The past few days have been a mix of fun and stressful. Not having a permanent home really messes with your head. One of my friends was nice enough to let me crash in their room for a week while they were away on a university trip, but after that I had to find another hostel. Every time I move it’s a major production because I have two bags, weighing 100lbs total. Add to that a major sinus infection, and things can suck really badly. I booked a hostel, but I miscounted the dates. I wound up technically homeless again for Friday night and Saturday night. The hostels where I was going to stay at were all full up for the weekend. Thankfully different friends offered for me to stay at their places on the two different nights assuring that I wasn’t going to sleep on the street. I’m still having to juggle the 100lbs of luggage. One bag is currently sitting in a friend’s room, where it’s been for almost a week, and the other bag is sitting in the luggage room of my last hostel. I’m banking on them not knowing that the bag belongs to someone who is no longer staying there. I left my contact info on the bag (but in a way that you’d only find it if you messed with the bag) and locked it. I’m planning on walking into the hostel tomorrow and picking it up. In the meanwhile I’ve just got what I can carry in my backpack and I’m floating around the city to pass the time before I meet the friend with whom I’m staying later tonight. Currently I’ve set up camp in the spaceship where I’ve got internet and it’s warm and dry. I’ve been looking for more permanent places to live as I’m tired of hostels (and it’s expensive!), but the process for finding a shared apartment in Berlin is very difficult.
I’ve interviewed as a possible housemate on several occasions, but always get turned down. The places that do say I can rent the room usually have something wrong with them. One place would let me have a tiny room for 250 euros a month, but I couldn’t use the kitchen for the first month and a half that I stayed there. The other place was ok, but it was an hour away from anything, and I could not rent it until May 17th. (And then only till August). I’m looking for a place with two other friends, but it’s still difficult. There is a lot of paperwork and documentation you have to provide before renting a place. Money is also a factor. I’m burning it much faster than I had anticipated because I didn’t plan on having to float in hostels for this long. I have my visa appointment coming up on May 6. I’m nervous. I have all my papers in order, so it should be fine. A native German speaker friend of mine is going to accompany me, so I should be ok. It’s just another one of the “do or die” markers on this journey. If I don’t get the visa, I have less than a month to get out of Europe and I have no idea where I’d go. (Much less where I could afford to go.) Going back to the US is not an option. I’ve wanted to escape for 10 years. I can’t go back now.
So what have I been up to? The other week my friends and I snuck into an abandoned police station in the north of Berlin. It was a special political police station that saw action in the last days of the DDR. The police stationed here were support troops for the normal state police. They were called into action to try and help contain the protestors before the fall of the Berlin wall. The place also has some abandoned dormitories that were used by students of the engineering school across the street. As with all abandoned spots in Berlin, there’s some interesting artwork to be seen as the local street artists use spots like this to practice.
The writing in the photo above reads “Here I jumped”
The text in the photo above reads “We eat you all..” (Interestingly, there are two verbs for “to eat” in German. Essen and Fressen. Essen is used to describe when humans eat; fressen is used to describe when animals eat. By using “fressen”, the author of the text was implying that whoever “we” are are a bunch of animals or something non-human. I think it’s cool how deeper context can be hidden inside of word choice like that.
We came across this room with a lot of old movie posters on the wall.
We found our way into the basement of some of the buildings. There was a lot of fire and water damage in some of the rooms, so we had to be extra careful where we walked.
Out further in the back of the compound we found a parking lot, a helicopter pad, and a string of empty vehicle garages.
Farther in the back we found an old metal shed. I think it’d be fun to come back, clean it up, and make something out of it.
We then found an old bike and my friend managed to get it working!
But what’s this!!!! We found a ladder! I know! Let’s use it to get up on the roof and have a picnic!
The view up from the roof was great. We were pretty far up north outside of Berlin, so the area felt fairly rural, but we could still see the famous TV tower from that far away, reminding us that we were still in Berlin. After sunbathing on the roof for a while, we climbed back down and headed back to the train station without issue.
20 minutes from where I was staying in Berlin is perhaps one of the most infamous places on earth. You wouldn’t know it by visiting the spot. Nothing is there but a car park and an apartment complex, yet underneath these structures lies Hitler’s bunker. 69 years ago on April 30th, he and his new wife committed suicide in that bunker as the bombs fell around them. I wanted to go visit the site, just to see it and stand there knowing what was beneath my feet.
Nothing marks the site of the bunker except for a single sign, detailing what lies beneath your feet. At the end of the war, the allies tried to blow the bunker up and then fill it with concrete to seal it off forever. They weren’t 100% successful, so some of the rooms are still there.
May 1st is a big leftist holiday in Germany. Coming from the US, this is constantly a bit of culture shock. People here are a lot less afraid of being openly left of some variety. I get the feeling terms like “socialist”, “communist”, “anarchist”, etc have a lot less of a stigma attached to them here than in the States. Back in conservative South Carolina, those terms were synonymous with “evil” and “anti-American”. They were meant to be thrown at your political enemies to discredit them and destroy their character. Here they’re simply political points of view. (As far as I can tell from being here for a little over two months)
One of the poorer and more immigrant filled districts in Berlin is Kreuzberg. On May days past, there have often been riots and protests with police using water cannons and shield walls. Rumors were that this year was going to be pretty quiet, but my friends and I went down to Kottbusser Tor (a station in the middle of Kreuzeberg) just to check it out. The police looked like they weren’t taking any chances.
Earlier in the day Kottbusser Tor wasn’t that packed, but by mid afternoon people were pouring in. Despite all the people, we didn’t see any protests or riots. We decided to walk around Kreuzburg as there were also other street festivals going on. It seemed like everybody was out in the streets for the day.
We stumbled across this really cool little anarchist shop. It was like a cave of books inside, along with a ‘free box” outside where people can leave anything and take anything, no charge. I picked up a while bunch of anarchist literature to translate as homework and to see if there might be any fun groups around.
That weekend I meet up with a friend who’s really into medieval stuff and heavy metal. We went to a show Friday night (where I should have brought hearing protection) and then she took me to a special place in Berlin called Pfaueninsel (Peacock island). It’s about an hour outside of Berlin and you have to take a ferry across the water to get there. The place is beautiful and wild animals roam the island freely. A couple of deer when running past us while we were exploring. There’s also a decorative castle built on the island. Some of the structures are from around the 1700’s.
So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to for the past few days. This week I’m staying at another hostel while my friends and I continue to look for a more permanent place to live. We have some group interviews for a few places. I also have my visa meeting on Tuesday. Fingers crossed. (Or rather, thumbs pressed as they do in Germany). If that doesn’t work out, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Perhaps I’ll go to Australia. I meet a bunch of Australians in my last hostel and became friends with them. They might be able to give me some suggestions. We’ll see. Until next time!