The 57th thing I love about living in Berlin…


Slipsliding past the boundaries of my everydaynormal to do new (and sometimes scary) things.

There’s nothing like moving to a new country (especially a country where you don’t quite yet speak the language) to shake things up, and our move to Germany last summer has definitely given me a whole lot of shaking. But because I’m a writer and most of that writing is done in our cozy apartment in our quiet neighborhood, I can end up inside exploring plots and characters more than outside exploring the city. Seems rather a shame when I live in a city as dripping with potential new experiences as Berlin, right?

One way I’ve made a commitment to see more and do more and feel more is by deliberately adding in activities that are a bit more…scary. Not scaling-an-icy-mountain-face scary (I’m not that much of an adventurer yet!) but rather doing things that squeeze me out of my comfy solitude and challenge me out onto the edge of the slightly uncomfortable unknown.

Things like going out bar-hopping. No big surprise I’m sure, but I was not the world’s biggest partier in college. Irvine, CA was not (likely still is not) exactly a party town, and introverted-me rarely went out clubbing in LA with my roommates. I had fun, don’t get me wrong, but it was mostly English major-type fun with an occasional Toasted Almond from the Blue Beet in Newport Beach thrown in.

And then I graduated, got married a few months after that and moved to Wisconsin where I had our first baby a year and a half after that, so bar-hopping in my 20s? Yeah, didn’t really happen.

So when our (amazingly fun!) Berlin next-door neighbors R & A proposed working our way through a list of the city’s top ten (or is it 20?) cocktail bars R discovered online, I pushed aside my automatic I’m nowhere cool enough to go bar-hopping in Berlin instinct and instead said, Let’s get started already!

Which is how a week or so ago R & A & my love & I all ended up at the cocktail-lounge-in-an-art-gallery (or is that art-gallery-in-a-cocktail-lounge?) sitting next to that glowing green light in the picture above and sipping our first drinks of the evening. This wasn’t one of the places on The List but a place we’d serendipitously wandered into after the bar we’d originally intended to visit appeared closed (more on that in a moment).

Although I immediately felt neither fashionable nor sophisticated enough to settle myself into a seat in one of the many small gallery rooms, I pushed past those feelings and embraced the scary and guess what – I had so much fun! (As I hope you can tell by this picture of my love and me all-aglow in the fluorescent green of the art lamp.)


And the bar on The List we initially thought was closed? It turned out to be the teeniest bar I’ve ever seen, with a button at the door one must press to request admittance (a button we didn’t notice on our first visit). Once admitted—not a guarantee, since this place is operated like a Prohibition-era speakeasy and apparently reservations are standard, which we also didn’t know—we found ourselves standing in an already-crowded tiny room furnished with just one table and then a few chairs along a small bar.

If I’d thought I’d felt out of place at the art gallery, this was like being an uninvited visitor in secret foreign-foreign country hidden inside my usual foreign country. Every single one of my internal thoughts immediately whispered in unison: I do not belong here.

And so I honored my intention to embrace the things that scare me by choosing to turn that insecurity into an adventure. Together with my fellow explorers, I perused the cocktail menu (an intimidating list of drinks with unfamiliar names and no descriptions) and blindly ordered a Mary Pickford. I was rewarded with not only a drink I ended up adoring served in the loveliest vintage cocktail glass but also an evening that stretched way, way, way later than any of us expected as we eventually claimed chairs at the bar and drifted into conversation with the bar’s quirky owner and some of the equally-quirky regulars.

By the time we made our chilly way back to the subway in a stupidly happy haze (well, some of us hazier than others), I knew that if I hadn’t made a deliberate choice to revel in the scary, I would’ve missed out on what turned out to be one of most scintillating nights of my life.

And that’s a thought too scary for even me to embrace.


The 56th thing I love about living in Berlin…

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My new cable-knit hat, purchased at a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) in Dahlem, a neighborhood on the southwest edge of Berlin.


Sadly, this picture doesn’t show off the jaunty pom-pom on top or the braided ties hanging down from the ear flaps, but oh how I adore both those features, as well as the hat’s deep charcoal grey hue (high on my list of color favorites), soft and cozy black lining, and the way it keeps me toasty in even the fiercest winter winds.

Now it’s time to find the perfect pair of snuggly-warm gloves to go with it…