Wrote this a few mornings ago, but it’s a suitable follow-up to yesterday’s neighborhood-inspired post. This one, now, is about why I love this city on an even broader and deeper level. Frankly, what Berlin means to me is impossible to articulate in a single blog post, but this place feels like it somehow both complements and reflects my soul; it shows me what’s been missing, and it also reflects back much of what I already love about who I am and how I experience the world. So without further ado… some Berlin thoughts!
I write this from a cafe along the Spree River. Idyllic. Sparrows twittering, the soft lapping of barges — and, of course, the occasional rumble of the S-Bahn or tram, growl of motorcycle, or blare of sirens. (This is a city, after all.)
I’m very grateful to be here.
My first stint abroad was at age 19. That didn’t go so well — I ended up with PTSD — but seeing the world had been a dream of mine since childhood. After hanging Stateside for a few years, I realized that I deserved more than a life governed by fear, and that included my fear of moving overseas again. So I quit my Ph.D. program, moved to Shanghai, and eventually on to here. Why Berlin? Truth be told, I just followed a bunch of “signs” that were pointing to this city. I admit I knew practically nothing about it at that time; it was a major leap of faith. But I saw nothing to lose by exploring that, and I can’t regret the choice; I love it here.
I like that I’m here for different reasons than most. My Berlin experience has been more pensive than partying, despite the world-famous reputation for techno binges of altered consciousness, but I’m okay with being an outlier. A precarious financial position has also gotten in the way of things like enrolling in German classes, or socializing — activities that would help me spread my roots further and connect on a deeper level with this city that I love. However, I’m still thankful for the experience I am able to have here. I love how inspired I feel in this city. I love that, as I walk down the street, the buildings tell stories. I love that sometimes I can SEE myself in those stories, and recognize the settings from old dreams — and I love that this makes the dreams come to life more vividly.
I love that this place is so diverse; there are people from everywhere in the world, and every district feels like a whole other world unto itself. At the same time, I love that Berlin is so connected to the rest of the world, so central, at Europe’s very heart. That I could find a bus, at any time of day, to take me anywhere. No plans on a Sunday night? I could stay at home and yoga, go to a cafe — or hop a bus to Poland. (And I HAVE! 😉) The world is open wide. This is such a beautiful feeling to have.
Another thing I love: Berlin makes healthy living so easy. I love that my diet here is better than probably ANY other point in my life, and that this is affordable to boot. Nourishing myself better physically, I’ve found, also inspired and empowered me to nourish myself in other ways. On a practical note, everything from sunblock to doctor appointments are also affordable. Vegetarian options abound. Grocery stores seem to have a bigger selection of herbal teas even than of beers (which, in Germany, says something!). Green spaces are everywhere. And everybody prizes fresh air; restaurants and cafes put out blankets and space heaters so that you can still enjoy being outdoors, even well into winter.
— which is a beautiful season here. In fact, any season looks beautiful on this city, and I love that too. It’s not just lovely in summer with all its lush parks and the low, gentle hum of sidewalk cafes; it also sparkles during the coldest, darkest time of year, warm with the aroma of candied nuts and the spice of Glühwein.
On the subject of things that sparkle, I love that Berlin has a river, too, where I’ve spent many grateful moments, from mornings like the one on which I’ve written this (when I decide to make a riverfront cafe my “office”), to evenings like that cold November night 3 years ago, when I stood on a bridge and cried out a major epiphany. And I love how Berlin is so ripe for epiphanies. For validating discoveries. These have helped me find more peace in myself and trust in my intuition. It’s a place where both memory and transparency are highly valued. The memory bit is a good match for me — my own happens to be eidetic, so maybe Berlin and I are kindred 😉 — and the transparency is liberating, because it seems to inspire everyone to live their full selves more openly.
Basically, Berlin seems to be a magnet for realness.
Here, amidst all this clear illumination of past and present, so much more comes into focus, and so much more makes sense. Berlin and I have a bond, a very old one, which goes much further back than my existence as Laura. I’m grateful that the city has chosen to have me “back,” to embrace me while I enjoy the best of it and draw inspiration for my art — a book which I hope will someday offer a suitable tribute and thanksgiving to this place that has had such an outsized influence on the story of my soul.
Berlin is a phoenix; its very spirit is transcendence. I love that this gives me hope for the whole world: Berlin makes me believe that we can see our mistakes, own them, choose a new direction — and emerge more loving and more beautiful than ever before.
People and places have a unique chemistry; places bring things out of us, reveal stuff we might not have noticed in ourselves elsewhere. Each place I’ve lived has brought me invaluable lessons and gifts. Berlin has done so much to ground me and to grow me. It has connected me with a calm that I hadn’t known in a very long time. And it has helped me learn (at least a little better) how to nourish myself. I’m still working on carving out my little place in the world, which can be a trying, stressful, and uncertain process for anybody, but I’m thankful to be able to be endeavoring that here. Berlin has a beautiful soul, and I hope to give back to it somehow, someday.
Where do you connect more deeply with your true self? What do you love about that place? If you are there, how can you maximize the way it nurtures your spirit? If you aren’t there, how might you be able to reconnect with what it brings you?