Ich Bin Ein… Berliner

I thought Paris was difficult… Until I got to Berlin. Berlin is ROUGH. It’s crumbling and grey and smells strange in many places. You can feel the blunt affects of war on this city, perhaps more than any other. Graffiti stains monuments and people don’t stop often to help you. It is an aggressive city, not unlike Bogota.

A few weeks after my trip, I sat next to a man in In-n-Out and we got to talking to about Berlin. He was enamored by the city and he called it a diamond in the rough… Nonetheless, it is rough.

However, (just like in Bogota), I witnessed some moments of pure and unforgettable beauty. Our first night in the city, we roamed around the streets at dusk and stumbled upon a man and his guitar on the steps of a church. For an hour we sat in awe as he played the most beautiful acoustic versions of Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd for a crowd of over 50 people.

On our last day, we took some pastries and sat in Tiergarten for a few hours to read and relax. I was lying in what felt like the only green space in of all of Berlin. As I stared up at the sky, surrounded by trees, I felt like time had stopped. Only the loose clumps of pollen were floating in slow motion above me like tiny fairies. I could hear children laughing in the distance and water from a creek rolling by; but in that moment I felt like the only person in all of Berlin. I felt over 500 years of complicated history seep into my soul. The triumphs and the falls, laughter and tears mingled with fear and despite everything, love.

Berlin is complicated, once the center of classical culture, now stained by the pain of war. But maybe the man at In-n-Out was right: it is a majestic diamond in the rough.

What I’ve come to learn from Berlin is that you either love it or you hate it. It’s not for the faint at heart. Berliners are unapologetic and fierce in their ways, perhaps that has to do with years of war or being at the center of Europe. That history is reflected in the vibe of the city, as it was so integrated into every day life for so long: the food  (a cross between classic German and the immigrant population), the local’s style (edgy, practical, and rugged). Drunk, shouting homeless men lived in cohesiveness with young 20-something girls sharing a photobooth outside a liquor store. Guys dressed with chunky dog collars and everyone waited in line at 3am to enter the nightclubs. Nothing is off limits there. Even Tiergarten seems like a place of escapism. Home to the beautiful landmarks of the city, people spend long, leisurely days in the park, eating, drinking, doing exercise, or protesting. In other corners of the sprawling park, you’ll find groups of nudist lounging next to their bikes getting some sun. (I told you, unapologetic).

Maybe I’ll go back. If I do, I’ll approach the city differently. I’ll embrace its crumbling architecture and dig deeper into the city.

Ich Bin Ein… Berliner

Amsterdam is Bliss.

Amsterdam was a blissful oasis tucked between the chaos of Paris and Berlin. It was a strange Utopia of calm after a slightly overwhelming weekend in Paris. 

We arrived by train at midmorning to Amsterdam Centraal and I instantly knew I was in my kind of city! 

There’s something about the Dutch that is so comforting! While touristy, there is also a deep sense of locality. And the locals are warm! They welcome you, chat with you, and make you feel like you’re a part of the city. The city and its locals are cool, style-conscious and cosmopolitan; yet nothing is ever pretentious or forced. A beautiful sight after years of LA-designed hipsterism.

Their style is chic and sophisticated; but utilitarian and practical, lending to their constantly active lifestyles. 

And although the city is in constant motion and people always seem to be doing something with a purpose, it’s calm. People don’t scream and honk at bikers who swerve in the way of cars… They just… Let them pass! Everyone is friendly, helpful, and eager to share info about their country or favorite cafe. Frankly, it was refreshing after living in the density of Bogotá. My inner energy really needed those 2 days of peace in Amsterdam.  

I found a local shop called Adam Local, in Jourdaan, which sells souvenirs made my local designers and artisans. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a beautiful trinkets and designs.

It’s easily my favorite city now, though our time was limited. We enjoyed the coffee shops, the cafes, ice cream along one of the canals, explored the red light district and often split up to walk on our own. 

Even if you’re planning on an extended stay in Paris, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Amsterdam! The train leaves from Gard du Nord regularly and it’s only 3 hours from Paris! 


Amsterdam is Bliss.