking to go and see how Calvin was doing. I tapped his shoulder, and he looked up from the map he was reading, recognising me with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen.
“Hey buddy!” He beamed, giddily tapping me. “How’s it goin’ man?!”
I loved him and his sheer delight at everything. He told me he was planning the next leg of their trip; an overnight coach to Italy. I was helping him find the bus station on the map when Christopher walked past holding a large brown box. Calvin told me he was going to play the violin for a while, and told me I should go and watch. I followed Christopher out onto the roof where everyone sits to smoke, looking out over Kottbusser Tor and all the grimy chaos of Kreuzberg below. I sat with a couple of Czech girls on a bench and watched Christopher play his violin, silhouetted against the orange of the Berlin night sky. He played a beautiful, slow song that sounded elegant and mournful, vaguely Eastern European. He played for five minutes straight and we watched him in silence. Once more, I simply sat and felt utterly humbled at the incredible things this city is capable of conjuring up out of thin air.
Christopher finished, bowing to our applause, and we headed inside out of the cold night air. It was time for the Ohio siblings to leave, and despite my conversations with them only being brief, it was the saddest I’ve felt saying goodbye. I hugged them all and exchanged contact details, and promised to swing by if I was ever in Ohio. It made me so sad to think that I wouldn’t be welcomed by Calvin’s bright smile and excited greetings every time I walked into the lounge every morning anymore. I think human beings give out different energies, like radio frequencies, or notes on a guitar. Sometimes you meet a person and your notes make a chord, and it just works with no effort. I’ve met a few people like that, and whether they are lifelong friendships or passing meetings, I never forget them. I hugged them goodbye, and waved them off.
I sat back at the table with Tommy and the others feeling a little glum. They were playing a drinking game that I couldn’t be bothered to join in. Suddenly, I heard a loud Ohio ‘eyyyyyy!’, and looked up. Calvin was jogging back across the room, grinning. “Forgot something,” he smiled, and ducked into his dorm. He came back out with a bag, and hurried back across the room. He passed me at the table and said “See you later man,” and ruffled my hair. I was beaming.
I know it seems like I’ve fallen in love with this guy. Har har, very funny. But it’s not that. It was just nice to meet someone so completely uninhibited about showing friendly affection and genuine warmth. There’s so little of that in the world. Nothing about him seemed fake, or contrived. It made me happy to witness. It makes me feel warm to think that there are people like that out there.
After a few more beers, Tommy and I got the U Bahn a couple of stops north and we walked the last few hundred metres to the club. We skipped the queue and got in with no hassle as we’d already bought tickets. Inside we found the venue was a huge house, or an old hotel. It definitely wasn’t like a nightclub. It was spaced over three floors, one of which was an attic room with a slanted wooden ceiling. Out in the garden was a pond, trees, seating logs, and a fire pit, which is where we spent the vast majority of our evening, despite it being maybe 8 degrees outside.
Inside was cool, and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs was doing a set (Tommy knew who this was, I didn’t), but it’s a bit awkward for two blokes who met that night to properly rave out and dance together. We spent maybe 30 minutes of the night dancing, and the rest of it was spent sitting around the fire pit chatting merrily to people from all over the world. I was in a bit of a state, more so than Tommy, and I barely remember the conversations I had. I just there was a lot of random Facebook friend requests waiting for me in the morning from people I had no recollection of.
There was maybe 30 of us around the circle, drinking and chatting nonsense and jovially swapping numbers. I met Germans and Chileans and Irish and English and Australians and Hungarians and French and countless more random nationalities. A large number of people were there alone. If you go to a club alone in the UK, you’re a horrible party beast crack den weirdo and everyone will think something’s wrong with you and that you have no friends. In Berlin, it’s the opposite. Everyone just gets it. You don’t need to spend time rallying your friends and arranging dates and times and all that dull night out admin stuff. If you want to party at 9am on a Sunday morning, you just pull on your clothes and head down to the club alone. You are guaranteed to meet people.
It got light, and all the people we were sat with who were lit so beautifully by the low fire suddenly looked pasty and dead, me included. We stood up to leave at around 9am, and somehow about half of the people at the fire pit ended up leaving with us. I don’t think we even planned it, we just all left together. On the way out there were saloon doors on tight springs, and the person in front let the door snap back by accident, slamming right into my face.
Getting clattered by a heavy wooden door hard in the mouth at 9am is a curious experience. I didn’t really feel it, but everyone said they were impressed I wasn’t knocked out. I was quietly curious as to whether I was bleeding, half scared there would be a huge gash on my forehead, but half hoping that I’d have at least a badass black eye. No. A big stupid ugly egg swelled up over my right eye, giving me a big fat stupid Quasimodo face. The others were too wasted and spaced out to find it hilarious, which was a relief.
We walked away from the club, me bleeding gently and swelling up, the others rolling cigarettes and chatting. Tommy and I had somehow amassed this little band of miscreants. There was an English girl called Victoria who moved here the same day I did, a blindingly ginger Irish guy, a tall, pensive guy with a massive beard, a stocky English guy with wispy blond hair, and another girl also called Victoria from France who spoke English with a frighteningly unattractive Birmingham accent because she had studied there for a year. To be fair, I’m giving unflattering descriptions of these guys, but I looked like fucking Sloth, so I can’t talk at all.
Anyway, they decided to get breakfast, and bought beers from an off license as we wandered leafy suburbs, passing morning dog walkers. Tommy used an app on his phone and located the nearest café, which was called ‘Bastard’. Yes, Bastard. I do not know why a café would be called Bastard. We wound our way through the quiet morning streets until we reached Bastard, and headed inside. It was a quaint little family café serving croissants and coffee. Why Bastard. What is bastard-like about this café. Is the waitress a bastard? Is the kindly of chef, smiling away and frying eggs in a little apron, secretly a bastard? Am I a bastard? Who is Bastard? I do not know. I will never know.
At this point it was 9.30am and I had to check out of my hostel at 11am. I had to check out because there were no beds available for Saturday night. I had intended to go out Saturday night, and stay out until around this time, then wait in the lounge and check back in. Unfortunately, I had spontaneously gone out Friday night, and was still out Saturday morning, which meant I had no bed until Sunday at 2pm. And I hadn’t slept a wink since Friday morning.
I bid the gang farewell, we all added each other on Facebook and agreed to meet up that night for a house party and to go to Berghain. They made a group chat on Facebook and are now all best pals. Victoria messaged me a couple of days ago saying:
‘Caaaan he hackig
Fucked that didn’t I
Can he hackig
Fuck sake I give up’
I think she was aiming for a pun on my name. I’m not sure she had slept when she wrote it.
I got back to my dorm and and saw my beautiful inviting bed begging me to leap into it like a knackered salmon after a frightful upstream odyssey. I stared longingly at my pillow, and checked my phone. Check out in 30 minutes. No sleep. No sleep. Only pain. I stripped my bed and checked out, my face looking like melted Plasticine. I lay on the sofa in the lounge at 10am Saturday and tried to sleep, but couldn’t due to loud French guys haw-hee-haw-hee-haw-ing and throwing cutlery around and flinging baguettes at each other. The next 24 hours were unpleasant.