more exploring in Berlin

In the past few days I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with some new friends. They’re both language and computer geeks, and we’ve been playing lots of German board games, and played some “Rock Band” on the Wii. I’ve ditched my crappy hostel and I’m now staying with my friends, which has been much better.

I’ve also been seeing plenty of the town. I’m not really doing any in-depth touristy things, but mostly just continuing to get familiar with different areas of town. I’ve been trying to navigate through town without using my GPS, mostly paying attention to various landmarks. The street names are becoming a bit more familiar too.

Despite having a bike and enjoying riding through the town, I’ve also been trying to use public transit a bit. I used the bus for the first time today, although it’s usually not necessary because of the extensive U-bahn (subway) and S-bahn (suburban trains) networks. Today I used a bus to get to the Ostbahnhof (east train station), and from there I took the #3 S-bahn out to Köpenik to meet a friend.

It was someone I met previously at a CouchSurfing party, and somehow we ended up talking about birds briefly, so she invited me out to come chat with her grandfather who’s big into birding. Köpenik was quite nice. It’s a suburb not too far away, although not exactly the same sort of thing as suburbs in North America. It’s its own little section of town with walkable shops and whatnot, but also a good S-bahn connection to the city. It only took 20 minutes to get there from the Ostbahnhof, and it took about 15 minutes to get to the Ostbahnhof from the Mitte. I guess I might compare the location to New Westminster in comparison to Vancouver, since you can get to New West in 20 minutes from commercial drive, and commercial drive is about 15mins from downtown.

So I talked about birds and found out that there are a couple of birding clubs around town. I also described Vancouver and the surrounding areas, and the birds there. I had a little help from Elena with a couple of translations (I stumbled a bit when trying to explain canadian environmental regulations, etc), but I understood everything in her translations, so I hope that I’ll be able to produce such things myself soon.

I’ve got some tips now, on where to look for birds. Köpenik is near Berlin’s biggest lake too, so I’ll have to explore the area a bit more. Apparently there’s a nice forest nearby too, with lots of paths, and a nude swimming area at the lake.

Right now I’m on the train back to town, and then I’m going to Kreuzberg tonight to meet someone else who’ll show me around there. Kreuzberg is known as the left-wing area of town, with a big protest on May Day every year. It’s also supposed to have a lot of interesting restaurants, so perhaps the closest Vancouver comparison would be Commercial Drive, but it doesn’t quite match. I’m still just relying on other people’s descriptions of the areas, so I’ll have a better impression of the area after I look around personally tonight.

A friend of mine here suggested that it’d be a good place to live and the transportation is good, and some other people had already suggested it. In fact, Kreuzberg was the only section of Berlin that I already knew by name before I came here, so it’s been under consideration for a while. So far I’m still quite interested in Mitte (because it’s the middle and hence close to everything, although a bit more pricy), and Friedrichshain because of all the cool people and vegan restaurants (slightly cheaper than Mitte too). Lots of possibilities.

I’ll probably stay here until wednesday or thursday, and then head off to Copenhagen. It’s great fun here, and I’d love to stay the whole summer…there are a million other things I’d like to do to, but I don’t want to cut myself short on time in Sweden unfortunately.

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