Berlin, they say, is the city that truly never sleeps – and that description, I’ve found out over the last two days, is perfectly apt.
I arrived at 8am on Monday morning, after 20-something hours flying through Sydney, Singapore and Helsinki, with absolutely no idea of where I was meant to go. I’d come to Berlin almost entirely just to see my friends Gen and Matt – my best friends from Amsterdam, where we’d spent the (European) summer together in 2013 – and I was meant to be staying at Gen’s apartment.
But many frantic messages later begging them to tell me the address and/or give me directions, I’d had no replies, even though Facebook messenger said they’d seen my desperate pleas. Was this all a cruel joke, I wondered? What would I do?
I decided upon a rough plan that involved getting a train into the main part of the city, finding a store that sold sim cards and sitting in a park with the data on until someone finally responded – or if nobody did by midday, searching for the closest hostel and just crashing there.
Despondent and exhausted, after an hour (!!) of waiting by the carousel for my rucksack to emerge, I plodded wearily out into the arrivals lounge where, for a moment, I suddenly thought I was dreaming….there, waiting at the door were Matt and Gen – who’d arrived at 8 o’clock (when my plane was scheduled to land) to surprise me at the airport.
I should add that after a copious amount of hugging and laughter I discovered that they’d been out till 4am the night before and had still made the effort to wake up early enough to pick me up. Needless to say, I was incredibly touched.
‘What are we doing today?’ I asked them. ‘That depends on how jet-lagged you are’, replied Matt. Foolishly, I denied any traces of it. What jet-lag? I regretted this declaration briefly later on that night. But at this point, I was pretty pumped. And so we picked up Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, and spent the afternoon exploring kooky stores and bookshops, eating kebabs, meeting Gen’s friends, and acquiring much needed items of clothing to survive the oncoming winter.
We finally ending up at Gen’s old hostel, The Sunflower, where two chefs – I think from Sweden although I may have the details wrong – come down every now and then to spend a few days in Berlin and just pop by to cook a mountain load of amazing food for their friends at the hostel. This time they’d cooked Indian food, and we fell upon it like vultures on the carcass of a wild deer. I can’t quite capture in words just how delicious the food was, but I felt like I was going to explode with happiness, so try to use that as a reference point for your imagination.
Alas, a big feed always leaves me craving sleep, and a bottle of red wine shared around the table made my lethargy even worse. Gen wasn’t faring much better, although Matt and Sam were handling it just fine. We’d already decided pre-dinner to go out that night and were thus committed, but in Berlin you don’t really go out before 1 – in fact, I’d been told that we really wanted to go out at around 4, but the U-bahn (or the S-bahn, I do tend to mix up my bahns) closes a little after 1am and we wanted to use it – so we had about 4 and a half hours of chilling.
Usually this would be fantastic – sitting around a table with friends, warm lighting, a big box of Kinder chocolate and some wine is a recipe for a lovely evening – but when you’re struggling to resist the sweet siren call of sleep, it does feel a bit like you’re just trying to tempt fate. I lasted about 3 hours, then spent the rest of the time napping intermittently with my head on the desk. Thank goodness we were in Berlin and not Sydney, where I’d get thrown out as soon as my head went down.
But an hour and a half later, I was awake, refreshed, and felt almost like a new person. Naps are amazing. And good for you – I read all about that in a peer reviewed scientific journal whose name I can’t remember off the top of my head but I’m sure you can google it if you doubt the veracity of that claim. Perfect timing. Everyone was there, and excited, and we set off merrily towards Trezor.
I’d visited Trezor the last time I’d been in Berlin too, but that time I’d been with two guys who really didn’t like the music and one guy who did but who didn’t really dance hard. This time I was with two out of my 3 favourite people to dance with in the entire world and 4 other friends who were also very much into the vibe. We got to Trezor at a little past 1am and danced almost non-stop until 7am.
The music was amazing – the downside of it all was that Gen, Sam, Jade and I were 4 of around 7 girls in the entire club, which was otherwise filled with men. And not just men, but, being a Monday night, mainly male tourists, the majority of whom were from England.
Our dancing was regularly interrupted by mostly English men grabbing us and trying to dance with us, then saying, very loudly and slowly “Hi, I am from England” assuming we couldn’t really speak English and expecting us to be impressed. “Hi, I am from England” is not a very good pick up line, especially as Jade is from England, Gen’s from New York, I’m from Australia and Sam, while Dutch, has a boyfriend and speaks perfectly fine English.
Unfortunately, no matter how many men we politely turned down, there seemed to be an endless stream of others willing to have a go. I usually think people who complain about how many people they have hitting on them are just trying to show off, but I’m pretty sure in this instance it was just a matter of us being the only women there, and it was incredibly frustrating. Lesson learned: Try to go out with the Berliners and avoid the tourists.
Despite that, we had such a fantastic night. We danced so hard that I’m pretty sure we sweated off about a quarter of our body weight, and at the end my toes had turned interesting shades of blue, red and purple. We slowly ambled out at 7, in a state of half delirium, and made our way back home, completely crashing as soon as we lay down.
All in all, I thought it was a pretty good effort for a first night.