Nicolas Bouliane

Berlin at last! Posted on

Merely 16 days ago, my journey to Berlin began at the bus terminal at Bonaventure in Montreal. I have been in Berlin for little more than a week now, and what an adventure it has been!

I landed in the middle of the night on the 29th of April. At that time of the day, the street was deserted save for a few blue collars gathered around a table in front of the Kudamm 195, the only open restaurant.

Despite being in Europe for a week, my stomach still operated on eastern standard time, so made a stop at the 195. That was the first of many currywursts, a delicious Berlin specialty that is better enjoyed while standing awkwardly with the plate as far from you as possible.

The next day, I took care of the important things. With crude German and a lot of gesturing, I managed to get a SIM card for my phone and to open a bank account.

Grocery shopping in Europe was an adventure on its own. Everything I took for granted - familiar brands, familiar packaging, familiar store layout - was gone. Dollars per pound became euros per kilogram and bagged milk was nowhere to be found. We’re not in Kansas anymore! On the bright side, food is ridiculously cheap, especially the cheese and beer we’re so used to overpay for in Canada.

I spent the rest of the day walking down Kurfürstendamm, appropriately called the Champs-Élysées of Berlin, spotting grocery stores, breakfast restaurants and pharmacies. I also got to sit in a Tesla Model S at their Ku’damm store, and I sure enjoyed it!

On the evening of April 30th, I met with a bunch of Couchsurfers at the Martinique in Kreuzberg where I met all sorts of travellers from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Israel and more. As we were getting to know each other, the bar’s band started playing music. One of ours joined them on the piano, followed by a trumpeter and a guitarist. Together, they sang a few songs and had us support them with percussion. I will never be able to accurately describe how beautiful this moment was, but it was one of the best experiences of my life.

As the bar was getting quieter, some of us parted from the group to go clubbing. I returned to my apartment around 5AM, exhausted from the warmest “welcome to Berlin” one could hope for.

The next day was May Day, a national holiday in Germany. Every bar was filled to the brim with patrons and people were swarming into the streets. I met with the same group as the previous day at the White Trash Fast Food, where we were surprised by an unexpected burlesque show.

My train ride back home was unremarkable in every way, save for the drunk idiot who projectile vomited all over my pants. That was not my happiest moment in Berlin.

The following Sunday, I went to the Mauerpark flea market with a new friend to find a bicycle. I was able to get an sweet bike and a lock for 85 euros, but he did not find one he liked. I highly recommend anyone to take a stroll in one of Berlin’s many flea markets on a Sunday afternoon. It’s a nice place to find unique trinkets and great street food.

The next day was my first day of work, but I will save that for a separate article.

I am in love with Berlin. I could go on and on about the beauty of the city with its wide variety of shops, restaurants and people, but you would have to be there to truly experience it. It has the same attributes I love so much about Montreal combined with a rich history and stunning architecture. I will spare you the details for now, because this is not the last time you will hear about this city.