As you might imagine, since I didn’t really get to sleep until about 10h00 this morning, waking up happened rather late. I think I got up around 15h00 or 16h00, but I could be wrong. Either way, I started writing up some of my notes for last night, then went out to meet a guest of my roommate, who would be staying with us for a couple of days. We hung out and waited for the arrival of another guest: the guy that would be moving in August to take over one of my roommates rooms.
When he arrived, we all headed out to do a tour of the neighborhood, looking at all of the new bars that have popped up on Weserstraßse and Hobrechtstraße. While walking along Sonnenallee, my roomie pointed out a Lebanese place that does HUGE dinner combos for 1€ each. I could’ve used that in Paris, dammit. At 1€, I don’t need to cook ever again! On the other hand, I like to cook. But I could see how you could live in (certain parts of) Berlin without ever needing to make your own food.
Also along the same street, we passed a café called Oum Kalsoum Café, which is another spelling of Umm Kulthum, a hugely important musical figure for Egypt and the Arabic-language music scene. I got all excited and started explaining this to my companions, then caught myself slipping into “Intro to World Music 101” mode and stopped. I suppose I’m a music nerd anyway.
I made a point of telling the incoming roommate about my now-favourite Kebap joint, Güney Grill, where you can get a lovely döner kebap for only 2€. We continued walking around the neighborhood and eventually made it to a Vietnamese restaurant on Hasen Heide called Hamy. It was really lovely; although their phở wasn’t quite the same as the stuff I got in my old neighborhood of Uptown in Chicago, it was still very satisfying and comforting.
From there, we wandered up Hobrechtstraße and hit one of the bars along the street, which was literally an old storefront whose fixings had been ripped out, left bare with scraps of WWII-era wallpaper, furnished with second-hand furniture, and lit with dim yellowish lights. This is the look of nearly 90% of the “hip” neighborhood bars in “bohemian” areas of Berlin, it seems. Not that I was complaining; the feel of these places was often really comfortable—as if you were sitting in someone’s bedroom.
The bar turned out to be featuring unpasteurized Chechen beers, so we each ordered one kind of Chechen beer, and then sat down to continue chatting. About 15-20 minutes into our conversation, we were interrupted by a pair of girls playing cellos. At first they played a duet that sounded like a 19th-century etude, so we took it to be background music and kept on talking. After that piece, they started to imitate blues guitar licks on their cellos (in rather ingenious ways, I must admit), while one of them began to sing. Her approach seemed to be Tori Amos vocal style, Kate Bush lyrics, and a little bit of Fiona Apple. Often, the song would have moments of great potential, but they would invariably swing in some direction that left me sort of cringing on her behalf.
There’s a lot of this in hipster bars in Berlin, apparently. Starving musicians and ensembles will just walk into a bar (or onto a patio), set up their instruments, and start playing. Sometimes the bar management gives them a bit or money or beer, sometimes not. Usually they get some cash from the people in the bar, although it doesn’t always add up to a lot. These musicians will often circulate through a series of bars in one night, creating a sort of circuit. So, if you sit in one bar for a while, you may have 4 or 5 different musical acts perform for you (and then ask for money).
Anyway, we eventually ran out of steam and hobbled back to the house, where we sat around for a bit and then went to bed. Lazy Sunday!