Travel Challenge 2017 trip 3: Berlin

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end” – Pico Iyer.

Berlin – wow, a couple of weeks later and I am still on a massive high and feel AMAZING and glowing all over. I knew this trip would be something special, as in its inception it was completely spontaneous and that impromptu vibe continued to guide me. I’m struggling to find the words to fully capture the experience.

Flying to another country after a day of work always seems a little indulgent and I must admit to feeling a little smug when people ask me my plans for the weekend and say ‘well i’m just popping to…… ‘. Plus I get to fly at my favourite time of the day, right before sunset, you know that magical time when the light illuminates everything just right as day is maturing into night and that metamorphosis is inviting and seductive. I remember that exact moment on the flight to Berlin, and as I sat thinking about everything and nothing a clear thought hit me that I was going to have a great time.

This trip wasn’t about seeing the sites or ticking off aims of my challenge, but about connecting with old friends, wandering the streets with no real plans and stopping when I found something interesting.  The result was accidental continued partying for three days whilst taking no photos and hardly sleeping. A friend recently commented she knew I was having a good time as my instagram was not being carefully curated while I was away.

When I think of my life ten years ago it feels like a dream or a film and even though those experiences happened they feel hazy with one or two significant memories which as a whole I feel quite disconnected from. The idea of meeting up with people from that era of my life was both exciting and daunting.  As with any kind of relationship will we have moved in different directions from each other? Will there be anything for us to talk about? Will we even like each other anymore or will it feel like we have never met before? You could ask all of these questions and overthink things and judge them before you get there, or you could just jump in have some beer and see what happens…. usually always good things. Friendships have a tendency of tuning in and out and I’m lucky that in the past few years I’ve reconnected with people and things have fallen into place and even been stronger as we have grown as people.

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting my friend Finn who is now working as a historian and private guide in Berlin and attending one of his tours on resistance. Finn and I knew each other back in University and we encouraged each other’s artistic sides and wrote and performed plays together and hosted a weekly radio show. Finn took us to the The German Resistance Memorial Centre and told us about numerous acts of resistance big and small in Germany during the World War II such as that of Georg Elser, Sophie School, Willi Graf, and Willem Arondeus. This didn’t feel like an ordinary tour, it was so rich with information and detail and delivered with the emotion and care that the subject deserved. I felt humbled to listen to these stories and know people will fight and defend the rights of others, especially relevant for the times we are living in now.  Afterwards Finn took us around the Schoeneberg neighbourhood where we got lunch and delicious ice cream at Jones Ice cream.

There are loads of places to party in Berlin, but Friedrichshain is where I ended up most of the time on this trip.  This area is super fun to go out in at night with plenty of clubs and bars to tempt you and during the day there are lots of nice cafes and markets, so it covers everything you want. On my first night I unexpectedly ended up in a club called Cassiopeia  it was one of those great nights where you go out for one drink then before you know it you’re catching up with old and new friends, downing shots of strange alcohol, taking photos with strangers and feeling the years melt away to the soundtrack of vintage Madonna. I ended up in a few other bars and clubs during my time in Berlin including Monster Ronson’s and Feuermelder but seriously just go in any place that looks interesting in Berlin take a good attitude and an open mind and you’re probably going to have a great night.

My favourite thing about travelling is meeting new and interesting people and connecting with their lives and experiences. On this challenge so far there has been one standout person who I have met in each place who has defined the trip in someway, whether that be  a really good conversation (Anna – Marrakesh) or just doing lots of fun activities together (Renalto – Hamburg). Without doubt in Berlin this person was my old buddy Tim, I have no idea when or where I last saw him, at a guess it was somewhere in the Midlands at least ten years ago! Originally we planned to go to a yoga class, which of course didn’t happen, but ended up going for drinks which stretched to hanging out for the whole weekend in a very comfortable, easy way where we walked and talked and caught up on the highs and lows of the past decade with Berlin as our backdrop.  Travelling is addictive to me for these moments, shared good times and connections with strangers, new and old friends and seeing different sides to people as well as places.

What surprised me about Berlin was how at ease I felt there, I’m sure in part that was due to being surrounded by people who I knew and were familiar in some way to me. Someone asked me if the point of this challenge was to research different places to move to, and no that was not a consideration at all initially, but after visiting Berlin who knows..

Next stop: Porto, Lisbon and Madrid.

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