For a travel writer, I think I’m a little off the mark. On the surface it looks like what I do is epic and core-shaking, but truthfully I just go where I’m told, do my thing and come home. No tales of hookers, drugs or illicit affairs in this girl’s history. Core remains perfectly in tact. But once in a while I come across a destination that has the ability to push me outside of my comfort zone and leaves me inexplicably altered – even if just for a little while. Accessing what is foreign is the crux of what travel is about. For me, that destination is Berlin.
The thing I love most about Berlin is that it is a city in which anything can happen, which seems fitting. For so long Germany was divided and its people oppressed and has only come into its own in the last 20 years. It makes sense that every night in Berlin is an adventure, because it is a city that has been simmering with anticipation of a new dawn. Four years ago I found myself dancing with Brits in a bombed-out building that had been converted into graffiti and gallery space as well as a club. The night took a turn toward a street cart serving currywurst (a typical Berlin snack of some kind of sausage with ketchup and curry powder) while I debated European politics with some locals as the sun came up. Nothing is typically ever as good as the original, but my second trip to Berlin didn’t fail to please.
With just one night to go, the group of Brazilians and myself seemed to grasp the finality of the situation. For me, anyway, I would probably never see these people ever again and though we all had limited interactions because of the language barrier, something about this experience forced me to live out a different side of myself, and I was sad to let that go.
The fine people at Visit Berlin (the city’s tourism board) had put together a program of restaurant-hopping and bar scouting. It’s not really the same when you show up at chic European hotspots in a minivan, but whatever. You do what you have to do. From the brasserie at the Ritz-Carlton, Berlin to the tricked-out vegetarian Cookies and Cream to Uma, a posh lounge where pink champagne flows freely, I was able to see the city with sophisticated flare, unlike my first visit which put me at a hostel in bunk beds while the guy next to me, clearly hopped up on cocaine, babbled on and on about Bratislava while only wearing underwear. But I digress…
The night ended at Felix – one of those “Euro” clubs that blast American music and douse the crowd in foam and flames. I love a good scene of club-rats behind their velvet ropes guzzling vodka tonics and wearing sunglasses inside. Some things translate across all cultures. I busted out my limited “white girl” moves, dressed like a soccer mom compared to the borderline naked Euro glam look that the locals sport, and by 2 a.m. I called it quits, grabbed my writer friend, and headed back to the hotel.
Half drunk, half exhausted, we stumbled past the Holocaust Memorial in silence. As we wished each other to have nice lives I realized that it has never bummed me out this hard to be saying good bye. And the odd thing is I barely even spoke to these people but I didn’t want it to end. They were wonderful. Despite language barriers and cultural differences, all you really need is the right energy, the right city and an order of randomness to bring people together. That, my friends, is Berlin.