Friday, February 09, 2007

Berlin, Germany

PEOPLE AND CULTURE Thankfully, almost everyone speaks English and I found Berliners to be very nice and happy, even eager to help a stranger. I received unsolicited help on several occasions due to what must had been my confused facial expressions.

After the collapse of the wall, a huge number of Turkish “worker immigrants” flocked to Germany. As a result, the Turkish population is huge. Sadly, I read that the unemployment rate among Turkish men is an extremely depressing 40%. Yes, that is not a typo.

The bar and club scene in defiantly more “rough” than in other areas of Europe. The fetish, leather and other nasty activities that I’d rather not discuss are all part of everyday life in Berlin, whereas they are more “outlier” or “extreme” activities in other cities. Darkrooms are pretty common in Europe, but HUGE darkrooms dominate ALL bars and clubs where all kinds of nastiness happen (use your imagination). Fliers for sex parties are so common that they’re posted in very public places like poles and the U-Bahn. Due to all of this, it takes a lot to surprise your typical Berliner.
Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of “normal” clubs and bars, whatever that may mean. Jose and I partied Thursday though Monday morning, so we had our fare share of craziness. The clubs we partied at were Kinzo Klub, Panorama Bar, Berghain and GMF @ CafĂ© Moskau. I was there for an additional 3 days after Jose left so I also went to Tom’s Bar and SO 36. On Thursday night at Kinzo Klub, Jose and I saw what was probably the most disturbing drag queen show that I’ve ever seen. I hope to get a copy of it from Jose and post it here. Watch for it…

My own pervious food experiences in Cologne and stories from friends didn’t raise my expectations all too high for German gastronomy. Thankfully, I was extremely impressed. I didn’t enjoy the German food as much as I enjoyed the food found in Germany. I say that because Turkish dishes dominate the gastronomy in Germany. Currywurst and Doner Kebabs are just two that immediately come to mind. The Turkish restaurants a lot offer a very reasonable value proposition for the amount of quality food you got. Of course, I readily took advantage of this.


Shopping is world-class. I was especially impressed with Kurfurstendamm. This s
treet is where you’ll find everything and anything that you’re looking for. I spent over 3 hours in KaDeWe, the self-described “Harrods of Continental Europe”.

The U-Bahn is extremely efficient, well-connected, fast and overall a joy to ride. Thankfully, the weather was much warmer than I expected. That didn’t stop it from being cloudy, though. Most of the time it was warm enough where I left my winter coat in the apartment and walked around in a sweatshirt and light jacket. The last night I was there it finally snowed, which was a nice surprise (and very pretty).

The apartment that Jose and I rent was basically brand new, very nice, clean and well located (Kreuzberg).
Jose made an interesting observation that most of the tourism is based on a multiple horrific historic events. This leaves you very sober as you explore the city. It’s not a “happy feeling” city by any stretch of the imagination.

Many of the streets are unbelievably huge (wide and long).

I felt like I wanted to experience more of Berlin, so you can bet I’ll go back in the future.

More to come soon on FlickR.

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