Willkommen in Berlin!

Welcome to Berlin!

Departure

When I got to the airport, all the anxiety about this trip I’d been feeling over the previous few days melted away. I finally felt excited and ready to go–as ready as you can ever be for a trip of this caliber.

I made a few resolutions to myself while on the plane ride about this trip. I’m really determined to enjoy myself as much as possible and to minimize worrying about things, despite how stressful travel can be.

  • Don’t be in a hurry. Enjoy things.
  • Be flexible.
  • Stay optimistic.
  • Be patient.

And so on.

I arrived in Berlin without incident, except for Lufthansa losing my luggage during a 35-minute layover in Düsseldorf. I wasn’t too worried about it though since I had followed the packing advice of my high school German teacher, Frau LaTurner, and brought a change of clothes and some toiletries in my carry-on.

Arrival

While waiting fruitlessly at the baggage claim I noticed another person there holding an IES Abroad folder, so I went over and talked to him and found out he was in the same program as me. So we took the public transit system together to get to the IES Abroad center from the airport. It was nice to not be traveling alone right off the bat in a foreign city. Random side note–it turns out he (Seth) is from Tacoma, WA and goes to University of Puget Sound, which is super close to PLU! Small world.

I was so extremely happy to finally be in Berlin, I didn’t have a care in the world. Normally reading maps and taking buses stresses me out because I get lost so much, but everything seemed to fall into place and we had no trouble finding it. We took the S-Bahn (subway) there and I remember just grinning from ear to ear as soon as it started moving. An older woman sitting across from us saw me smiling and smiled back–everything about us from the bags to the wide-eyed expressions and smiles just screamed tourist.

IES Abroad

I spent most of the day at the IES Abroad center taking care of things like paperwork, buying a SIM card for my phone, changing dollars into Euro, and so on. The staff seem really great, they are friendly and funny. It felt easy to make friends with the other students too. I’m sure it will be easy to find friends to travel with on weekends. They are all American students, but from all over the country. There is actually one other person in this program from my university, Zach Ross, who I coincidentally also went to high school with and did a month-long exchange program with in 2009.

Host Families

IES Abroad does not call the people we are living with “Gastfamilie” or host families, but “Vermieter,” which translates to renter or landlord. Indeed, we are no longer considered school-age students with host mothers and fathers and siblings to live with, but capable adults renting rooms from Berlin residents. The Vermieter are not expected to cook for us. I am a little bit nervous about this because I am a notoriously bad cook, but I’m sure I will learn. There are also tons of little cafes and cheap food stands near where I will be living, so I definitely won’t starve, but I want to try to cook for myself as much as possible to save money.

My Vermieterin (landlady, as opposed to landlord) picked me up from the IES Center in the evening. She was very friendly and talkative. We only spoke in German, which was nice because although the IES staff spoke almost exclusively German to us, between students we had been speaking English most of the day. Although I do not understand every single word she says, I find her easy to understand as long as I am paying close attention. She complimented my German skills, too, which I really appreciated because I don’t have a lot of practice speaking it.

Prenzlauer Berg

Leonore lives on a quiet street just a block or two from the well-known area of Prenzlauer Berg and the street Schönhauser Allee.  There did indeed seem to be lots of neat little shops and cafes around, but it was also much nicer than I expected. I guess I kind of thought that “artsy” and “former DDR” connotated dirty and run down, like some parts of Seattle or San Francisco, but it was very clean and organized. Being in the former communist part of Berlin, the streets are very logically laid out and easy to follow. I’m not going to lie, we make fun of the German stereotype of being very punctual and organized and having to have everything perfect, but it sure does make it easier to get around when the public transit is on time and maps are correct.

I was surprised to see a three-story shopping center so close, which was obviously built after the Wall fell. It had lots of useful shops in it, including a discount store, an organic grocery store, a post office, a bank, a used book store, and a bakery. I’m glad it will be easy to run errands having such a development nearby.

You’ll notice that I’m posting this at about 4 a.m. local time because I passed out so early in the evening and now I can’t sleep.

I also haven’t taken any pictures yet because I hate walking around with a camera in my hand looking like a tourist, but starting tomorrow I’m determined to suck it up.

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11 thoughts on “Willkommen in Berlin!

  1. Thank you so much for lunch and a great visit and all the veggies!!! The rosemary plant is doing great.
    Looking forward to hearing about your adventure!!

    1. haywooaj

      Thanks for checking out my blog! And you’re so welcome, it was nice to meet with you… As well as get rid of some extra vegetables!

  2. Stephanie

    What a great adventure. I am so excited for you. I have every confidence that you’ll learn to cook at least enough to keep you from starving.
    Did you end up taking your guitar? I’m looking forward to hearing about the arrangments you make for practicing the organ. There have to be some awesome churces around.
    Congratulations!!!

    1. haywooaj

      I didn’t wind up taking it because I already had two carry ons, my backpack with my laptop in it and a camera bag. I’ll write about the organ lessons once they begin. My teacher is on vacation until Sept. 9 so I haven’t met him yet. There is a church very close to my apartment that my host says is very friendly so I’ll contact them this weekend, probably after a service.

  3. Bauski

    It’s Prenzlauer, not Prinzlauer 😉
    And you forgot to mention that they introduced running water and electricity after the wall fell!

    The neighbourhood used to be “artsy” and all that but in Berlin this is shifting over time so I’m gonna show you the currently artsy and run down areas in Kreuzberg and Neukölln

    1. haywooaj

      Typo noted and corrected 🙂 Looking forward to it! I’ve heard a lot about Neuköln, it definitely sounds worth checking out.

  4. Haywood Family

    Very good post, Ali. I can tell that you are excited and having a good time already. I’m glad things are going well and you have a good attitude. That is the best way to enjoy yourself. Soak it all in and enjoy it. It will be over before you know it. Hopefully not before your luggage catches up with you! Thanks for keeping in touch and remember that we are proud of you and happy for you. Dad

    Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2012 02:00:27 +0000 To: sahaywoods@msn.com

  5. John

    I think that one billion pictures are in order. 🙂
    I haven’t been in Germany since the early 70’s. Back then there was still a wall and travel to there was next to impossible. Enjoy you’re time.

  6. Zorra

    Sounds like a really good beginning to what will be an awesome Germany adventure! 🙂 And did I tell you that I’m super envious of you being in Europe right now? SUPER JEALOUS. So make plans and take bunches of pictures. Who cares if you look like a tourist…maybe you can pull off being a amatuer photographer. Cause’ that’s just classy.
    Oh…and remember Allrecipes.com for cooking. It all starts with following a recipe and then you’ll start cooking without needing a recipe in no time 😉

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