Berlin

Charlie Berlin

Berlin. I was told that it’s the New York of Europe, although I have never been to New York so I can’t say whether I agree or not. What I do know of Berlin from my experience is that it is a busy and lively city and it’s great for artists. It has a lot of history but it has a modern feel to it. Berlin isn’t not too expensive and it is very rich in history so you can really hit a lot of different areas and get a well-rounded trip.

Berlin is cool. People have their own sense of style and they don’t really care what you think of it. I have been also told that people aren’t the most friendly there which I can say I have experienced friendly Berliners and also not so friendly, as it is in a lot of major cities. When a person lives in a big city they don’t really have the time to be friendly with everyone but when you get to know people individually it is much different.

berlin
When I first moved to Germany with my work visa I found that my massive suitcase I took with me had a broken wheel so I had to literally drag it on the ground to the hostel where it made an ear piercing sound like nails on chalkboard. People looked in my direction to see where the offensive noise was coming from then quickly looked away to avoid making me even more uncomfortable (I think).

While job and apartment hunting I got to see a lot of the city on foot. I ate every kind of new food I could get my hands on a sampled my fair share of delicious German beers! It has a very modern city feel to it, even though it is very old as a lot of it was bombed in the war.

One night when I was out with some people I met in my hostel we passed by an art studio party and then just decided we would go inside to see what it was all about. We walked in and everyone looks super…you know hip. Nobody seemed to notice us so we just grabbed some free beer and look at art then moved along to another bat with a metal dragon that breathed fire. I don’t think that would pass fire regulations in Canada haha. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of it but maybe I will go back someday and get some!

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I remember dubstep was pretty big there at the time and there were a ton of really crazy discos (big dance clubs). You can experience this side of it and also do cultural things such as go on a walking tour. I went to the wall and Checkpoint Charlie, they showed old photos of people trying to throw things over the wall that separated them for their loved ones. I had a great tour guide that brought us to the place above the underground bunker where Hitler committed suicide, when we arrived there he said “the area beneath your feet is where history took place and Hitler ended his life. Today it is where locals take their dogs to shit.”

Berlin is a must-see if you are in Germany. A lot was destroyed in the war but it is somewhere you can go and learn about history right where it happened. Continue reading Berlin

Making the decision to move to Europe

As my first travel post I figured it would be best to start with Germany! I moved to Germany in 2010 with a work visa in hopes of attaining a job and a new life in a different country.

This was something I had wanted to do for years, I did a German minor at Memorial University and so I knew a bit of the language (aber mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut) and I wanted to be immersed in a new culture and fend for myself all alone. Fortunately and unfortunately for me that is exactly what I did!

I went through the SWAP (Student Work Abroad Program) and paid a fee to get a work visa. At the time I was working at a retail store to save up money to support myself for a few months while I was in the city to look for work. In January, I arrived in Berlin and stayed at a hostel to start my search!

Finding a job with sub par German wasn’t super easy and finding a roommate that I wanted to live with wasn’t either. I admit, I was a bit picky having had really great roommates before I left. Nevertheless, I was super pumped on the adrenaline of living out my dream in a foreign city and pounding the pavement in search of job opportunities until…..my laptop got stolen less than 2 weeks into my move. It happened one night when I naively slept with my laptop in my bed with me. Usually I locked it up but I had started to become comfortable with my dorm-mates and saw how they left their phones/cameras out so I let my guard down.

When I woke up in the morning to find that my laptop was gone, I felt really lost and alone as I knew finding a job and a place to stay would be much harder and more expensive without a laptop. I had very limited funds and was really stressful imagining all the different scenarios that could set me back even further or make me return home.

I also felt betrayed. In my two weeks there I made a lot of friends with the people in my hostel and I knew which person stole my laptop. He was a guy in his 20s that told me he was from The Netherlands. Funny enough, I picked up on his accent, telling him he did not sound Dutch at all. One of my close friends that lived near me was Dutch and I was around her family long enough to get a bit familiar with the accent and even pick up a few words/sentences and a really cool birthday song!

Anyway, when I woke up and saw that my laptop was gone along with my new friend, it was pretty clear he did it as he wasn’t supposed to be leaving for a few days. I could tell by the reaction of the Spanish girls also in my room that they didn’t do it either, it sounds kind of weird but I think most people are good at picking up on genuine emotion rather than faked. Also, the hostel never took copies of guests passports so there was really nothing I could do.

I did eventually get over it after a bit of crying and frustration. Later on, things didn’t actually turn out too bad for me after all. The people at the hostel felt really bad and were really nice to me while the person in the Berlin SWAP office was not so helpful or sympathetic. He was a nice man but for the amount you pay the company, they don’t really help much when you actually need it. Keep that in mind if you are ever thinking about going through SWAP.

All in all, it was a rocky start to my European trip but there was more to happen which I will write about in my next post! Continue reading Making the decision to move to Europe