Don’t you hate people who use the word summer as a verb? Me too.
After spending a week in the city we were ready to head to Rugen Island in the northern part of Germany to explore the white cliffs and soak up some sun. The drive to Rugen Island took about 4 hours and it was the first time that we saw car wrecks on the autobahn. It was raining quite a bit for part of the trip and there were two separate accidents where the driver obviously overestimated his abilities and from the looks of it, flew off the road trying to take a turn at 200 km/hr. Thankfully they only hurt themselves since both scenes involved single cars.
“Berlin combines the culture of New York, the traffic system of Tokyo, the nature of Seattle, and the historical treasures of, well, Berlin.” - Hiroshi Motomura
If I wanted to move from my beloved New York City to someplace better, I would find myself on a one-way flight to Berlin. There, I said it. As a New Yorker, I like to compare big cities with my own, especially if I get to conclude that, “Yes, _____ is great but at the end of the day, there’s nothing like New York.” And I’ll sit there at an airy Paris café/packed biergarten in Munich/cool restaurant in St. Petersburg, staring glassy-eyed as I reminisce about my time in the Big Apple. But on our visit to Berlin, New York tasted almost bland by comparison, and for the first time since leaving home, I felt at home again.
Unlike many conventional travelers who research and book vacations months in advance (at work) and have the time to do the research for their destinations (at work), we have been planning as we go. But there are more than a few destinations on our loose itinerary we’ve been meaning to go to, and Berlin was one such city. Being uneducated and too lazy to look it up, I honestly didn’t know what to expect.
Berlin is not a wealthy city by any means, and it is understandable based on the fact that it was the victim of a tug-of-war between the Soviets and the other Allied Powers for 45 years after being badly demolished by the end of World War II. Because of this, the city is a good mix of all kinds of people, which lends to the unique cultural atmosphere.
What is there to do in Berlin? Well, just about anything your little heart desires. Using our rental apartment in trendy Kreuzburg (what Williamsburg in Brooklyn wishes it could be) as our base, we spent a week playing, eating (Vietnamese food), getting a haircut in a Japanese salon and educating ourselves in museums (the more educational part coming up in the next post).
When my family first came to America, we landed (by plane, not boat) in Falls Church, VA with the rest of the East Coast Vietnamese population. I don’t remember much of my time in Virginia but I have pictures of us in front of all of the most notable monuments. I do recall being surrounded by Vietnamese people and some Christian Caucasians who tried desperately to save our souls. I played one of the three wise men in the Nativity play. Good times, good times.
One of my favorite Vietnamese meals is bò 7 món, translated as seven courses of beef for non-Vietnamese speakers or “BEEEEEEEEEEF!!!” for beef lovers.