Warsaw – Berlin – Warsaw

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I am loving Polskibus! 100 zolt (R200) for the 10-hour overnight trip to Berlin, with that Wifi. I’m loving it so much that I’ve done that trip twice in less than a week. Sheesh!

On Tuesday morning I arrived in Berlin with no clue how to get into the city proper. But after I’d brushed my teeth, scrutinised the bus and U-Bahn maps, found a bus stop, realised no bus was coming, found someone to help me decipher the maps and bought a €2,30 single trip ticket, I was on the train rushing into this amazing city, and yet more rain.

Travelling through Europe has been super easy so far. Things are so organised I haven’t actually needed to find out where I need to go before before I get there. I hopped off at a main U-Bahn station, wandered around the square for a bit, asked for directions and pottered off to the restaurant where I was meeting Faith, a friend from Rhodes days. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Faith looks the part of a trendy Berliner, and, like most, gets around on a bicycle (which looks the part too). It was great to catch up on the last few years over a monster burrito. That lunch was it though because she was off on holiday to France. But she gave me a key to her apartment so I had a couch to call my home and could pretend that I lived in Berlin.

Funny story: Faith and her roommate are away so have rented out their rooms. And one of the renters is a South African journo on a fellowship for a German newspaper, and we have a few mutual friends. Her friend from Joburg was also visiting so it turned into a houseful of South Africans. An aside on Faith’s apartment: it is big, roomy, spacious – not at all what I imagine all apartments in Europe to be!

My stay in Berlin was short, even shorter than I planned (I’ll get that), but if that was a taste I look forward to the whole meal. When I arrived and started looking into what to see and do in the city, I felt overwhelmed by the possibilities. I had a small freak out and then took Cass’ wise words to heart: you can’t do it all so pick a few things and be satisfied with that. So I had a nap and resolved to get my day started with a bang the next morning.

My day of sightseeing loomed large and grey and wet. What is it with this rain! But armed with a brollie and my camera I had a full day of gaping at the city’s delights. I visited Kreuzberg for some shopping (read: just looking) at second hand stores and boutiques. I loved the street art and walls peeling with posters. I visited the Jewish Museum Berlin which is memorable for its thought-provoking architecture and installations, as well as its exhibition on the history of Jews in Germany from the late nineteenth century, through the world wars and the Holocaust, and the more recent immigration of Jews from Russia. I planned to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, but needed a coffee more.

That day was Fete de la Musique and the city was brimming with musical surprises. I joined some csers and we pottered from one pub to the next outdoor performance to the next mobile stage. We had a terrible habit of catching the ends of sets and ion this way ended up walking around for about three hours, but finally settled on one spot on the pavement where we could groove to the beats, watch the football, eat kebabs (which are not kebabs at all but shwarmas) and drink beer. The performances we saw were mixtures of all kinds of music. I saw a guy playing a didgeridoo made out of plumbing pipes, listened to some folks sounds and jazzy vocals, bopped along to an Mc’s rhymes and saxophone’s lines, smiled at strangers, applauded all night, connected with crowds… The night unravelled from there and soon I was waiting for the morning metro to take me home to my couch.

Yes, Berlin is a good place.

And then the sun came out. So I packed my hoop, donned my flip flops and headed through new streets towards the river and one of the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. It is now named the East Side Gallery and is painted with murals sharing messages, thoughts, cartoons and many, many names. Did I say that I loved the street art?

Friday night Germany played against Greece so I joined my housemates at a quirky club alongside a canal for a beer and the match. Germany won 4-2.

Saturday was a slow day, as weekends should be so after a 2pm breakfast of the creamiest eggs Benedict I have ever eaten the girls and I cruised along to the Brandenburg Gate to catch the end of the Gay Pride march. It was barely the end though. There were so many people out in fabulous costumes enjoying cocktails in the sunshine and sharing the love. And while we were there we had a small walk through the Tier Gardens and the Holocaust Memorial. I love accidental sightseeing!

This is now where I explain why I am back in Poland after just a few days in Germany, and still nowhere near the beach. Just before I left Jobug I had a cs request from a Polish guy visiting the city. He then contacted me while I was in Berlin to ask if I would like to join Angloville, an English language immersion programme, held along the Bug River in eastern Poland. The programme invites Polish business people to spend five days speaking English to natives (that’s me) while interacting in an informal setting. The pros for us natives are a stay in the beautiful countryside while meeting and getting to know locals from around the country. Ad of course there is talking- lots and lots of it. Of course I said yes and am now writing this from a cosy room above a green lawn and cloudy (but not rainy) sky.

So Berlin was awesome, the small part of it that I did see, and rather than be sad at leaving I now know that I will visit for much longer next time. And by next Friday I will have made some new friends and be back in Warsaw to have another mad party with the lovely Paulina!

Enjoy the pics of the city!

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