I have stayed in a lot of hostels, and my experience in this one easily makes the top three. It is run pretty much the way I would run a hostel – and they seem to have thought of everything. Before arrival they give you clear directions to get there, when you arrive they sit you down for half an hour with tea and coffee and go through a map of berlin, showing you where everything is. They have a freecycle service, and really handy things like a luggage weigher, and the weather forecast. The staff are very friendly and very helpful, and make you feel at home. While we were staying in a room with a spoilt-princess four poster bed, the dorms were all huge and light filled, with heaps of space between each bed. The place was painted all funky like, by one artist. While i was there there was a chihuahua called Gi-gi. Pets make me happy.
There were lots of ice-cream stores doing a roaring trade, but easily my favourite was Tanne B (http://www.tanneb.de/), an organic place with changing menus and plenty of vegan options. While in Berlin, we went several times and I sampled banana, mango, fresh orange, cherry mania, plum and cinnamon, pistachio, chocolate and chilli, strawberry something, ginger, peanut (with waffles and honey, oh yeah), and at least two others which i have now forgotten. We would sit and eat ice cream and watch the kids playing at the awesome playground in the park, or watch Germany beat Canada in the women’s soccer world cup on TV. The place seemed to be a little community hub, with people coming and going and kids filling up their water pistols.
cafes run by collective
Cafe Morgenrot does an amazing vego / vegan breakfast on the weekend. Other times you can go there and use their wireless, play board games, listen to wicked lady DJs, pat one of the dogs, drink coffee or alcohol. I made friends with one of the collective members by charmingly asking annoying questions in English.
transgenialer Christopher Street Day parade
‘Transgenialer’ probably best translates as ‘trans*-inclusive’, and is an alternative, altogether more queer, parade held on the same day as the Christopher Street Day pride parade. Q and I went to both. While CSD was amazing for its sheer size and amount of trucks blaring pop songs (which are important), and gratifying for the amount of people of all sorts that turned out to watch, the overwhelming number of people and external stimuli was, well, overwhelming. Also the people handing out red ribbons were grumpy, and the ropes between floats and people were restricting. tCSD, on the other hand, felt friendly and like we were being encouraged to dance and march, not just watch. So we marched and we danced and I felt like we were with our people, and safe. This was why we came to Berlin, and it was well worth it for this alone. People laughing and dancing in the streets, with witty, angry, lefty placards, while nannas watch out their windows and the local kids pull Michael Jackson moves on the footpath, make me happy.
sliding scale prices
Several places we went to employed sliding scale price lists. The casual way this was presented made me feel like it was a regular occurence, and that made me happy.
This is not a phenomenon unique to Berlin – dogs seem much more present and welcome in most of the cities I have been in. They are welcome on all forms of public transport, and in Berlin in particular, they were welcome in cafes and restaurants, without needing to be on a leash.
plants in shoes
This one gets me everytime, and seems to be my personal symbol for people finding new uses for old things. Several times I saw herbs planted in an old sneaker and tied to a pole for the public to help itself. Everytime it would elicit a huge grin from me.
Q and I would exclaim over pretty much every playground we came across – and there were plenty. Often they would incorporate soccer goals and table tennis tables, would usually have some variety of swinging thing we had never seen before, and a sand or water table with pumps and pulleys and wheels to make the substance move in different directions.
it’s just the vibe of the thing
I don’t think my experience is unique here, but in Berlin I found the energy to be really exciting – I enjoyed the abundance of graffitti, and the independent artist shops. The first thing I noticed was that there were all kinds of people here. By that I guess I mean they dressed differently, walked differently, held themselves differently (from each other). The part of me that loves cut-n-paste, new-from-old design, and a beauty that does not colour within the lines, was home.