Monday, February 9, 2009

Our Berlin Apartment, Part 2

My previous post showed several interior views of the apartment we are renting in Berlin; the landlord did not provide exterior views, and upon arrival it was pretty clear why. In this photo you can see the front door facing onto the street; the graffiti surrounding it reflects the generally run-down condition of the building’s exterior. This is not all that unusual for Berlin, which I’ll say more about in another post.

The graffiti and peeling paint contrast with the building’s former grandeur, hinted at by the half-caryatids that are part of the architectural detailing above the main door. Everyone in Berlin lives in these large apartment blocks, visible from the street, which surround vast garden spaces. From the street you would never know these gardens are here; they provide most of the green spaces to which urban dwellers have access. (Though Berlin, of course, has enormous forests and tracts of green space within the city, which I am only starting to learn about.)

The view from our apartment does not look directly onto the Kollwitzplatz, as I assumed when I wrote my last post. That is actually a view of the garden behind our apartment building (and shared by all the buildings on this block).

Here are N & E on our first evening in Berlin, enjoying a snack in the cozy kitchen. We have two bedrooms, one living/dining room, a small kitchen, and a small bathroom (which also contains the washing machine). The space is so much smaller than our house in Missouri, but it has everything we need; it’s refreshing to be reminded of how little one actually needs in terms of space and stuff (what, no blender? no juicer?). It makes me realize that all of our belongings back in Missouri could all just be given away to charity and we would, for the most part, be just fine with only the limited amount of stuff we brought with us for these 6 months. And of course, no car.

One of the coolest things about our location is that the Kollwitzplatz is the site of two weekly farmers' markets, Thursday evening and Saturday morning. In this photo you can see what the street looked like outside our building last Saturday. They have everything from fresh eggs, fruit and veggies to prepared food and crafts. On Thursday evening we can get Persian food from one of the stalls -- hooray!
Our apartment is on the 3rd floor (which would be considered the 4th floor in American parlance) and we walk up 76 steps to get here; there’s no elevator. Upon our arrival, I realized (to my horror) the chief drawback of a suitcase weighing 69 pounds…the poor guy who brought it up the three flights of stairs for us was the 18-year-old son of N’s cousin’s boyfriend. (We live in a ranch house, okay? That means one story, no stairs between the house and the car...)

If it weren’t for N’s cousin (A), her partner, and his son, this transition to life in Berlin would have been much harder. A has done so much for us – from cleaning our apartment in preparation for our arrival, providing towels and bed linens (which our landlord didn’t), picking us up at the airport with TWO cars – one for luggage, one for people – wow, I just don’t know what we would have done without them.

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