Things I’ve Seen From Our Balcony

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Armored car guards picking up a deposit from a nearby restaurant.

A wasp nest high up in a tree across the way.

A group of very loud, very official (possibly even Presidential?)-looking helicopters.

A large group of children playing a swimming-pool-free variation of Marco Polo in a nearby courtyard.

Workmen using our balcony as a staging area for repair work on a balcony a few floors above.

A very flattened blue-striped work glove, obviously run over multiple times.

Crows, or maybe ravens? I don’t know which but I would like to because sometimes they quite companionably hang out on our balcony railing and I feel it’s rather rude not to know their proper name. I’ll try to get a picture and then maybe you can help. Continue reading

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The 60th thing I love about living in Berlin…plus a bonus 61st!

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Seeing the sun again!

Apparently this has been the most sunlight-deficient winter in Germany in decades, and we’ve definitely noticed. The last few months, it hasn’t been uncommon to go weeks (yes, that’s weeks) with only a few hours of sunlight total.

We’re great fans of winter, though, and we’ve lived in some pretty overcast places before (Ithaca, anyone?) so of course we knew to expect nowhere near as many of those blindingly blueblueblue winter skies we’d gotten spoiled by the past five years in Florida.

Overall, it’s been a magical season of chilly days and Christmas Markets and fat fluffy snowflakes, plus some beautiful road and train trips all around Germany and even into France and Austria. This opportunity to bundle up and experience a northern winter again is definitely one of my favorite things about living in Berlin. (Let’s just go ahead and officially make that #61, shall we?)

Still, while gray may be one of my favorite colors, there’s a lot to be said for even just a bit of some other hue sprinkled into the climatological record.

Looks like all that darkness may already be a memory, though, as those weather-trend expert people are predicting an even sunnier spring than usual here in Berlin. With all the glorious gold-tinged light we’ve been basking in the past two days, it feels like Mother Nature’s spreading her arms wide to welcome us to spring with a great big sunshiny hug a few weeks early.

And for that, I’ll continue lifting my face to the sky along with millions of my German neighbors, adding in a little whispered Danke every time I do.

The 57th thing I love about living in Berlin…

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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.)

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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 55th thing I love about living in Berlin…

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Seeing the city in a new light.

Friends from Florida came to visit last week and one of them arrived by train at Berlin’s Hauptbanhof (main train station) early last Saturday morning. Right before the S-Bahn (local train) I was taking to meet him pulled into the main station, the sun peeked up over the horizon and dappled my mostly-empty train car with a fleece-soft golden light.

There’s a definite lack of horizon in our neighborhood due to all the stately apartment buildings, so this was the first true sunrise I’d seen since moving to Berlin last July. It was worth the wait.

Once I arrived at the Hauptbanhof, I flew up to the glass-walled top floor to revel in the glowing view a few minutes, then headed downstairs to meet our friend’s train. Though the sky grew increasingly gray as the day progressed, just the thought of its shiny beginning kept the glow alive inside me until night fell once again.