Friday, May 20, 2011

Berlin5. Ich Libe Dich, Berlin

Sorry for the 19 days gap since the last post. This month has been crazy. I thought I won't be busy, but it is one of the worst. I have 3 summer jobs to pay for my summer semester. Thankfully, they are the best summer jobs ever. One of them is a class assistance for a OCADU student art residency at Toronto Islands. I get to ride my bike in the fog, watch the fog on a boat, walk the long walks on the beach, sketch, listen to the forest sounds and cook. I almost froze to death, but man, I wish it was my permanent job. I can't believe I get paid to do this. Any job that you commute with a boat, is the best job ever (of course, my opinion would've been drastically differ if it's during the winter...).

It is painful to write about the last day in Berlin. I tried to enjoy the last day, but I was sad from the impending departure. I wanted to stay one more week. I've already booked a train to Amsterdam months ago. My return flight was from Amsterdam. I didn't have a choice but to leave my beloved Berlin that night.

On the last day, I overslept, but still, not enough sleep. I woke up and head towards a flea market in Mauer Park. Apparently, there is a public karaoke in the Mauer park on Sundays. I could hear some music, but didn't actually saw the karaoke.
Just follow the crowd!

This guy was WEARING a hotdog stand on his shoulder and sold hotdogs.
Although I had to walk quite a bit in order to get to the market, I did not get lost. Everyone who got off the subway were heading towards Mauer Park. I just followed the crowd. It reminded me of the time I went to Portobello market in London England, two years ago. Portobello market was famous for some romantic comedy with Hugh Grant in it. A girl I met at the hostel told me that it's hard to find. However, once I got off the subway, there were a lot of people heading towards the market. It was like attending a very popular rock concert. My feet didn't touch the ground because it was so jammed (okay, little exaggeration here).
There were A LOT of people heading towards Mauer park too. I was expecting a small, neighbourhood flea market because I heard this is one of the smaller ones. Boy, I was wrong. It was MASSIVE. I don't want to imagine what the city's bigger flea markets look like.

My randomly bumped into my friend. He was going to hang out after some shopping. He invited me a long. I told him, "Yeah, I'll see you around the market and we'll hang together." At that point, I was naive and still thought it was a small market. I quickly got lost in its massiveness and never saw my friend again.

Fresh orange and grape fruit juice stand. Pack your own water because the juice was VERY sour
There were juice stands, but the fresh squeezed orange juice was very sour. I don't like sour things... There also were small cafe tents and trucks. Although I've never tried those, but I was impressed how they all had expresso machines. I hardly ever drink coffee, so I didn't try, but I think Berlin is coffee people's heaven. They also had soymilk! It's weird to see soymilk option in tent coffee shops.

Cute jars filled with different old fashioned candies

Again... asking a random stranger to take my photo

A lot of people sitting around Mauer park. Outdoor Karaoke happening somewhere

Mauer park flea market shopping tip: if you see something you like, just buy it right there and then. It's a pathetic waste of time if you do what I did. The chances are, you won't find the same thing or better. I was thinking, 'Okay, I like that book, but I'm going to look around more, think about it and see if there are better ones.' I walked for a very long time and came back to purchase whatever I saw first. And it took very long because the place was filled with people, crowd moved ever so slowly.

Here is the shit I bought list:
1. 101 year old book
Uncle William - 101 years old book. Letter pressed cover
All in blackletters!
Hundred-year-old book. I have no idea what it's about. The man who sold it to me told me it's in old German, so he can't read it well either. He was so friendly. When I first saw the book, I was scared of the seller, so I walked around the flea market for an hour before coming back to buy it. You'd think the sellers would be unfriendly because they must get jaded by the huge crowd. But everyone I've encounter was so nice! Anyways, back to the book, the only reason I bought it was because it was in beautiful blackletters (the cover is also beautifully letter-pressed). I LOVE blackletters. Back of my ipod is engraved with a blackletter (my parents have an engraving store, so I engrave whatever I want, wherever I want). Anyone who loves blackletters as much as I do, I recommend this book, Fraktur mon Amour. Like some dumb kitty looking at a humidifier all day, I waste a lot of time looking at blackletters.

2. Children's scarf
It was very cheap, 50 cents, but I still regret buying it. I bought it because it was cold. But come on! It is not even a bunny or an owl scarf. The smiley was not in the proportion I want (eyes should be further or closer and mouth should be closer to the eyes, etc. etc.). Anyways, it kept me warm in Amsterdam.

3. Tiny Koh-I-Noor orange lead holder with built in sharpner

I love this thing. Currently drawing a comic with it. The built-in sharper is a wonderful touch. If it was in red colour, that would've been perfect, but orange is good enough. So cute!

4. Old photos of random strangers
I felt strange buying these. They must have been someone's precious memories. Now you can just buy them in piles at flea market. Don't these people want those memories? Or are they all dead? Some were quite intimate too. They are photo-collaging artists' dream.
My mom brought over bunch of black-and-white family photographs from Korea few months ago. My grandma gave them to her. My grandma scratched off my grandpa's faces with razor blades on each of those photographs (there are some funny stories between them). Haha... I guess one day those photographs will end up in flea markets and confuse people. Or just in landfills.

Those were all I bought. I suspect I won't visit any flea markets for a long time. I sometimes love crowded places with strangers, but I got a bad headache afterwards. Why on earth are there so many people in flea markets?!?

On to the next schedule... I rode the bus route 100. It is very popular among tourists because it passes through most of the major tourist sites in Berlin. It leaves at Berlin Zoo station. The whole trip took me about thirty minutes. I was meeting my friend for dinner, so I could barely fit it in (I overslept in the morning, so my schedule was tight).
I was so excited to ride this bus, it was ridiculous. I adore double deckers. Lemme tell you, it's awesome to ride on the second floor. I don't know why, but it's just awesome. Now you can ride on double decker GO buses in the suburbs of Greater Toronto Area, if you are lucky. Anyways, the route 100 was so much fun. I watched sites and attractive people. Oh, is it too touristy? I don't give a fuck. If I were a musician, I'd write a song about Berlin Route 100. Just like Spadina Bus song. I didn't take many photos during the ride because my photographs always look bad if taken through windows.

I met up with a friend and went to a small park on Weinbergsweg. I sat on the grass, with a paper underneath, of course. I'm crazy like that. There were a lot of people in the park, sitting around, in that sunny afternoon. I didn't even remember the last time I sat in the park (probably because we have 6 months winter in Toronto). Basking in the sunlight, I really didn't want to leave this city.

Cool chopstick holders
Bits of interior
Tofu dish
My friend bought me a dinner at Yumcha Heroes. It was a strange place. Dumpling houses in Toronto are all kind of dirty and smell like Dettol. (I HATE you, Dettol!) It wasn't the case in Berlin. Yumcha Heroes looked really clean and cool. Very slick-looking interior. They had a very strange and small bathroom behind a secret door, looked like an air plane bathrooms. Everything in the bathroom was yellow. I thought the toilette papers were yellow, but it could just be the lighting. The tab was motion activated, I didn't know. As I was complaining about no water in the bathroom (and pulling out my hand sanitizer), my friend said, 'it's automatic.' Didn't look automatic... I knocked over bunch of stuff with my petticoat, going back to the bathroom. Food was... a bit strange-tasting. Tasted sort of like Chinese medicine with soysauce. I was actually planning to go to Veggie in Charlottenburg for a vegan pekking duck. But I felt guilty dragging my meat-eating friend to a middle of nowhere for a vegan food (my dear omnivore friends, tell me the truth. You hate going to vegetarian restaurants, right?). Who cares, I should've dragged my friend to Veggie. I was at the halfway around the fucking globe. Meek vegans suffer.

Working at St.Oberhotz
After a brief walk, taking photos of street art, I sat at St.Oberholz, waiting for my train time. I was to leave for Amsterdam via 12:10AM sleeper train. I actually had to do some work for my teaching job. Answering student emails, updating class sites, etc. etc. St. Oberhotz is a popular internet cafe. It was my first time being there even though it was right across from my hostel. What a nice place! It opened very late and free wifi (and soymilk!). If this place was near my home, I'd go there very often to work. I sat there alone at night, feeling strange. I contemplated not going to Amsterdam. Why don't I just stay here a few days more and then go to the Amsterdam airport on the night before the flight (back in December, I stupidly booked my flight departing Amsterdam)? I knew I'd love Berlin. I've always wanted to come here and it was more than I expected. Of course it's not all sunshine and lollipops. Young people are very friendly here, but some old German men, I know they want me out of the their country. More than once, I felt hostile stares on the subways. I get that in Canada sometimes too, but if I stare back, they usually back down. But in Berlin, even if I stare back, they kept staring. Dude, relax! Lemme just spend my hard-earned money at your cosmopolitan city and get the fuck out. No worries though, I am very used to racism (I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing?).

I have to come back to Berlin next year. I didn't get to do many things I wanted to do. I didn't even pay my proper dues. The city is loaded with history (they are all heavy shit too) and I didn't have time to visit places I was suppose to visit. It's too embarrassing how little I saw, so I am not going to list the places I should've paid my dues.

Hbf train station

My sleeper train was delayed for two hours. I waited and waited at the cold train station. I tried to numb the pain of leaving Berlin by watching Community. There were many couples and friends sitting in the platform chairs, keeping each other warm. I felt lonely. I don't know if I ever want to travel alone again. Finally the train came. There were no instructions nor help on how/which section to ride, so you have to be careful. I ran around dragging my suitcase, looking for my section. For the sleeping train, I actually got the bed compartment. It's a shared compartment for two. I kind of hoped I don't have to share, and my wish came true! I got the whole sleeping room for myself. There was another bed on top, and I settled in the bottom one.
Bottom bed!
Top bed was empty. Yeah~!
Dangerously resting bed-side table
Everything was so simple and foldable. There was a weird table-like thing. I wanted to use it for my bedside table, so I took it out. But it only had 2 legs. Um... how am I suppose to use it?!? There was no instruction, nothing. Seriously, they don't tell you anything at all. (I didn't even know there was a special bathroom for sleeper train guests. I was told after I went to the other train's regular bathroom) A simple instructional pamphlet would've been nice. I didn't want to disturb my neighbours too much, so I just rested the table dangerously beside my bed. Side of my bed was being the third leg of the table, but the train was shaking. I was scared that the train guy would come and yell at me for using the table. He never came. Oh and I read in many guide books that the train person takes my passport and give it back to me at the end of the trip (to pass the country border). It wasn't the case. He didn't take my passport at all and nobody looked at it when we crossed the border.

Sitting in my bed with my legs stretched, watching the Dutch scenery

Cold breakfast. I didn't know breakfast was included in the ticket... maybe because I don't know any German. The only thing I could eat in here was bread. I didn't mind.

I always wanted to try the sleeper compartment, and it was totally worth the price. I can't remember how much it was, but it wasn't that much considering it includes hotel-like atmosphere plus train ride. When I opened a little closet-thingy, there was a wash basin with individually wrapped water cups. Fresh towels and linen... bottled water... In the morning, there was a cold breakfast and tea! Most importantly, I slept well. I didn't want to lose another sleep worrying about my luggages being stolen. The alarm in the train automatically rang an hour or so before the destination. I was grateful for that. There was a nice communal shower compartment at the end of the hall, but I didn't get to use it. I just sat in my bed and watched the scenery. I always wanted to do that ever since I was a child. It was fun and relaxing to watch the passing landscape. I could ride sleeping train for DAYS. Alas, I had to get off.

..and hereby, my pathetic days in Amsterdam begins.

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