I think the time might have finally come for me to write this post. I attempted to do it in the first few weeks of LikzLife, but as with many of the things I used to try those days, that post did not get finished and it was not shared.
I have recently returned from my sixth trip to Berlin. And on most of them I spent less than 24 hours in the city (marked as lt24h below).
The first time, I discovered the capital to hear Evanescence live. It was November 20, 2011, lt24h. It was not only the first trip to Berlin, but also my first trip outside the free zone of my student ticket (which is pretty big, including a vast area around Bremen and trains to Hamburg, Hannover, Osnabrück, Leer and Cuxhaven), thus the very first time I took an InterCity Express (ICE) train – and I fell in love with its quietness and comfort. I also fell in love with the modern trains of the Berlin subway , the ones which are not split into wagons, so you can see the whole train through, from the beginning to the very end, and it has a feeling of a (very safe!) roller-coaster when you do it at the turns. This time, I did not visit the Reichstag, because I had not known that it required the registration in advance.
The second time, I went there with a group from my German course at the Goethe-Institut. It was on a weekend in January 2012, also lt24h. This time, we went by the regional trains on the group tickets. Which took almost six hours instead of the three by ICE, and about four or five changes of trains. We arrived there around 3 pm. After checking in to the hostel at the train station and having a meal, we went on a bus tour around the city. It was winter, it was getting dark, it was snowing, the windows were misting up and it the heating was not working well enough at the second floor of the tour bus, so it felt really cold – overall, not a very pleasant experience.
After the tour, we walked from Brandenburger Tor to Potsdamer Platz. Then, we returned back to the hostel and went in the separate ways for the evening. I continued with a solo walk into the area north from the central station, and after some time I reached S-Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse and discovered Dussmann Kulturkaufhaus, and the English Bookshop inside. I fell in love with it, it became my favorite place in Berlin and a must-visit place on each trip to the city ever since.
The third time was on March 3rd, 2012, again lt24h. This time was the first and the only time so far I went on hitchhiking. Just the night before I was at the room of an exchange student from Russia, and she offered “Let’s go hitchhike to Berlin tomorrow!” Well, I could not say “no” to such an adventure :)
It was not a typical experience of hitchhike, as she later told me. On the way there, we stood in Hamburg with a sign “Berlin”, and after some minutes a man on a SUV stopped to pick us up. He was not too polite or overly friendly, but he took us from our start point to one of the end stations of the subway in Berlin. On a SUV. When approaching Berlin, he pointed at a construction site of road junction and said that he was affiliated with a company who was building those – and this is the only thing I remember of him. On the way back, the first car that picked us up was a police car, and we were taken not to Hamburg but to the police station. We were stupid enough to try to hitchhike on an autobahn, and walking on an autobahn is strictly prohibited. After checking our IDs and seeing that it was our first “offence”, the officer let us go, warning that it would be a big fine otherwise. He also advised us to take a train back instead of hitchhiking (“that is very dangerous”), but we were very money-conscious. So we returned back to the road, just a couple of hundred meters before an entry to the autobahn. There, we stood with the sign “Hamburg” for a long, long time and got very cold, but after all, a man on a touring car stopped. After some small talk in the car, we discovered that he was actually going to Bremerhaven… so he took us all the way back to Bremen.
The fourth time… The fourth time was in August of 2012, during a small travel around Northern Germany with a (now ex-)girlfriend of mine. This was the longest visit so far. We arrived in the evening and stayed in Berlin for four nights and four days. Every evening, I was visiting Dussmann and reading a chapter from the biography of Steve Jobs (the introduction and chapter one I had read in March already :) ), as well as looking at and into the other books. At the end of the trip, I bought a few books there – the biography of Steve Jobs had thirty-something chapters! :) Other books were Stephen King’s “11/22/63” (totally awesome book!), a book called “How to be free” (didn’t like that one after all) and Niall Ferguson’s “Civilization” (have not finished reading it, but got a few very interesting insights about medieval China). On this trip, I also went to the Berlin Zoo, and saw the elephants and giraffes (as well as some other animals) live for the first time in my life.
The fifth time was a necessity caused by the visa application to the United States to visit the World Domination Summit [my posts: preface, review]. This time, I discovered that I had an acquaintance from my home university living and working there, and I stayed with him. The visa appointment was early in the morning (the consulate works with applicants only until noon, and the latest appointment to come to the consulate entrance was about 9:30 am) and I could not be there on time starting from Bremen, so I came the day before. Also I was worrying if they would request the official bank statement (which was not a required but a strongly recommended item to bring to the visa interview… but mine sucked at that moment after two months of the PhD-break in Russia, and I decided not to prepare it in advance), so I included the next morning into my trip. As the result, this trip lasted for two nights, a full day of the visa interview and two half-days: one prior, one after the full day.
There were two main new discoveries of this trip. First, I saw in Hamburg some ads of a cheap bus service between Hamburg and Berlin, and decided to try that one (well, it appeared to be not as pleasant and enjoyable as traveling by train, but MUCH cheaper). Second, on my last (half-)day I went to take a look at the former Berlin Tempelhof airport (which was right across the street from the Columbiahalle (also C-Halle) at Columbiadamm, the place where I went on the very first day in Berlin to hear Evanescence), which was turned into a park called Tempelhofer Freiheit. And it was INCREDIBLE. Such a vast open area, plus the ability to walk on the runway… And there were several people doing “kiteboarding” (i.e. riding a skateboard-like thing and performing tricks while being pulled with a kite), which I have never seen before.
Finally, the trip that has just finished (lt24h!). This time, it was triggered by a Desire Map Book Club in Berlin. After the second session of DMBC in Bremen which I went through as a solo desire mapper, I saw a photo of a lively cheerful Berlin book club crowd in the main Desire Map Facebook group, and commented that I would love to join them some day. Julia, the leader of the club, replied that I am always welcome, and I decided to take her up on that :) I checked the bus tickets, checked with the acquaintance of mine with whom I stayed last time that he would be willing to accommodate me for another night – and off I went.
I was shocked and surprise when the door to the apartment where the DMBC Berlin took place this time was opened by a former student of the university I am currently at. I even asked myself whether this was not the right door, and double-checked with a name tag on the door bell. No, that was it :) WOW. “The world is big, but it is also small” ( Don Miller was joking about this quote in his WDS talk, continuing it with the explanation: “because when you are close to it, it is big, but if you step back far enough, it is small” :) ).
Indeed, it was a very lively group and a heartfelt discussion. Another case of something I would consider almost impossible a year before, but experienced with CWA coursemates, at WDS, at Live Your Legend LOCAL events and at Desire Map Book Club sessions too – feeling of the instant connection, and immediate start at a deeper, meaningful and hugely mutually valuable level of communication. Freedom to share myself, my deep dreams, desires and fears, as well as to contribute to the discussions with my knowledge and life experience. (Neither of those was the case for communications at the university or at generic meetups, where everything starts with a smalltalk and sometimes slowly deepens with time but often does not progress at all).
After my introduction, the discussion shifted to Live Your Legend and related topics for a while. I was not expecting that, but people got curious to know more. And now I realize that it is totally justified: even while DMBC and LYL LOCAL “compete” about Tuesdays (both communities started locally on Jan 7 worldwide, with the suggestions for DMBC to be hold weekly and for LYL LOCAL to be hold on the first Tuesday of each month), in fact both movements are complementing and enhancing each other (and the same start date could be a confirmation sign for it).
The Desire Map [main site, Facebook group] gives one an opportunity to get clear about how they want to feel, and turn relationship with achievements and goals upside down: to focus on the feelings the process and the end results bring and not on the process and results themselves (because it is never just about the goals). Live Your Legend [main site, Facebook group], in turn, gives tools, accountability support and a venue for individuals to help each other, ask for help or an advice, and celebrate their successes, so the people are more likely to go forward and succeed with whatever intentions they set for themselves, especially when the going gets hard because of disapproval/rejection/ignorance in one’s current social environments. Both movements are about surrounding yourself with like-minded people and helping each other to live a fuller, richer, deeper and a more meaningful life.
This time at Dussmann, I bought “Music Composition for Dummies”, a book which I had encountered at a music store before but only in German translation, and “Sketchnote: Guide to visual note-taking” by Mike Rohde. EACH of those books cost more than my return bus ticket :) But I believe I will be able to extract an immense value (and pleasure) from both of them.
And this sums up my Berlin travels so far. Adventures, discoveries, new experiences. Feeling alive. This city is in no way close to my heart as San Francisco and Hamburg [first visit, one more post] are… Nevertheless, it is a very special place, and it has its own place in my life and my memories. I will be coming back there from time to time, even if only to visit the English Bookshop in the Dussmann Kulturkaufhaus :)
Do you have such a place – it can be a city, but it also may be a country, a district, a neighborhood or even a single venue – that makes every visit of it a special one, even if you don’t truly associate with it, don’t resonate with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments!