I overslept again. Hostel stayers are transient by nature. I awoke to the sound of the two Germans (?) leaving around 9 am. I new I could get up out of bed then, but I was still exhausted. I rolled over and when I rolled back it was almost noon again. Today was going to be my “serious” day. I’m really possibly fucked at the moment with money. I brought 350 euros with me, and I’ve got less than 150 left. It’s not that I’ve been blowing through it quickly each day, but that 60 disappeared immediately to pay for my hostel. 20 for the taxi to get here. So of that 350, I started on day one with 270. European bank cards have a chip in them. They don’t use the whole “swipe and sign” thing that Americans do. As such, not many machines will take my card. (Or so I’m pretty sure now they won’t.) I was also under the impression that I could sign up for a bank account without this address registration document that might take several weeks to get from the town hall, but Matt isn’t so sure. I need to get together with him again and make another effort to go into town and get that stuff sorted. I saw him two days in a row, so I figured I’d give him a break today.
I was planning on searching for more apartments today as my hostel reservation runs out on Sunday. (But I can renew or move to another hostel in another part of town.) I searched though about twelve and emailed those people. I’ve gotten a response back today that I’m going to pursue. It’s not unheard of, however, to go to many WG (shared apartments) “interview” meetings and not get a call back. The current residents of the flat interview you to see if you might be a good fit and then they select you. Most people are nice about it, but some pick the most attractive applicants, or those who bring the best gifts. (You don’t need to bring a gift, but some people try to bribe their way in.)
I wandered around the U-bahn station near my hostel and found a cafe with a special “Kaffe und Apfelkuchen! ~3.99” (Coffee and a slice of apple pie) They had free wifi and so I decided this would be a nice place to relax and have coffee. European coffee tastes so much nicer than American coffee. Perhaps because there is an influx of people here who come from cultures that take coffee very seriously. It’s not all dried old beans burned black and chalky.
After sitting there and messaging several people about flats, I got a text message from, S, one of my new British friends who I met at the redditor meetup the other day. He wanted to see if I wanted to get together with him and anyone else and see about going to the Luftwaffenmuseum. (War plane museum) It was about an hour bus ride outside of the city, but looked really cool. I messaged the other British girl, K, I met for pizza the night before and asked if she wanted to come. She agreed and we spent the next hour trying to find each other on the U-bahn network.
As we were meeting up to go on this grand adventure, I remembered that out of the two of them, I spoke the most German. S didn’t really know any. He’s a programmer on a mental break from work, vacationing in Berlin. K teaches English as a personal tutor, but doesn’t really know any German herself. “This will be interesting…” I thought, but I knew we’d manage.
My German has been improving since I landed. I’m still stuck in the position that I can understand most of what someone is saying to me, it’s just that I stumble when I try and respond. I trip over ‘is it der/die/das? What about what case it’s in. Ein or eine?” Sometimes I accidentally find myself throwing in a ge- prefix on a verb when I’m not using it in past tense. It’s a lot to mentally process but I’m getting there.
Anyways, we grab some drinks and make our way to the bus station. After standing there for a bit, I notice a sign that says something about the bus line not working because of a blockage. With our original plan sunk and daylight fading fast (it was now 4:00), we decided to try and visit The Labyrinth…
I had no idea what the Labyrinth was. S sounded pretty intent on it. It was some kind of maze? And a bar? The hell? As if being drunk in a bar isn’t bad enough. I pictured some kind of giant, flat, white walled maze like a lab rat might run through. I figured it would be interesting, but I was in no way ready for what I found.
As we approached the Labyrinth we came upon this tall and highly decorated fence.
I was wrong to think the Labyrinth was a 1 level, flat maze. The bar exists in a building with 3 stories and a basement. The Labyrinth spreads to two floors and the basement. I was also wrong to imagine some flat, white washed walls. NO! This is Germany! Land of psychologists and philosophers examining the human mind. The entire bar and maze was a trippy dive into disorientation and the bizarre! It was a full immersion experience! The moment you walk in, strange experimental music starts playing, making you uneasy. It’s like a horror house without the emphasis on horror. And it all starts with a coin…
You sign your name onto a list and go sit down in the bar. One by one, the barman comes and reads your name. You stand up. He blindfolds you, leads you through the bar, the whole time while humming some foreign tune that you think can only be an ominous gypsy song. He leads you into a small anti-chamber where it is black except for the light above you and a oddly carved door in front of you. He takes off the blindfold, smiles, and disappears. You insert your coin and the game begins.
You push open the door and soon discover that you’re going to have to crawl, and climb, and slide your way through many extremely oddly shaped and decorated rooms on multiple levels. Somewhere within this building in the exit back to the bar, but you have to find it.
This picture doesn’t do the room justice, and I was trying not to go around and take too many pictures, but this place was too cool. It’s a giant egg room. You enter it and there are multiple entrances and exits, each leading to another part of the maze.
Did I mention this isn’t something for children? There was one room focused on sexuality. This was the only painting lit up enough for me to take a picture. One of the exits/entrances in the room is a giant vagina.
Here are a few seconds of video. Warning, the volume is a little loud and it starts immediately as they pump strange music through this entire place.
It’s hard to see, but one room was a crazy metal shop where you could either climb up or climb down. Another room had a lot of instruments in it. The whole thing is extremely strange and surreal. After a while you’re bound to run into another person trying to solve the maze. You can help them or leave them. You can quickly become disorientated in there. I can only imagine what it’d be like to go through the whole thing while doing drugs. Eventually you can find your way out. Once you come out there you can go back into the main bar room or upstairs to the fourth floor where they have a dance club. I loved this bar! I heard a rumor that they’re closing it down because it got to popular. I hope they open up something similar again. I also couldn’t help but think how there was no way something like this would be allowed in America. The sexual themes of some areas would probably have it age gated pretty bad, and just from a law suit stand point, there is so much you could hurt yourself on in there if you’re not careful. You do a lot of climbing, crawling, and bending, often over metal and wood. I accidentally misjudged the distance of a drop in the egg room and landed pretty hard, but I was fine. Still, if you’re not an idiot and be careful, it’s a lot of fun!
In the bar we met another group of people. I’m not sure how. S just kind of found them and started talking to them. One was a Romanian girl, one was a Danish Girl, another was a girl from the Netherlands, then a native German girl who also spoke Mandarin and a Chinese student who was here to learn German. They asked us if we wanted to go check out this really exotic and hip restaurant/market with food stands from all over the world. We said why not!
This place was packed! There were food stands from just about every continent and major country. Deserts, drinks, main courses. Many staffed by people from those locations. I don’t think you can actually meet these many different people from all over the world except in capitol cities like this. Nonetheless, it was amazing, just the smells of it, and all of the bustling at 9pm. After looking around, our new Romanian friend wanted to get some shawarmas from this extremely well recommended place a few blocks over. (The food in the market was kinda expensive). S and her debated the best way to get there and we headed off.
Our new Romanian friend was great to talk to. She told us what she did in her home country, why she came to Berlin, what cultural stereotypes of Romanians she has to put up with, etc. She’s turned out to be really intelligent and was trying to get her master’s. We ended up walking down what looked like the wrong way for a long time. S and Romania where starting to argue about the directions a bit. We then turned the corner and bam, found it. It was worth the trek. For 3.50 I got one of the tastiest shawarmas I’ve ever had.
We ate our food and then went back to the market to meet up with the others. There we met up with two more people. A girl from Hong Kong, and a girl from the north of England. Our international crew decided to go out and one last drink before calling it a night.
I never really realized just how young Berlin’s population is. There are an insane amount of young people here. It’s like you were walking around a college campus, but then throw in a lot more adults, then give it a large international shaking. There are so many people here in general, but it’s just an amazing ratio.
We managed to find a decent pub, there was talk of a pub with all the furniture nailed to the ceiling?, and got drinks. The girl from the Netherlands told me how she had only been here for two weeks, how she loved film and media, and how that’s what she was studying. The Danish girl told me about her life here in Germany for the past couple of years, what it’s like job hunting (she recently got out of school), and we talked about photography.
After a while, S and I started to get tired and so we decided to go home. The trains here stop running at 1am. After that you need to take the bus. We were a 40 minute journey away from home for me, so I was keen not to be stranded and forced to navigate the bus system. Oh! Speaking of which! There is a phone app that you can download that is AMAZING! BVG. You type in the name of the station that you’re at and where you’re trying to go. It dynamically monitors the status of trains and buses and tells you which train you need to take, when it’s leaving, what direction you need to be heading towards, and what stops to change at. It’s a life saver and extremely useful for navigating this city on the fly.
Our new native German but Mandarin speaking friend walked her bicycle with us towards the station to make sure we knew where to go. She asked us about the verb “to push” in English, motioning to her bicycle, then told us about a big language learning meeting that happens at this restaurant every week. She wished us a good night, and we got on the train and went our separate ways home.