An Englishman abroad
Well, tomorrow we fly to Berlin. We have two days to race around the city looking at apartments. I can’t wait to get there.
It’s strange. I love travel and seeing places but not as a tourist. I much prefer to see somewhere when I’m there for a reason. My second visit to Berlin was a six-day filming trip for My DDR T-Shirt. It was six busy days of interviews (you can read a diary of the visit here). Almost exactly a year ago, I had a week touring Ireland, screening My DDR T-Shirt at various universities (Irish tour blogs can be found here). Both of these examples were a million times more fulfilling than various holidays I’ve had (and I’ve had some great holidays). I just prefer to experience somewhere as a non-tourist. Don’t ask me why because I’m not sure I want to think of the answer.
In many ways, this week’s visit is crucial. If we can nail our 2011 living arrangments first go, that would be great. It’s not the end of the world if we don’t. We have a handful of viewings (Wohnungsbesichtigungen?) and they’re all over the city. We’ll be going to Schöneberg, Charlottenburg, Tegel, Neukölln and Prenzlaurberg. See the map below (our viewings are in green).
We went on a lakeland walk yesterday and tried to draw up a tick list of all the things we need to look for. Living space, working space, proximity to the transport network, accommodation for guests, what kind of heating, internet connection, TV, cooking facilities, nightlife (as a pro and a con), shops in the locality, storage for stuff, storage for bikes, what kind of building, what kind of neighbours, what kind of landlord, what kind of deposit payment is required up front, what kind of protection can we ensure (as non-German speakers in Germany)…the more we talked, the more we listed. It’s not going to be easy. We may even need a spreadsheet, but it might look a little rude to boot up the laptop as we look around someone’s apartment.
If we have any spare time, we’re going to scope some areas. On the one full evening we have, we’re going to try a drink near to whichever apartments are our favourites. Just to get a feel for what the place is like after dark. (After dark? Blimey, sounds like I’m expecting vampires.)
Vampires aside, we’re doing everything we can to protect ourselves. I don’t expect Berlin to be free or full of unscrupulous people but there’s no way we can cover all sides. We are vulnerable. We have little option but to carefully trust some strangers (and occasionally call on German friends for advice). This is all part of the adventure/gamble/experiment.
All in all, there’s too much to learn in just two days. We won’t know just how much we don’t know until we make some decisions based on what we do know. Apologies, you may need to re-read the previous sentence more than once to get any sense out of it!
Here’s a few pictures of Berlin as we left it in March. These aren’t the kind of pictures you’ll find in a city guide. It was cold, damp and bleak. Still, we’re just looking forward to landing in a city that’s always been good to us. We’ve always had an almost uncannily settled feeling there – if that’s not a contradiction. We’ve just had a sense of being at home. I wonder if we’ll get the same feeling when home actually is in Berlin?
Anyway, fingers crossed for a good apartment hunt.