Today was the flight to Berlin, so there was some last-minute preparation to do. Thankfully, I had had the good sense to pay that extra 19€ or whatever to get an evening flight, so I was able to sleep in until 10h00 and then go about preparing for the flight at a leisurely pace.
I showered, changed, debated about shaving (and decided not to), packed, and then headed outside briefly to print out my boarding pass (I still haven’t figured out how install the printer that my landlord left in the apartment).
I also went to print out the directions to the apartment where I would be staying in Berlin, along with the house of the woman who was renting it to me. Originally, I had planned to stay at a friend’s place in Berlin, but at the last minute she had to move out of her apartment and head to Australia. She’ll be back, no doubt, but for the moment she didn’t have a place in Berlin to offer me.
I had looked at the prices of last-minute hotels and despaired, and then braced myself to pay an ungodly sum of money for three nights in Berlin. On a hunch, I sent out an email to the BerlinScholars group (on Yahoo), which is how I had found my apartment for this past summer in Berlin. Within a day, I got two responses, at two extremes of the spectrum: one offered his (admittedly lovely) apartment for 350€ + 300€ deposit for three nights, while the other offered her place for 90€ all three nights, no deposit. Ha.
So anyway, I took the cheaper place (natch), which meant that I had to drop by her place in Friedenau first, and then head over to the apartment near Winterfeldplatz in Schöneberg. And since I wasn’t sure that the taxi driver would know the way, I looked both addresses up on GoogleMaps and printed them out.
With everything packed and ready to go, I headed out to the airport by RER, checked in terribly early, and then sat in a café at the base of Terminal 1 to write even more blog posts. Closer to takeoff time, I headed through security and sat at the gate, finally connecting to the rather expensive WiFi network and posting my blog notes.
The flight was thankfully uneventful and only 10 minutes late, and the taxi ride to pick up the keys went off without a hitch. However, I wasn’t prepared for the firecrackers. You see, the tradition for New Year’s Eve here in Germany (which they call Silvester, after the Feast of St. Sylvester) involves setting off firecrackers, for some reason that I’ve yet to completely understand. Anyway, I wasn’t at all aware of this, so I was a bit confused when I heard a firecracker or two in the distance while in the taxi. I nearly jumped out of my skin when a firecracker went off really close to us as I was getting out of the taxi at the apartment. I had just spent the last four days watching footage of bombings in the Gaza Strip on loop, so the sound of nearby explosions set off a bizarre and unsettling chain of associations. I kinda wonder whether the Germans maintained this tradition during the Sylvesters of the years immediately following WWI and WWII. I can only imagine the kind of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) reflexes that could set off in a city that was bombed into rubble.
Anyway, I settled into the apartment, which was recently renovated and a bit Spartan, yet comfortable and very, very German. I had Frenchy friends already in Berlin who were just finishing dinner, so they told me where they were going for drinks and I set about finding food. There were no food stands in the immediate area of the apartment, so I decided to head over to Hermannplatz, the neighborhood of my old apartment this last summer. I grabbed a massive and tasty döner kebab from my favourite Turkish grill, Güney Grill, and then started heading out to meet my friends at a lovely bar called Liebing in Prenzlauer Berg (at Raumerstraße with Dunkenerstraße).
I had forgotten how slow public transport can be in Berlin, especially since the trains come a lot less often than in Paris, so I didn’t get to the bar until nearly midnight. Nonetheless, I spent a couple of good hours with my friends drinking and chatting before we called it a night. My friends hadn’t been able to get pre-sale tickets to Berghain (they were sold out) AND they had been refused entry to Berghain for the first time, so they were a bit traumatized and we spent a lot of time speculating as to why that might’ve been and what we should do to ensure that we get in tomorrow.
Another friend of mine from the Chicago scene had told me about a party going on over at Rosi’s in Ostkreuz, but it was too late at night for the subway to be running, and I was tired and cold and not very motivated to schlep my way over to the eastern border of the city. I sent my regrets to my friend there and then climbed into a taxi and headed home.