It’s Not All Drug Dealers And Graffiti You Know

By Jane Mountain | September 25, 2013

Since we’ve been in Berlin, our mornings have been almost indistinguishable. We wake up late and then sit in bed reading, working, and drinking various caffeinated beverages. When we first got here, these mornings would stretch until 10 o’clock or so. As the days have worn on, and the sun has made fewer and fewer appearances, we have been staying in bed a little longer each morning.

Yesterday, what with my marathon of money management and not feeling all that great, I stayed in bed practically all day.

Today, by noon, I had had enough. I HAD to get out.

So Stephen and I set off. To avoid too much directionless meandering, we’d chosen a couple of destinations.

First, Yellow Sunshine, a vegetarian and vegan fast-food burger joint. We both had visions of a Veggie Grill Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ dancing in our heads. Yellow Sunshine’s not-chicken burger wasn’t quite as delicious as the VG version, but their fries were the bomb.

Side note to Angelenos: Please go and eat at Veggie Grill a lot while we are away, because if it has closed down due to lack of business by the time we get back, you’re not our friends anymore.

After that we were headed to Five Elephant, as Stephen had heard good things about their coffee. The coffee was good, but the cake, which was being made in the open kitchen in the back, was amazing.

coffee at five elephant berlin

Unwashed El Salvadoran at Five Elephant.

Stephen decided that we should take a small detour through Volkspark Hesenheide. This led us through a couple of the less affluent neighbourhoods in Berlin.

On the way we saw one chilly dog.

Shivering dog on the streets of Berlin.

Shivering dog on the streets of Berlin.

Two film shoots, making Berlin the Los Angeles of Europe.

Berlin, the Los Angeles of Europe? Discuss.

Berlin, the Los Angeles of Europe? Discuss.

Three drug deals. Nope, I didn’t take any photos of those. (Apparently, the drug laws in Berlin are such that you can be really obvious about buying drugs on the street without any fear that someone will arrest you.)

And four thousand really ugly tags.

I’m all for street art and graffiti. In fact, I love it. But seriously folks, tagging is not art, it’s not cool, it’s not badass. It’s just vandalism. Most of the buildings in Berlin are covered in tags. Stephen says he likes it, but to me it makes everything look rundown and squalid, like the bad 80s movie version of New York.

I feel for any building owner who has to spend his days and money repainting his building, just to have it retagged again that night.

A thankless task, Berlin.

A thankless task, Berlin.

Like Los Angeles, it seems as though Berlin is one of those cities that is great for the people who live here, but not so great for the casual visitor. If you lived here, you would know how to avoid the areas you didn’t like, and you’d develop a blindness to the graffiti and general disrepair. If you lived here, there would always be some exciting event to attend, a great bar to go to, or an amazing meal to be had.

But Stephen and I, as we start to find our way around, end up in dirty, forgotten corners of the city as often as we end up somewhere really cool or beautiful.

I’m not complaining. I love to see all sides of a city, but I also don’t want you to think Berlin is ALL drug dealers and graffiti.

It’s also not all vegan restaurants and bike shops. Or yoga and cafes. Or opera and classical music.

Berlin has a bit of everything, but it might just take a little longer to find the places that make a city feel like home.  

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