I really wanted to pound out those Kenya diaries posts because I knew if I left it, I'd never finish them. But that means that for the last two months I haven't written about a single thing to do with my current life! I'm going to return to the retrospective point of view for one last time for Berlin.
We've been planning to leave Berlin since the beginning of December. I was able to get a permanent visa tied to my job, but Jed didn't. ed was able to stay until March 31 but once we committed psychologically to moving back to Canada, we felt there was no point to stay longer. Serendipity brought us a free apartment in Montreal for the month of March, so here we are, living in Mies van der Rohe's Canadian legacy.
January and February were depressing months, weather wise. I know they are like that everywhere but we felt it particularly keenly with the contrast between warmth and sunshine in Kenya, to darkness and rain and constant clouds in Berlin. Just in time for our departure, Berlin got sunny and warm and the birds came back to sing. It was spring.
It was perfect for us because we got a few beautiful days to remember the city by. Our last day, we took a long bike ride through the city to take one last look at all our old neighborhoods. I therefore present to you now:
BERLIN RETROSPECTIVE: OUR LIFE IN APARTMENTS
Any foreigner who has ever moved to Berlin will understand why we lived in 6 different places during the last year and half. Side note: it's not normal to have to submit 4 months of rent, a credit report, and a letter from your previous landlord (in German, of course) just to secure an apartment rental. Not normal.
Anyways, it's lucky for us that we did move so often, because we got to know most of Berlin pretty intimately and see lots of different sides of the city. Here is my tribute to our apartments of Berlin: from West to East.
Neukölln & Weserkiez
When we first got to Berlin, we spent 5 days of frenzied apartment searching online and by phone. In that time we managed to get invited to only 3 apartments. None of them went our way. But one of the girls who had shown her apartment to us asked around amongst her friends and we got a random text message from a boyfriend of a friend of the girl while contemplating our homelessness on a sunny Saturday morning. Lesson: stop frenzied searching and meet more people who can get you apartments through their friends.
Hermannplatz doesn't make a great first impression and I was dubious about living on Pannierstrasse at first, but we later discovered how lucky we were to live in the up-and-coming Weserkiez. We really fell in love with Neukölln in our 3 months there: the Croissanterie downstairs, Pizza Pezzi on the corner, long runs/bike rides next to the canal, fantastic coffee places and the discovery of what remains to be our favorite falafel place of all time: Sahara (sudanese falafel).
As the owner of the Neukölln apartment was returning in January, we had to find a new place. We were going to Canada for the holidays and weren't even sure how long we'd be in Berlin afterwards. We ended up find a 6 week sublet at the last minute (again) in the lovely Arndtstrasse, just off Bergmannstrasse in Kreuzberg. The apartment was great in many things: being on the 4th floor meant we got tonnes of morning light; there was a huge well equipped kitchen, and there was a tuned piano.
After starting my job in January, Jed got notice that he could be rehired at Nieto Sobejano. Feeling good about our prospects, we signed a contract for an entire year in an apartment on Beermannstrasse. Within one week we were regretting our decision. It took me an hour to bike to work; we could hear everything through the walls and there was a baby next door. We didn't see the sunlight in our 2nd floor apartment (hinterhaus, of course) and the only place to get a coffee nearby was McDonalds. We were still near the canal, though, which was great.
The apartment looked really cool, but overall it was our least favorite. I always thought I wanted to sleep in a loft bed but it turns out they are hot and claustrophobic and make going to the bathroom a challenge in the middle of the night.
Waldemarstrasse - Marienkiez
At the end of April we were going to Hamburg for Jed to run the marathon. Right before we left, we moved into a month-long sublet on Waldemarstrasse, next to Lausitzerplatz in Kreuzberg. The apartment was nothing special but the location was amazing. I think we did the most stuff when we lived in this neighborhood - or at least it felt like we did. We started volunteering at the Princessinnengarten which was just down Oranienstrasse; we went to the outdoor cinema; we went to lots of cafes and restaurants after work... it was just so awesome living here.
Steinmetzstrasse - Schöneberg
We managed to find a 2 month sublet in the elusive Schöneberg district. You don't see many rentals there - it's a beautiful area and seems more expensive. The apartment owner was an opera singer and artist going to Switzerland for a few months. At least... I think it was Switzerland. Anyways. The apartment was beautiful and super sunny (to Jed's dismay, as it was full summer and he hates the heat!). The area around us took a bit of getting to know, but we came around pretty fast. For sure this was my favorite bike ride to work, I got to ride through the Tiergarten every day.
Oderberger Strasse - Prenzlauer Berg
Our last and longest apartment in Berlin: the sweet space on Oderberger. Couldn't ask for a better neighborhood: super accessible, tonnes of awesome cafes, restaurants, parks, and shops everywhere you look. Beautiful street that's always active... and a cozy apartment to top it off. Oh, I miss my home... I can't believe we're not there.