October 25, 2018 | 9:08AM | Seestrasse U6 en route to Alt Tegel
You know you’re in love with a city when you get on the U-bahn for the last time, say goodbye, watch the doors close, and realize you have never felt more alive in the last few days as some tears make its way down your cheek.
I never put Germany on my bucket list because traveling to Europe always seemed impossible. Growing up I have always taken trips that show you merely tourist spots that all look the same: old towns, churches, photo op sites. That was it. As much as I didn’t like it, it did give me a sampler of what being in Europe would be like. I always thought it was intimidating, but I guess it took a good dose of courage and “what if” questions to make me take this trip.
I boldly plot all the possibilities as if they were limitless—maybe I could do this, maybe I could do that. For months I was surrounded with maybes and slept uncomfortably at the thought of “too good to be true”. I have never flew to Europe alone or took the trains here on my own. It didn’t help that I didn’t know anyone in Germany (back then) so there wasn’t any reason to go (until now).
9:24AM | Bus 128 en route to Flughafen Tegel (Berlin TXL airport)
You know how you see someone for the first time, get smitten, and immediately fall head over heels with the person? (Oooh, familiar!) Then you realize this person is not all that. That’s how New York feels to me. I think things started okay between me and New York, as I saw it unfold right in front of me as I landed with a view of beautiful city lights right before my eyes. Two weeks of exploring such a place was convincing enough for me to say I could go back and try out what living is like in New York. I held back my tears as I flew out of JFK in 2017, promising myself to go back and make my dreams come true.
But I’m quite aware some expectations don’t really keep up with reality. I liked school, but I suffered with anxiety every day, especially when I decided to drop a class and pick out ones that will really test my abilities. Every few weeks I’d be okay, then the cycle repeats itself. It’s like the past few months has made me more vulnerable and I’ve never felt this weak in my life.
But Germany just washed out everything for me. I landed at noon, was greeted with a pleasant view of trees and a clear sky. It wasn’t much, but it was nice. I panicked for a bit as I got out of the Tegel airport and booked a bus ticket to HBF. I entered this huge building that had Berlin Hauptbahnhof written on it and I was in awe. I made it! Well, almost.
After what felt like minutes of walking around the huge train station with two heavy luggages, I just wanted to hop on my train to Nürnberg and call it a day. My friend picked up my stuff (huuu thank you, Lorenz!) and I ended up carrying just one bag as I boarded the train and spent the next four hours staring out the window, waiting for what’s ahead.
My week in Nürnberg was amazing—from meeting the people behind Faber-Castell to spending every day learning something new, exploring the city, and getting a glimpse of what Germany looked like, I was in awe. I liked it. I was blown away. (You can read more about it here)
I left Nürnberg after four days feeling sad and longing to be back (how could I even leave such a beautiful city?)—but I was surprised to have spent the train ride to Berlin with a newfound friend from the workshop I held at Faber-Castell (hi, Emily!). On the four hour ride to Berlin, Emily told me about Berlin, and told me I’d love it in the city. That was a good sign, I guess?
I arrived at night, half past ten, at the same HBF, now freezing as I carried my things out of the train and met up with Lorenz and headed home. I was tired. I’m just grateful he had lavender oil and I could just shut myself off after a busy couple of days (my jet lag has been really bad). Life had been so busy that I didn’t even bother plotting out a set itinerary for my five days in Berlin.
Exploring the city fully wasn’t on my mind. I knew I’d be back, but I did manage to see quite a few things during my short stay there. Apart from seeing the sights, I was keen on seeing how this city worked—how everything operated. Mind you, I was amazed. Here’s a photo diary of my trip. Maybe some commentaries here and there, but mostly observations as I made my way into this city that unexpectedly caught me off guard.
Brunch at Distrikt Coffee. I look so happy??? I love brunch!
We were on our way to our walking tour and found a Photoautomat (photo booth)! Our first attempt was a fail. I think I was more shookt when the flash suddenly came out of nowhere, lol
BTS of Lorenz taking this photo of my artwork (now his). Also gave him a crash course on making content lololol
I’ve known Lorenz for maybe 5ish years already? But we only became friends after coincidentally wearing the same outfit on New Year’s Eve in Hungary last year…and finding out we both love Abstract (yes, the Netflix series). He’s a scientist currently taking up his PhD and residing in Berlin (ikr, he’s cool), so it was a no-brainer that I visit.
Berlin’s transportation system is SO EFFICIENT. A train comes in every few minutes, and you’ll manage to get to your destination in no time. I’m so amazed! It took maybe only less than 20 minutes getting to the city center from where we were.
There’s the U-bahn (underground), the S-bahn (older trains that are still in use), and the buses and trams that are around the city. I love that you can check Google Maps for the time and not be late—which meant we had a lot of running to catch our tram heading to Mitte. Lol. #cardio
A piece of history right behind me, the Berlin Wall.
A very touristy photo of me behind the Brandenburg Gate (please don’t mind the tourists behind me). We booked this walking tour (it’s free, you leave a tip at the end of the tour) around Mitte and it was really informative! I learned so much about Berlin’s history in an entire afternoon.
We walked to the Jewish Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie, as well as the underground bunker where Hitler killed himself. So surreal to be in this place! I was just writing about wanting to go to Berlin during my trip to Eastern Europe last year.
Lorenz introduced me to Currywurst—”You’ll like it!” I did. We had it twice at the same currywurst spot because it was the cheapest (and the best).
Went to this neighborhood called Schöneberg which was brimming with beautiful architecture and this ice cream place called Jones. Who eats ice cream in cold weather??? *raises hand*
I did mention I didn’t do much research, did I? I think the spontaneity made it easier for me to not worry about most things, and just take each day as it comes.
Lunch at Umami was sooo good. I haven’t really had a bad meal in Berlin, tbh.
Sunday was spent at the East Side Gallery. This part of the Berlin Wall boasts of mural artworks by different artists and continues to attract tourists and locals alike. It’s a long stretch and there are quite popular ones we did manage to take photos of.
A fellow tourist was nice enough to take our photo (the framing was A+ too!).
We went to another Photoautomat (because it’s so pretty? I mean, yellow!) to take more photobooth pictures. Each photo took around five minutes so we were basically just bored…so…*takes more photos*
Picked up some autumn leaves (and lavender stalks??? because they’re free) in Tiergarten, a huge park right smack in the middle of the city. We were tired already but if I had more energy, I would have walked the whole stretch and explored more.
Modulor has been on my go-to list for the longest time, and I spent a good two hours going crazy over everything, lol. It really is “art heaven”.
Bits of color here and there.
Dropped by Do You Read Me?!, an independent bookstore housing various titles and magazines.
Polly Paper was another hidden gem, just a few steps away from Do You Read Me?!.
The next day was still rainy. *sigh* I ended up leaving for Museuminsel early, because I told myself to pick at least one gallery I’ll like. I picked Altenationalgalerie, which houses a lot of classical art.
Obviously, I made the right choice. I learned about German painters and how they paved the way for impressionism to take shape in Europe. It was nice listening to the audio guide with explanations of notable artworks and what their purpose is.
Some Monet spotting because he is an all-time favorite.
I met up with Emily and she took me around some of her favorite art and stationery shops in the city. I was surprised to find myself buying a few things I’ve never seen in my life—from cute notebooks to autumn-colored highlighters (!!!) to fountain pens. Fountain pens! Omg. Hahaha.
Thanks so much Emily for the fun afternoon despite the rain~
On my last day, I took a train ride up north to Pankow—and ran to the next tram that I missed (I told you, trams here are really on time). I went to an art institute to check out the facilities and was in awe. I was probably out of breath when I got back to the city center because of all the running…and panicking…and navigating with my phone battery on 1% (I hate myself sometimes, you know?). Anyway, that’s why this photo (above) is so memorable to me. I was just staring out the window for a good few minutes taking in the view.
10/10 will live in Berlin for scenic routes, tbh
Just some evidence of how messy my desk was. It wasn’t even my desk, technically. LOL. *hides*
My last night in Berlin involved a good serving of Turkish cuisine (I finally tried the döner!) and some People Watching IRL. I’ll never forget it.
I’m in the New York Public Library as I wrap up this post for the last time and queue up all my videos on my channel. I keep revisiting this and figuring out what to still say, but again, I’d like to think not having a plan helped me love this city so much more. The spontaneity opened me up to the beauty of finding happy accidents in between. Maybe that’s how life should be, you know? I’m so tired at having to make sure everything goes according to plan.
I’ll just leave it at this: it’s not yet over, Berlin. I’ll see you in 2019.
PS: Germany playlist below~