Saturday, September 01, 2007

Changes in Berlin

As I write this entry, I am sitting in Christian's apartment in Berlin. Last night, we went to a party in *gasp* Zone B from his coworker at the Canadian Embassy. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Berlin is divided into three zones (A, B, C) for public transportation. I can't remember who agreed with me, but someone and I said that if you live in Zone B, you live out FAR. Almost everything is in Zone A; the exceptions are the airports Schönefeld and Tegel. So we were only one stop further into Zone B, but even so, I still laughed. After the party, we went to Rosi's (my favorite club on Revaler Straße in Friedrichshain) and met up with Andrea, the German exchange student who was in Middlebury last year. It was rather surreal seeing her in a club in Berlin because Vermont is just so completely different. Not to mention she could smoke inside.

Today, Christian and I walked around the city and went shopping a little bit (but didn't actually buy anything). I noticed some changes in the city since the last time I was here in March with Alex on spring break.

1. There is a new big ass mall being built in Alexanderplatz that is absolutely ugly as hell. This mall is called "Alexa" and will be opened on September 12, 2007. Maybe when I'm back here in two weeks for the Wir Sind Helden concert, I'll go take a look. I mean, that IS the Jersey mallrat in me being curious.

2. There is a new big ass stadium being built across from the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain. It's being built mainly as an ice hockey stadium, but I'm sure there will be other uses for it.

3. There is a new (but not big ass) pedestrian bridge being built between the U- and S-bahn stations at Warschauer Straße. I guess this might make the walk between the two less hell-ish as Ashley always said. There was a party going on near the construction at 5 in the afternoon under the existing bridge. So Berlin.

4. The pedestrian crossing lights (the Ampelmann lights) are taking over in Kreuzberg and probably the rest of the city, too. Tourists find this light amusing and it had been used in East Berlin before the Wall came down. Now they are being placed everywhere in the city and not just the old east because the Ampelmann has sort of become an unofficial mascot of the city. It looks sort of weird in Kreuzberg, I'm not going to lie.

5. There are babies everywhere and really super pregnant women. It's like there was a baby explosion and everyone decided to get it on. It's probably due to the World Cup last year.

And the most important change:

There is now graffiti on Cam's apartment's door. Christian and I were walking along the Simon-Dach-Straße and I saw Cam's apartment door. It used to be so clean and new and renovated, but because it IS Berlin, it could not escape the graffiti that is everywhere. Ok, I'm kidding that this is the most important change and I know most of you reading this will probably have no idea what I'm talking about. But yeah, it just shows you that nothing can escape graffiti here.

The other change in Berlin is not a physical change on the cityscape. Instead, it is the way I view it and relate to it. Because of the fact that I have been living in Köln (Cologne in English, but get used to me saying Köln), Berlin somehow seems a little bit foreign, a little strange. I've forgotten some of the station names. The people seem different and I feel like I seem out of place, although that could never be true in Berlin. The U-bahn trains are louder, the S-bahn is wider, and there are just generally more people (which makes sense since Berlin is bigger than Köln). I feel like it's easier to be anonymous here and it's easier to get lost. I don't get nasty and funny looks for speaking English. I suppose that Köln has made me realize these things about Berlin, and why Berlin is Berlin. I don't love Berlin more or less. It's just that I see it differently and it's not the same. Could you say that this is somewhat like reverse culture shock? Is that even possible, even though both cities are in Germany?

Oh yeah, I also noticed that there are fewer people in wheelchairs here in Berlin than in Köln or Düsseldorf. I don't know why that is. Perhaps it's because Berlin is full of young people popping out babies. There are fewer babies in Köln, too, so it seems. Christian and I joked that it was because Köln has all the gay people and older people, so that might be the reason. Am I becoming un-PC?