One of my closest NYC friends is originally from Berlin. When I was coming to the city for the first time in 2010 she told me that there were three things I needed to do: have tea at the Russian tea room; visit the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park; and take a swim at the Badeschiff (a barge floating in the Spree with warm, purified water and a sandy beach.) I would describe Melanie as very down to earth and a trustworthy person, so after my experience with the first two on her must-see list I thought she was trying to ditch me as a friend, or at least play a very mean joke.
During that first trip I brought (read: dragged) Luke and his brother to the tearoom, hidden behind Humboldt University, “Melanie said it’s really cool!” We ordered the 7euro-a-person tea service which was going to include a really elaborate tea set up, some snacks and shots of vodka. And then we sat there for a very. long. time. The vodka came, the snacks came, but for some reason the boiled water part of this enterprise had the employees stumped. The cookies and dried fruit that sat there taunting us, but we were strong and waited for our tea. The tearoom started to fill up and other people got their tea but we waited, if I recall correctly, for nearly two hours. They just kept telling us they were backed up and we were next. Eventually we downed our vodka shots at my behest, ate some cookies, and of course left without paying. Strike one, Melanie.
Later that week we went to check out the war memorial, starting on the completely wrong end of the now defunct Templehof Airport. We walked for a few hours trying to find this supposedly stunning structure, instead of finding the Soviet Memorial we instead went on our own Soviet-style death march. Strike two.
After that we didn’t bother with the Badeschiff, but I kept it in mind during my second visit in 2011. That summer Berlin was so cold that I needed to buy an entire winter wardrobe- boots, sweaters, even gloves! I’m lucky they have the most amazing thrift shops here. Needless to say, no beach days were necessary.
Finally this Wednesday the sun was hot and I welcomed the chance to melt away the Jez experience, so I trekked out Ost to the Badeschiff. It was a nice capstone to the other failed Melanie-recs. Sure, it was filled with every muscle head in the city, but I had a novel and it is water-on-water so I couldn’t be happier.
That night I hung out with Jakob, a friend of a friend. I was Skyping with my parents before I left to go out and of course, my dad was not happy that I was starting my evening at midnight. And don’t tell him, but I’m staying in one of the most “dangerous” neighborhoods in the city, which is of course an absolute joke by New York standards. No worries, I’ve got it all figured out: in Berlin, you go out around midnight or later and you don’t come home until 8am, so you don’t have to worry about walking home alone late at night!
Jakob and I started out at a dubstep/drum and bass open mic night (he’s a good person to hang out with if you want to get out of your comfort zone). And that’s where I learned how to say “three bugs/drei käfer” in German, because that’s what was in my whiskey. Then we went to a grimy looking bar with a really fun jazz jam session in the basement until they kicked us out at 3:30. In June, the sun starts to rise around then so we went to the only peak in Berlin and watched the light flood the city. (Who the hell would ever go to a park in New York at 4 in the morning?) After that we went to a rose garden and spent the time alternately comparing notes on life and making up stories about anyone who passed by us, and for me that pretty much makes someone an instant friend.
There’s something I really like about getting home and crawling into bed while the rest of the city is waking up and commuting to work. When I finally woke up a few hours later I attempted to make myself some food but only succeeded in melting an electric teakettle onto the stove and nearly starting an electrical fire. Which proves once again that the most dangerous thing I face on a daily basis is myself.