Here we go.
I flew out of JFK today at 7:10 pm and landed in TXL (Tegel International) around 9:30 am. Instead of braving a public transportation system I’ve never seen before, I decided to take the easy way out and hired a taxi for 20 euros; about 35 dollars, and worth every cent. I arrived at the IES Abroad Center, Johannesstrasse 6 in the Mitte district, without incident and met all my colleagues, went on a short tour of the facilities, and then met my host family. Andreas and Evelyn are 47 and 50, respectively, and are incredibly hospitable, friendly, accommodating, and care-free. They give me plenty of space and are always eager to help me or to just talk. My room is pretty awesome as well: right after the door into the apartment, so I don’t bother anyone if I come in late, a big futon to sleep on, a big desk to work at, windows with plenty of fresh air, a stereo to play music, lots of closet space, and even an old Hohner guitar and Marshall amp to play if I’d like.
We took a short walking tour of the area around the IES center’s surroundings, including four major museums (one of which houses Nefertiti), Chancellor Angela Merkel’s apartment, and the “Artists’ Quarter”: a colony of artist squatters who moved into an old department store that was owned by a Jewish family before WWII. Their sculpture garden is open to the public (with a suggested donation of 1 euro) and is full of beautiful and, as modern art often is, edgy artwork. Apparently the bank that owns the building wants to demolish it to build shops on the plot, which has drawn a pretty substantial public outcry and campaign to help the artists stay.
At 9 pm I met up with some friends and we went to a small cafe near Eberswalderstrasse. I was starving, so I got the “Pasta des Tages” which was some kind of spaghetti carbonara, along with a Berliner Weisse Rot that my new friend Megan suggested. Raspberry-flavored Pilsner isn’t so great.
Getting home was fine, too – I expected to get lost at every turn and then mugged repeatedly, but I had no trouble negotiating the Tram. I ended up passing the street I was supposed to go down to get to my S-bahn station, but I just walked around the Artists’ quarter to get to it. The place was hopping: people all over the sidewalks, different music from every window and club, and all without the prostitutes (it’s legal but regulated – they have a union, by the way) that were so prolific further up Freiderichstrasse.
And so, after 33 hours (give or take, I don’t know any more), I’m going to sleep.
Oh, and by the way: efficient public transportation rules.