Notes from Berlin.

I am in Germany for three months on a fellowship. I didn’t expect it to happen but it did. I applied, was shortlisted, interviewed and was waitlisted. Then I was given the go-ahead. That meant, I got to spend three months in Germany and write about the country. A month had already flown by and I am now interning at the German Press Agency in Berlin (dpa).

Berlin's iconic brandenburg gate and a tour guide offering walking tours.
Berlin’s iconic brandenburg gate and a tour guide offering walking tours.

This also explains my two-month absence from blogging. My last month has been filled with lectures and meetings and visits to newspaper offices in Germany, I barely had time to Instagram. But that might be a lie; as and when possible I instagrammed like crazy. It feels like I arrived early this morning but my first week in Berlin went quicker than the time it takes me to chomp down a slice of German volkorn bread.

The Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin's square has its concert hall and churches.
The Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin’s square has its concert hall and churches.

No matter the city, a homebody loves home wherever he is. Berlin is no exception. While the historic yet hipster city breathes heavily under clear skies and strolls with its gentle human commotion, sometimes I seek solace in the confines of my empty flat. It overlooks Checkpoint Charlie – the erstwhile checkpoint between East and West Germany. I could see the outpost if I pressed my cheeks really close on the glass windows of my airbnb room.

Tier garten, Berlin the erstwhile hunting ground of Prussian kings.
Tier garten, Berlin the erstwhile hunting ground of Prussian kings.

I could see the men in fake green military uniform, dressed up so to attract tourists who take pictures with them for a Euro. The wall museum outside it is brimming. But I stay in. I do a quick shopping trip and make myself a comforting meal of rice and vegetables an settle down with House of Cards. The light refuses to die down at least until 9.00 pm and the sky takes the colour of a brooding blue, watching over the huge buildings outside my window.

Berlin's turmeric yellow U-bahn.
Berlin’s turmeric yellow U-bahn.

Berlin is different. Berlin is cool. Berlin coexists. There are organic supermarkets next to Turkish donors. Women in headscarves are as common as tattooed men in fluorescent blue hair and multiple piercings. There are wall murals depicting virgin Mary and Jesus, except that Mary is a bear. Or a dog. Its U-bahn trains are turmeric yellow with white signage of the Brandenburger Tor littered all over their body.

The famous 'My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love' mural on the Berlin wall.
The famous ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’ mural on the Berlin wall.
Part of the Berlin wall in East Side Gallery and the Soviet Era Trabi cars.
Part of the Berlin wall in East Side Gallery and the Soviet Era Trabi cars.
A provocative mural on the TAZ newspaper building in Berlin.
A provocative mural on the TAZ newspaper building in Berlin.

Everyone has a story to tell and each story deserves to be heard over a sparkling glass of Hefeweizen. Its street musicians wear donkey masks and stand naked, their pants rolled down their calves in terrible cold and strum their guitars, belting out pitch perfect songs of their own production.

Berlin parliament, Bundestag, at sundown.
Berlin parliament, Bundestag, at sundown.
Brandenburg gate on an evening.
Brandenburg gate on an evening.

May be tomorrow I will go out and hunt for stories. Perhaps, I will also see the same stranger I saw in the train the other day, piss drunk and joyous and had a toothless smile and tried a conversation. We had no common language but we couldn’t stop smiling at each other and I surmised that his smile meant ‘welcome to Berlin.’

The river Spree runs through Berlin.
The river Spree runs through Berlin.
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