I didn’t go to Berlin just to catch the golden autumn while it was snowing in St Petersburg. Although it really felt like I was traveling back in time and getting that bit of autumn which got lost under the unexpectedly early snow. We actually planned the trip to see Zemfira live once again this year so here’s how this weekend away came about. I seem to enjoy such trips built around a concert, they transform the experience into a real adventure sometimes like that journey to the south of France back in September 2015.
It was so good to take myself out of the routine, including that personal routine which resembles something like a box that you put yourself in and then don’t even notice unless you start travelling.
First day was a little bit slow to begin (we had an early flight but then lost quite a bit of time standing in various lines) but turned out to be quite a long day in the end. We visited Potsdam, ate our lentil soup witо coconut milk (good!) and were just on time for the beginning of the concert same evening.
It was my second time in Potsdam so I didn’t mind missing the main sights and having a longer walk in the Russian Village through alleys of multicoloured trees and looking at the city from the Belvedere tower instead:
They say it gets really crowded in summer but that day we were virtually the only visitors in Belvedere to enjoy the wind and the somewhat solemn and silent landscape. It costs you 4.50 euros to get inside but it actually turned out to be worth it.
They also say that this ambitiously looking palace (which was supposed to be but a first part of an entire project) was falling into ruins but finally taken over by the locals and turned into a must place for summer day hanging outs. It seems like Berlin has quite a lot of such initiatives carried out by local people who get hold of disused space and turn it into public places open for all.
We got back to Berlin when it was already dark and as we were getting closer to the venue we heard more and more Russian speech. My Italian friend called to tell me she was probably the only non-Russian-speaking person there and when we finally got inside too we realised it was as if we never left Russia at all. The concert was different from the one I attended in St Petersburg this March, it was smaller in scale though definitely not shorter. It was more like a concert in a club with a very enthusiastic crowd.
On the next day we continued our walking and music-related (and inspired) journey marching across Berlin and visiting both residential districts and touristy places.
Starting from our nice hostel (with a funny name The Cat’s Pajamas) situated on the border of Kreuzberg and Neukölln…
…we crossed the river Spree (it was so windy on the bridge and yet almost every arch had a homeless dweller in a sleeping bag)…
…and arrived in Friedrichshain where we first of all stumbled upon an indie-looking place full of graffiti and bikes which did not appear particularly… clean. We walked out of it into the more family-friendly looking streets…
…where we had some quality foodie time at the local market with amazingly looking vegetables and cheese from all over Europe. As you can imagine, I really liked walking in the residential areas of Berlin.
Then we hurried up to the indie cinema hall where they were still screening that new documentary about the Beatles’ touring years but first got a little bit confused when we read “this is not cinema” across the wall of the – presumed – cinema hall building:
We liked the film and got almost as excited as all those crazy kids shouting their lungs out at the Beatles’ concerts. There was also several photos and some footage that I had not seen before. We left the calm districts of Berlin after that to get to the touristy center, stopping on our way for yet another bowl of lentil and spinach soup (which was really good!).
And then we saw the wall
and a lovely sunset over the ultramodern parts of Berlin while walking away from the crowds:
On our last day there was sun and there was quite a bit of walking before we headed off to the airport. We visited several parks gorgeously decadent under their – mostly – yellow veils and got to the Tempelhof field which used to be Berlin’s airport and now is something like a space run by people who won it back and did not let it be occupied by new commercial and residential estates. It has this communal garden with a beehive right there in the middle of the field where we wondered looking at how things can be recycled in a fun way (although I guess in several years all this stuff will look a bit miserable as it already starts to disintegrate).
The rest of the field is taken over by joggers, cyclists, running dogs (!), refugee camp activities, etc etc. The ex-airport building (soooo long!) is occupied by the German police and military, as I found out. Gosh was it windy out there but also so sunny!
The third day really helped me catch that spirit of Berlin which makes it so special. When in Berlin, drop the entire business of trying to fit it into the usual frame of European cities. It will disappoint you this way. But if you just relax and stop demanding and expecting too much it will not disappoint you. Especially if you enhance your experience with local markets, curious cafes and parks, and all that with a very good company, you do start to like Berlin.
Adding this post to the Travel series.