As promised (to myself and to whomever of you out there have been reading and keeping me accountable), I have written a blog almost once a week since mid December. Although this is nothing to be proud of yet, I feel so good every time I write a new post. It has given me the chance to do what I love and I have concentrated on reviving and bringing to life some of my favorite memories and stories, many of them that have been nagging at me for years to write down. While I am not nearly done writing those, I also want to preserve the stories from my present, and enrich my writing (and hopefully your reading) through the lens of my now.
So many exciting things are happening, getting married being one of the biggest, but I have also made one of my favorite cities in the world my home. The craziest thing is that it’s not really my new home anymore. In fact, it’s starting to feel a lot like home home. And besides my home home in Nebraska, I haven’t felt like this probably ever. Ingo and I have been living here together for almost ten months and while I can hardly believe the time has gone by that quickly, I want to tell you about why I am loving Berlin right now. Of course, things will always change and perhaps one days I will look back at this post and say, “oh man, remember when I was so in love with Berlin?” But that’s exactly why I want to write about it now.
After 8 years of traveling from place to place, I feel a little bit like Goldilocks, except for instead of beds, I’m trying out cities and countries. “New York is too big and loud,” “London is too expensive,” and, Berlin? Berlin, at the moment, is feeling “just right.” The world’s greatest cities are not just places to live, but are living entities– ones that make you feel rage, inspiration, contentment, and bewilderment. Just like with people, some cities we mesh with, fall madly in love with, and others, we could care less if we ever saw again.
For me, Berlin feels like my place, just like Ingo feels like my person. I could go on and on about their amazing attributes, but in the end, it’s about the inexplicable feeling you get when you know something just feels right. And while that feeling is hard to explain, I’m attracted to Berlin in the same way I’m attracted to so many of my greatest friends– firstly, that they all have striking personalities. Berlin has a personality that makes you take a step back and say, “Wow, I’d like to know you better!” I admire Berlin, and am slightly intimidated by it all at the same time. It is cool, but unpretentious. You want to go outside without make-up on? Go ahead. Holes in your tights? No one cares, in fact, it’s encouraged. And even while Berlin demands that you don’t try too hard, it still sometimes feels like the popular kid making a little bit of room for a misfit like you.
And maybe this willingness to let you be who you want, as long as that’s not someone who you aren’t, that I am so drawn to. If I had one word for Berlin, and for how it makes me feel it would be: free.
Berliners cherish their freedom and are suspicious of any hint of regulation upon it. This obviously comes from a unique and tragic history which I will get into later, but the fierceness they will defend it with is palpable. This freedom isn’t limited to what you wear or how you look, but also how you live your life. Berliners are hard workers, but there is also such an amazing work life balance in this city. People take time to picnic in one of the many parks or grab a beer and stroll to their nearest public (free) ping pong table. There is a reverence for public space like I’ve never seen anywhere else. Even the old and somewhat scandalous abandoned airport, Tempelhof, has been turned into a place for the people.
This freedom extends into an absence of age limitations which I find absurdly daunting in other countries. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, “Well you better do this now while you’re young, because once you have kids you won’t be able to anymore.” The Berliners call bullshit on that. I’ve seen babes in earmuffs at music festivals and bars and just last weekend on the other side of the age coin, Ingo and I met a couple when we were out at an electronic music club who were 70 years old! The spaces in Berlin are full of every age and stage of life. It is a modern day community like I’ve never experienced before and it makes me thrilled to know that Berlin isn’t ever going to ask us to give any of it up.
As I think and write about Berlin, I can see that freedom is the strongest running current in my theme for loving it. It’s not just that I see it all around me, but also that I know I am surrounded by people who value it just as much as I do, both for myself and for others. The last thing I have to say about freedom and Berlin is that it not only makes me feel free in my everyday life, but it makes me feel geographically free. There are many times when I miss being home in the United States. It’s hard to be away from close friends and family, in fact, that is the hardest thing about living here. But living in Berlin is my gateway to the world. I can be in Southeast Asia in ten hours and in Spain in one (for 35 euros round trip no less!) and this freedom to jump on a plane and be in a new place is an addiction that my equally adventurous husband and I are just not willing to give up. It’s the freedom to explore not only this city, but the world.
The flip-side to the adventure and freedom that Berlin offers us, extends to the stability we have found in our life here. Both nomads, always looking for the next trip, Ingo and I have found a tranquility in this city because of the balance it offers us. Ingo is living in one apartment instead of out of a suitcase for the first time in 8 years. I also have never (ever) had a place to live where leaving wasn’t part of the foreseeable future. From college to the Peace Corps, as much as I loved where I was, I knew there would come a time to leave. Of course it always makes it easier when you have a comfortable place to call home and we have found that too. Whether because of luck, or friendship, or just pure coincidence, Ingo and I ended up (as far as I can tell) in one of the best apartments in Berlin. I am so grateful for it every day and know that we are lucky to be here.
In future posts, I hope to bring Berlin to life for you. Maybe even convince you to travel here and check it out for yourself. There are so many fun things to do and see in the city and I can’t wait to share them with you.