Berlin, Germany. April 2012.
Berlin was never at the top of my travel bucket list — it had always hovered somewhere in the hopefully-I’ll-get-there-but-if-not-I’ll-live range. When dreaming of Germany, I envisioned the majestic mountains of the south, the parties of Oktoberfest, the sprawling meadows and quaint countryside cottages and men in lederhosen. I dreamt of a romanticized version Bavaria of the 1950s — not the cold, harsh city that I had always (wrongly) presumed Berlin to be.
Things changed when I met a charming German man while studying abroad in London. Our friendship was an electric current of adventure and sparks and passion, and the adventures we went on together are some of my most treasured memories.
One day in mid-April, I walked out of class into Central London’s bustling Regent Street to find him standing on the sidewalk waiting for me.
“Do you want to come to Berlin with me next weekend for my birthday? We’ll leave next Thursday.”
A trip to Berlin with my European adventure-partner and favorite German boy? How could I say no?
Ironically, he is from Munich — home of Oktoberfest and the dramatic landscapes that I longed for — but has family who live in the German capital, so off we went. That somewhat-spontaneous weekend in Berlin turned out to be one of the best weekends of my life.
Berlin is a strange place. Even 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s a city that seems to kind of carry the weight of its long, dark history. Yet despite the heaviness that might be lingering in the shadows of Berlin, there is an undeniable vibrancy and optimism about the city. Berlin breathes art and culture and music.
The Germany boy who brought me to Berlin and changed the way I felt about the city (and a lot of other things).
Jaaaa too true!Photo op with my people at Checkpoint Charlie! I was basically forced to participate in this embarrassing tourist trap (a symbol of the Cold War and a former crossing point between East & West Berlin) — he insisted that this was an essential thing to do on my inaugural trip to Berlin, especially as an American.
The Holocaust MemorialOf all the cities I visited while studying, Berlin surprised me the most. I expected cold — in the people and the weather — and with the exception of the day we arrived, we encountered nothing but happy Germans and sunny skies. It wasn’t quaint like what I imagine small, southern German towns to be like, but the edge and flavor and modernity of the place were appealing in a way I didn’t even know I liked. Now, I consider Berlin one of the few places I must live in before I die.
I think of this trip with a nostalgia that doesn’t match any other trip I’ve ever been on. Our days in Berlin were spent sleeping in late, enjoying a breakfast of sunflower seed bread and sharp cheeses and coffee, wandering the streets with currywurst, and drinking lots of beer. I was in awe at the fact that drinking in public is absolutely legal and acceptable, so my own personal German tour guide would buy this law-abiding American beer after beer at roadside kiosks just so I would have to drink it on the sidewalk and feel uncomfortable. We took a day trip to Potsdam to wander the grounds of palaces, we ate döners, we explored his family’s adorable neighborhood in Mexikoplatz, and we (he) drove at 160 mph in a Porsche on the autobahn.
Berlin was a dream — it was sigh-inducing. Though I whole-heartedly plan on returning to the city one day, it’s hard to believe I’ll ever be able to top that April weekend with the German boy.