The 33rd thing I love about living in Berlin…

Finding an open front row seat on the top level of the double-decker city buses.

Even if I’m just taking a by-now routine bus trip in our own neighborhood, I never fail to feel as though I’m on some special tour of Berlin when I’m able to snag one of the four coveted seats that make up the front row upstairs.

In the early mornings and late afternoons, these popular seats are inevitably occupied by school kids on their way to or fro and I’ll choose a seat a bit farther back than usual because school kids? They can get loud. And rowdy. Usually both, even before school.

But oh, the joy I feel when I ascend the last loop of the tight spiral staircase and see that glorious row completely empty, any seat mine for the choosing. Aisle seat on the right side? Why yes, thank you, I will!


The 32nd thing I love about living in Berlin…

The little circles of dirt dotting the otherwise gravel-filled side yard along the edge of our apartment building that give residents a welcome place to grow things.

The planters outside our first apartment here were weed-filled and overgrown, but the ones outside our new apartment have been carefully planted by…someone. (A neighbor we’ve yet to meet? The local Montessori students who seem spend a lot of time out in the gravelly space for unknown reasons?)

Regardless of who planted and now maintains these mini-gardens, we are delighted by these blooms each and every time they catch our eye.

The 31st thing I love about living in Berlin…

The little bikes without pedals toddlers (and older kids, too) use for both transportation and play.

These types of bikes are ubiquitous around here (elsewhere in Europe as well), giving little ones a more active option than being pushed in a stroller when it’s time to go on errands. For families without a car (and that’s many families here in this paradise of public transportation), this option for independent mobility seems quite popular.

As you may be able to see in the photo, these bikes are low enough that teeny feet can easily reach the ground, creating a way to walk/roll/ride while seated. Once the rider is able to balance a bit on two wheels, she’ll often pull her feet up off the ground after she’s built up enough speed and temporarily enjoy the same thrill of freedom she’ll someday experience on a more traditional bike, at least until her junior version slows and it’s time to put feet to street once again.

These bikes come in larger sizes, too, allowing for the perfect fit from toddler to preschooler, the age at which most of the young ones I’ve observed seem to make the leap to pedals without ever needing training wheels. Believe me when I say the wee little bikes with pedals are just as adorable as these without. Pictures soon, I promise…

The 30th thing I love about living in Berlin…

Acquiring a German TV!

I know, I know, you’re probably a bit befuddled because wasn’t the ninth thing I loved about living in Berlin not having a TV? It was, but then I found out we could easily rent a TV with cable service from the apartment management here at very low cost and with no contract, which pretty much changed our minds on acquiring one in about three seconds.

We haven’t spent much time watching so far but when we do flip on our glowing box o’ stories, we diligently practice our language skills with the help of German-dubbed episodes of Family Guy, Castle and Psych (pictured here), among other American shows. We’ve also had fun trying to figure out the plotlines of various German-produced dramas and comedies and even cheered along with a German football match. (I’d tell you who won but I’m not even sure who was playing.)

To be honest, the only disappointing thing about our new TV is that we can’t figure out how to turn on German sub-titles (or Untertiteln, as I’ve learned they’re called) so we can read all the unfamiliar words as they’re spoken. We’ve gotten two competing explanations for our failed quest: that either German television isn’t widely sub-titled or the remote control we were given won’t allow us to access that setting on our TV.

We did find German sub-titles once, but that was on a French film being played in its original language, making the sub-titles necessary for the German audience. Other than that one moment of hope, we’ve been out of luck on the Untertitlen front.

Still, there’s a certain joy in discovering that The Simpsons is just as much fun im Deutsch as it is in English.

The 29th thing I love about living in Berlin…

The adorable street signs warning drivers to watch out for kids in school zones.

Each elementary school seems to have its own design and I spotted a new one while out on a walk this morning. The sun was in a not-so-perfect spot when I took this photo so you might not be able to read the sign, but it says, “Achtung Schulkinder!” (Loosely translated, “Watch out for the little schoolkids, yo!”)

The 28th thing I love about living in Berlin…

 German capitalization rules, or Großschreibung.

I know I’ve only just started my formal German education but I can’t believe that after all the months I’ve spent in Switzerland and other Deutsch sprechend countries, I never noticed that all nouns are capitalized. It turns out that German is the only language with this particular convention, so what I guess I just took for some quirky European style of writing is actually proper German grammar.

Okay,  so maybe it took me an embarrassingly long time to pick up on this but at least now I know that here in Berlin, I’m not a woman, I’m eine Frau. When I’m searching for cherries in the grocery store, I’m actually on the hunt for die Kirschen im Supermarkt. And when I settle in with a good book at night, what I’m really reading is ein gutes Buch.

As silly as I feel about not knowing this rule before, it certainly does explain a lot…

The 27th thing I love about living in Berlin…

Walking until I get lost and then finding my way back home again. This has become one of my favorite ways to “plan” my daily walk through our neighborhood, though of course the more I explore, the harder it’s getting to lose my way on purpose.

I walked for more than an hour this morning and managed to get myself thoroughly off-track by choosing a street I’d never walked down before, making this morning’s jaunt one of my most delightful yet. Among today’s discoveries were a taxidermy shop, two studios where I may be able to take ballet classes, an Irish pub, a makeshift street corner motorcycle washing station, a Starbucks, three football matches and this garden of homemade sunflowers gracing the top-floor windows of a nearby elementary school.