Cape Town

by mo on 11/30/2013

Untitled

My final semester of undergrad, I did a thesis project about music taste and personality perception online (how people judge each other based on their music taste). My advisor, Karrie, encouraged me to write a paper about my study. The paper was accepted to INTERACT 2013, in Cape Town this year, so I traveled there to present it at the beginning of September. I’d never considered stepping foot in Africa before this, but Cape Town was incredible, easily one of the top places I’ve been.

GETTING THERE

Cape Town is far. From San Francisco, you fly to London, and then you have to fly the same distance AGAIN, down. 33 hours there, and you’re already jet lagged for half of that. Heathrow spa in the middle of that: highly recommended. I hired a Rikki’s to/from Cape Town airport because you can book ahead of time, online. v #future.

First thing I did upon arrival was grab a map from the front desk and ask which direction to run, because there were only a couple hours of sunlight left. I explored Green Point (where the old, now-empty, World Cup stadium is), and the Promenade along the water west down to Sea Point, which was full of joggers, dogs, and an outdoor gym. The seas were RIDICULOUSLY rough though that day, crashing over the 20-ft walls. First thought: explorers back in the day who would attempting to sail around the tip of Africa in these insane, shark-infested waters? Tooootally cray.

THE CONFERENCE

The next two days consumed by the conference. I’d never been to an Human Computer Interaction Conference before, and HCI was my focus as an undergrad it was interesting to meet a bunch of people who did wayyy more with it than I have yet. There was a panel by people doing UX work at African companies, explaining how hard it was to get their work taken seriously without a precedent/history of UX or fierce competition or innovation, plus a respect-your-elders culture. The local perspective was, “…here we’re kind of cool with the status quo. Whereas in the west, everything is about innovation and competition at any cost, and they worship youth rather than wisdom.”

Nobody was tweeting at this conference (??!?), so I attempted IRL to befriend the youngest, most english-speaking crew I could find, the student volunteers (locals working on masters/PhDs at University of Cape Town). The fancy boozy conference night events were at the Aquarium and Clock Tower in V&A Waterfront, which is the touristy area (think Union Square/Fisherman’s Wharf) of Cape Town.

One girl I was hanging out with complained to me that when she spent time in the US, people treated her like she was retarded and crazy, because she’s white and has the South African accent of course, which we apparently cannot handle. So proud of my country, you guys.

CHILLIN

By this point though, I was sick of seeing conference rooms and fancy dinner parties, and needed more Cape Town. I met up with a friend-of-friend, Kmo, who used to live in SF and now works at Grassroot Soccer, working in the townships of Cape Town (the poorer, undeveloped areas). She took me to lunch downtown, at a market that was very Ferry-Building like (e.g. kinda foodie), and a hipster coffee joint. She also provided me with a social life for Friday night, inviting me over to party with the new batch of interns (mostly other Americans). They were all super fun and chill and had a good recent-expat perspective on the city. There was a sort of thesis running around the group that Cape Town is kinda similar to SF in many of its best ways (geography, chill vibe, foodies and hipsters, appreciation of design, proximity to winelands), which I could kinda see. At the end of the night, we went clubbing somewhere on Long Street (the nightlife area), which was divey, super dancey, and had surprisingly good music. By the end of this night I was pretty much ready to go take a gap year with these kids.

TABLE MOUNTAIN

Untitled

Cape Town is nestled between Table Mountain and the ocean, so it’s the dominant geographic feature visible anywhere in the city. There’s a cable car going up the mountain, but hiking up -> cable car down seemed like more fun. I hired a guide, Riaan, because he is literally the best thing in Cape Town according to Tripadvisor. When When booking a hike, Riaan asks you: 1. On a scale of 1-10, what is your fitness level? 2. How are you with heights? It became apparent very quickly why he asks these.

Our hike group was 4 of us plus Riaan — a honeymooning couple from LA, and a guy from St. Louis whose friend had recommended this particular hike. We took the India Venster route (one of the steeper ones with awesome views), which goes right below the cable car line.

Untitled

Riaan climbs this mountain pretty much daily, so he’s super knowledgeable about its history as well as every single plant on the way up. He informed us we had apparently hit the mountain on the first day of spring, because, “This is the first time I’m seeing ticks on the grass!” #yay

Untitled

The route starts off pretty tame as a series of steps and then becomes more vertical. After the first hour, you have to start using your hands to get up, which at least makes you feel like you are actually *climbing* the mountain. Lots of scrambling where Riaan would pause to explain how to do that section, e.g. “put your left foot on this rock and then shift your weight over here while reaching for this rock..” etc. The 2 dudes discovered they were afraid of heights, the 2 ladies discovered we aren’t. Guy from St. Louis was busy clinging to rocks whilst composing the angry email in his head to his friend who had suggested the hike.

Untitled

This section (below) had metal hand-holds built into the rock and chains, because apparently 6+ people died falling from this spot in a single year (Riaan helpfully didn’t give us this statistic until after we had not-died on it). We asked if anyone had ever cried at this point. Riaan said yes, an English rugby player.

Untitled

The trail then curves around the mountain to the west and south sides of the mountain, overlooking Camps Bay, (resort-y area, where honeymooners were staying). The west side was pretty terrifying — slightly downhill with extreme drop-offs. The south side was really lush, quiet, full of greenery and hummingbirds buzzing about. So serene.

Untitled

Camps Bay view.

Untitled

Making it to the top feels a bit weird because suddenly there is no more mountain above you, only sky <3

Untitled

Best photo spot on the mountain. You can lie on your stomach and poke your head off the edge to look down.

Untitled

Me n Riaan.

Untitled

World Cup stadium, very visible, as well as downtown Cape Town. I was staying somewhere amongst the tall buildings.

Untitled

And then you just take the cable car down like all the other tourists.

Untitled

Lions Head view from cable car.

OTHER STUFF TO DO

Other than the stuff I mentioned earlier (Table Mountain hike, Long Street, V&A Waterfront), definitely check out:
- a tour of Bo-Kaap (pictured at the bottom, the Malay quarter),
- University of Cape Town
- Kirstenbosch gardens (reeeally big botanical gardens on the side ofthe mountain).

I didn’t get to check out the winelands, go to Cape Point and see penguins, go on a safari outside the city, or hike any of the other hills/mountains around, but I hear those are things to hit up for next time. I also missed the hipstery area (called Observatory). Foursquare list version.

CULTURE SHOCK

I was only in Cape Town for 4 days, so this is first impressions stuff, but I was really shocked that people were SO FRIENDLY everywhere I went. Friendliness on a level I have never experienced before. Everyone seemed to be smiling and laughing all the time. You know how in America when you buy something at a convenience store or have to ask for directions or something, whoever is dealing with you seems vaguely annoyed and irritated simply that you exist? And that they have to talk to you? Well it was the opposite of that. I walked into a convenience store to buy some water, the guy forgot to give me change, we started giggling about it and he was like, “Thank you so much new friend, I guess I must be tired tonight!! :D”

Another instance of this was when I was taking a cab to that party, and me and the cab driver were listening to the dispatch guy frustratedly shout out driving directions to the like 40 different drivers at once. My driver was laughing SO HARD at this guy for seemingly no reason. My first reaction was thinking, “man this is kinda annoying,” and I would’ve totally tuned it out, except that my cab driver was so enthralled I started listening too, and started to find it hilarious and started recording it:

Another side to this was that people seemed to have no qualms about going to other people to ask for help. I didn’t tend to carry my phone around (and google maps was really slow there anyway… internet/cell speed left something to be desired), so I would ask people on the street for directions a lot. Usually, they didn’t know what I was asking about, but they would just walk up to someone else and unashamedly ask them for help, and they wouldn’t walk away or say “I’m busy, get lost”. . . and then you’d have TWO people helping you. No one was mad, no one seemed to be in a hurry, they seemed to actually be enjoying helping. It was bizarre.

This trip was the first evidence I’ve really found that being friendly to others can *actually* make the world a happier place (definitely thought this was bullshit before). Everyone’s happy really rubbed off on me, I was in an incredibly good mood for like a week after this trip and couldn’t stop wanting to talk to people and smile, either. Scary, I know.

SAFETY

So before traveling to Cape Town as a solo female, and researching safety, I got answers ranging from: “Don’t worry, it’s just as safe as any European city,” to, “You WILL be raped and murdered” and, of course, “Benedict Cumberbatch was kidnapped there.” This didn’t really help. And unfortunately, after spending 4 days there, I’m still completely confused about how safe it is. Here were my observations though:

- I felt safe walking around by myself in the main part of the city, safer than San Francisco. It’s clean, well lit, populated, and there’s safety officers everywhere. (People are also super well-dressed, which I think is partly where the “Europe-y feel” thing comes from.)
- I saw lots of other white girls walking around by themselves at all times of day and night.
- It’s not like San Francisco where you can just wander into the Tenderloin. There is much more geographic distance separating the different areas.
- People were constantly trying to protect me/help make sure I was safe. I couldn’t walk more than a block by myself without someone offering to call me a taxi.
- Kids would ask you for money, and I would get catcalled a lot, but pretty much no one else interacts with you on the street
- One of the locals insisted on driving me rather than letting me walk even with other men, citing, “You are more likely to get raped in this country than learn to read.”
- Locals would say send-off greetings like, “walk safe!”
- One Aussie reported being super freaked out because a guy asked him for money. . .
- Re: frightening statistics, an internet friend told me “Cape Town is to Johannesburg as Marin is to Oakland”.

The other Americans there also didn’t really know whether it was safe or not, even after spending significantly more time there. Most of them just said, “Yeah, we have no idea, but we normally just take cabs at night just in case…? Cuz we can afford it?” So I suppose, go with that. I dunno?? Don’t die. I would definitely feel fine about going back by myself, and would love to!

Untitled

21 Comments

Prague blague

by mo on 08/19/2013

Untitled
After a few days in Berlin, we hopped on a train and slowly made our way through the German countryside towards Prague. Likely the prettiest train ride I’ve ever been on.

We arrived in Prague around 10 PM on a Tuesday and noticed two things immediately:
1. Prague is full of 17 year old Europeans partying in the streets
2. Czech words are not easy to guesstimate, unlike German ones (especially easy if you already know some Swedish). The first and possibly only Czech word I learned was výstup, which means “exit”. Helpful for subways.

We dropped off our stuff at our AirBnB and went hunting for food and a pub. There were about 100 pubs in a 10-minute radius of our apartment, which was by the Andel station in Prague 5, just west of the river. This neighborhood was cheap to stay in because it’s outside of Old Town. Andel is clean and ultra-gentrified — nice cafes, H&M, a mall, a Google office, a KFC, and a bazillion pubs and older architecture as well. It turned out to be a good place to stay though, because Andel is a major station, so getting anywhere was very easy, and getting into Old Town was just 2 stops (also walkable in under 30 mins).

After dropping off our luggage, we went to find some goulash and dumplings and drunk Czech people in pubs smoking a shit-ton of cigarettes (this was probably the smokiest city I’ve ever visited) and then went to bed. A large meal for two with drinks cost $12, and beer was literally $2.

UntitledOld Town Square – Staroměstské náměstí

UntitledAstronomical Clock

Normally, doing touristy things annoys me, however there is a ton of historical stuff in Old Town Prague that you just gotta see. We did a 3 hour walking tour that taught us the basics of Prague’s bloody history (multiple defenestrations), the astronomical clock, various churches, the Jewish Quarter, and the critically important fact that the inventor of the soft contact lens was Czech. The other tourists though were rather insufferable, especially this guy jesus christ.

Untitled
Next we walked across the river to Kampa Island (made of trash! but nice!) and saw these creepy baby sculptures by David Černý who is this artist with sculptures all over the city, like these moving statues peeing into a fountain that is the Czech Republic, and more creepy babies climbing up the giant TV tower, etc. He also had a starring role in the No Reservations Prague episode, hanging out with Anthony Bourdain eating things and being weird, so clearly he is, in fact, culturally relevant.

Untitledsomething about capitalism…

Also on Kampa Island was the Lennon Wall, which is BYOSpraycan.

Untitled

We hiked up Petrin Hill and went up the tower (like a mini eiffel tower) with great views of the city.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

We also visited the Mirror Hall up there and a Rose Garden before walking back down the hill and finding kind of mediocre Vietnamese food (Tony had promised there’s good Pho in this town, but I don’t think we went to the right spot).

Untitled

Untitled

We went to a pub called U Sudu that was like a cave/labyrinth inside and played some foosball and the best game of pinball of my life, before being driven out by the shrieks of Europarty bros at the next table. We walked up to a 7-story bar/club, Karlovy Lázně, that is oft-recommended on tripadvisor etc., but it looked even more Europarty bro-y and we just couldn’t. We ran immediately in the other direction, to a nearby bar called Hemingway’s which is probably one of the best cocktail bars I’ve been to in the entire world. (To be fair, there were some teen Brazilian partiers there too, but they were fairly un-obnoxious on a scale from 1 to New-York-Is-In-Latin-America guy).

Unlike Berlin, Prague was FULL of foursquare activity, so pub-going decisions were easy to make and fairly accurate. Look for places that have at least some tips written in Czech, as well as english-speakers claiming a place is non-touristy. Here’s my Prauge Foursquare list btw.

UntitledStatuing on the way down from Petrin Hill

Day 2 the boyfriend was kinda sick so I entertained myself by shopping at Tesco until afternoon, and the evening we did venture out to go see some young Mozart @ the Estates Theater where he used to play shows.

Untitled

Untitled

Then we pubbed it up again at Lokal, which was probably the best place we ate the whole trip?? But annoyed our waiter by eventually stopping drinking beer. (They top you off like waitresses with coffee refills in a diner, or the bottomless mimosa lady at any brunch establishment, etc.)

Untitled

The next day, feeling healthier & more energetic, we did something we had wanted to do since day 1: ride in a balloon over the Charles River. We’d seen a balloon tethered to the side of the river on day 1, but the balloon was completely generic and white and had no advertising (website, phone #, brand name, etc.) on it, so the only way to figure out what the deal was was to actually walk up to it and ask the dude there (sign #1 we aren’t in Kansas anymore: total lack of marketing). The dude at the bottom told us the price (like $45ish each) and was like, “you want to go up??” and we were like, “yes??!?” He strapped us in, and told us just this before starting to reel us out: “When you up there, sometimes it sways side to side because it windy today, but is okay, it’s normal. And if you have problem, here is the radio button and we talk.” Sign number 2 we’re not in the US, no waiver to sign, so I suppose if we’d died he would have just run away?

While approaching the balloon, we saw one guy riding in it and so we asked, “Wait, can we both go up together?” and balloon man was like, “yes yes!! he is just too heavy, he weighs 130 kilos.” Way to proactively share someone else’s weight info, dude.

And the last interesting thing with balloon man was that he asked us where we were from, and we said San Francisco. “You Americans, always say your city. ‘I’m from Chicago, IL’ or ‘I’m from San Francisco,’ never ‘I’m from the USA’ what is this?” Good point. But why would we want to be associated with any of those people???

I was too scared of dropping my phone to take any pics, but here’ some other people in the balloon:

Untitled

This was easily the best view of the city, since first of all being right by the river it was much more central / in the action than Petrin Tower. Second of all, since the wind is blowing you around, and Prague has some hills, you would get different angles and perspectives on the city as you swayed back and forth. Third of all, if you do the balloon, don’t wear flip flops.

Untitled

On the way back down after the balloon we had to advise a lot of other passers-by who were curious about our balloon experience (how long was it? how much did it cost? how scary is it?? etc.) due to the lack of sufficient advertisement, before heading over to check out Prague Castle, which was friggin enormous, even from a distance:

Untitled

Also, we found a creepy number of swans, still by the river.


Untitled

Our final night I insisted on getting out of Old Town so we went to the neighborhood called Žižkov, which was supposed to be sketchier and have better nightlife. It was one of the least sketchy places I’ve ever been, and we ate in an upscale French/middle eastern restaurant so we might have been Žižkoving wrong, but we did find the TV tower (with more Cerny babies crawling up it) and this creepy-ass thing next to it:

We also found a dog in this pub:

Untitled

And then went to pretty much the only club we could find, Matrix Club, which had pretty decent DnB (with a female DJ on the main stage, omg), and people were having fun, but there were like, 50 people there total, at a venue that could have easily held 500. We danced for a while and came to the sad conclusion that perhaps people are too busy consuming beer to even go clubbing here (the statistic is something like, a beer per Prague person, per day, every day, but this average includes babies and old people…) So eventually we gave up on the idea of dancing, went back to Old Town and resigned ourselves to eating fried cheese sandwiches because Anthony Bourdain can never lead you astray, especially with late-nite street food.

IN CONCLUSION

Pros: Prague is beautiful, shit’s ridic cheap, and especially compared to sprawling Berlin, logistics were very quick and easy. Also, fried cheese.

Cons: So so so touristy to the point where you feel you’re on a playground/in a theme park rather than in a city. We should’ve explored more outside of Old Town, cuz I hope there is more happening in this town besides party tourists bro-ing out.

18 Comments

Or like Berlin where they go another night

by mo on 07/27/2013

astronaut

Post-London, I took a week off to check out Berlin and Prague. It was my first time in both cities, highly anticipated for years based on everyone’s stunning reviews of these two cities. My boyfriend joined, as well as Cathrine & Thomas, aka #theswedish.

I was a bit disappointed that I did not immediately fall in love with Berlin — in fact, for the first two days or so, I kind of hated it. Let me explain.

THE COMPLAINTS

- Trash errywhere.

Many people I know told me I would love Berlin because it’s hip, artsy, cool, an up-and-coming tech hub, cheap, and has great parties. I didn’t really find any of this to be the case — yes, they have lots of awesome street art and graffiti everywhere, but a lot of it is also very ugly, and there is seriously trash and broken glass everywhere. SO. MUCH. We saw our tour guide blatantly litter on the street (he was born/raised in Berlin, and seemed to be a standup dude otherwise, so I can only assume this is normal behavior). It also took me a while to adjust to the wartorn aesthetic, (though I did eventually begin to like it).

Untitled

- Ugly != hip

We stayed in Kreuzberg near Kottbusser Tor station (all 4 of us in a tiny room together, not my best AirBnB moment). This neighborhood is allegedly filled with hipsters, but they must have been hiding under rocks, or inside the clubs we were not cool enough to get into? I didn’t really see anyone who looked cool. The fashion all over Berlin was also pretty abysmal, worst I’ve seen in Europe yet, also rampant fatness — same if not worse than London. (Yeah, okay, America in general is obvi superfat, but SF is, relative to these cities, an oasis of svelte).

- Cash only.

For a country with such a reputation for logistics, Berlin was fairly difficult/inefficient to navigate. Everything operates via cash (people literally laugh at you if you try to use credit card, even worse than in San Francisco), and many times you needed specifically *~*coins*~*, like for the train ticket machines (they were supposed to take bills as well, were often broken). Like, you are forced to carry around little pieces of metal in your pocket in order to pay for things. What year is this even!?

traintracks

- Kinda took forever to get anywhere

While the public transit situation was pretty good, the city is really sprawling so getting between things still often involves long walks and leaving for stuff 45 minutes in advance. Different clubs in the “same neighborhood” could be 20+ minutes apart. Not Berlin’s fault (or maybe it is, idk?), but Google Maps completely fails at Berlin transit — they don’t even put the U-Bahn in there, which is like, the main metro of the city (they do include the S-Bahn, the above-ground rail, for reasons unbeknownst to me). The app that saved our asses was FahrInfo.

- Seriously, where the fuck was the internet?

Even beyond lack of googleability, stuff had extremely little internet presence — it was truly impossible to know whether a club/store/restaurant/anything would be open or not other than by walking up to it and looking. I knew Twitter ain’t really a thing in Berlin, but the complete lack of yelp/foursquare was super annoying, especially there seems to be no local equivalent (Qype was the closest thing but still very little data). Like, where has the internet disappeared off to?? How do these alleged tech hub people survive? Internet connections everywhere also seemed pretty abysmal.

- Nightlife queueing bullshit, see below.

darknstormy

THE AWESOME

Despite my long list of complaints, some of the stuff we did/saw in Berlin was extremely awesome. Here were my faves.

1. Mauer Park

Feels like Dolores Park if there had been a war there that no one ever cleaned up from. Helped ease me into the ugly-yet-not-quite-so-ugly thing. Also, kids practicing their graffiti skillz.
Untitled
Untitled

2. Nazi Art Bunker – Sammlung Boros
There’s this 6-story former Nazi Bunker in the middle of the city that has been revamped into a modern art museum. You must sign up for a tour in order to visit it, which is a good thing because for most of these art pieces, a mini-lecture’s worth of context is definitely necessary (and fascinating). My faves were the room full of popcorn (a popcorn machine that had been popping for 10 months straight at this point), a creepy bedroom sculpture where you would crawl out the wall into the next room, and a tree branch being rotated around this room, dragging on the floor. The bunker itself was also a major part of the exhibit. Aside from having been a nazi bunker, it was also used to store fruit, and a BDSM sex club in the nineties. The inside was remodeled to give higher ceilings in some places and create interesting spaces, but many of the low ceilings were left intact, as well as the black paint on the walls from the sex-club days. Layers of disgusting history!

hashtag friend#friend on the Nazi bunker

3. Alternative Berlin Tour
We did this our second day and it was awesome. It focuses on street art/artists as well as some of the “hipper” neighborhoods (Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, etc.), and it definitely helped us digest our surroundings, and know some great stories about the neighborhood, my favorite being Osman Kalin’s trash house. Our guide was very nice, and had also stayed out until 6 AM the night before giving us the tour (at one of the clubs we couldn’t get into) so points for being a true Berliner.

Untitled

4. Middle eastern food
All of Europe really, but especially Berlin, embraces the kebab/falafel in a big and important way. Seriously, the west coast totally fails at this crucial cuisine. Also, Berlin staying up all night means you can get some schwarma whenever the fuck you feel like it, aka 5:30 AM. I think I had the best falafel of my life on this trip.

#theswedishPost-falafel moment with #theswedish

5. Beer gardens
The good news is that all the beer gardens that I’ve been to in the US trying to emulate the ones in Berlin, seem entirely accurate. I suppose there’s not too much to fuck up, if have tables & benches, beer and pretzels and sausages, you’re pretty much there. I didn’t think they really did any of these things much better than the US equivalents, but hey they were still nice. There was also a curious floating DJ setup at the one in Tiergarten:

Untitled

6. Holocaust Memorial
It’s right near the Brandenburg gate and other famous stuff that we didn’t really bother so much with, until our awesome local friend-of-friend, Gordon, took us there. Definitely going at night was a good call (thanks Gordon!) to feel the full creepy, overwhelming, chilling effect.

NIGHTLIFE

Berlin has a reputation for some of the craziest nightlife in the world, so I thought we would be all set. Clubs are open from Thursday night until Monday morning straight, you go out around 2 AM instead of going home then like sleepy San Francisco… however this is all completely useless if you cannot even get into a club.

Untitled#Kreuzberg street art… I think??

We arrived in Berlin on a Saturday morning. Dealing with a combo of sleep deprivation and jetlag amongst our party crew, an allnighter seemed a bit impossible, but it was Saturday night and we wanted to club SOMEWHERE. We grabbed dinner and barhopped in the evening, until sometime after 1, where we tried to go to a beachy club called Katerholzig (along the river, which apparently in Berlin is a beach) where the queue was about 500 people long and not moving. The bouncer seemed like dick, and while we did cut the line there was no way she was going to let us in anyway — bribery doesn’t work either FYI. I seriously couldn’t believe people were waiting in such a long line, to likely be rejected (many other people were getting rejected, not just us). We regrouped and headed over to Watergate, another club that was supposed to be more uhhh, democratic about entrance I suppose, which had a smaller queue but still looked like at least an hour of waiting and by now it was past 2 and we were tired and I didn’t want to deal with bouncers or whatever anymore. #fail

On our second night, which was a Sunday, we were determined to make this club thing happen. We researched which clubs would be open on a Sunday in Kreuzberg (a lot of them seemed to have cool day parties, but we were busy seeing the non-party aspects of the city during the day) and we settled upon 3 in our neighborhood to check out, that the internet promised had Sunday night parties. Using the internet, however, was clearly a crucial mistake, and NONE of the three were open. We took shelter in a gay bar nearby with pink fake fur on the walls and a scrolling LED sign (like at the dentist) declaring “naked sex parties on thursdays!!!”. The vibe felt more like it could almost break into a naked sex party at the drop of a hat, but we chatted with some other travelers and planned our next move. One guy said he noticed the Berghain line was not long (Berghain is probably the most famous of these exclusive clubs, very tough to get into) but we cabbed over, only to find that they wouldn’t let anyone inside who had not already been inside that weekend (i.e. had a hand stamp), even though they’d be open for another 12 hours at least. We gazed woefully up at the lights inside, hopped in another cab to RAW Tempel, an old rundown railway maintenance center now used for art/culture events.

Very poorly lit and graffitied over, RAW looked about the right amount of forlornness for a party we would want to attend. We followed the sound of the bass until we found the entrance. They let us in for a few Euros, no hassle — it was almost anticlimactic how easy it was to get in, actually. We bought some drinks and sat around on these steps near the dancefloor. The music was pretty good (not incredible but definitely good enough to warrant a night at this club), the dancefloor was comfortably crowded, and people were friendly. We met another Swede and a couple of Americans (including my first ever human being from Mississippi), hung out and danced. When the sun came up we walked home for about half an hour through Kreuzberg, grabbed some food on the way, and slowly went our separate ways.

Untitled

It had turned out to be a pretty awesome night in the end, though I did feel like we were partying with essentially all the other rejects from all the clubs in the city, since this was our 1 success out of 7 attempts at getting into a club. Very frustrating.

Untitled

IN SUMMARY

Other than the lack of internet/credit cards (I hope these things are on their way), the theme of my Berlin frustrations was essentially that it was difficult to navigate and really know what the fuck was going on quickly. However, this is probably a good thing overall and means that appreciating the city would come with familiarity and expertise, spending more time to figure out its quirks and secrets. We would have certainly had a much more difficult time without the guidance of experts like Gordon, Pete (who used to live here), Cathrine & Thomas (who had visited several times before).

While it’s by no means a beautiful city, I loved how some relics of former times are left standing, and repurposed into something new today (e.g. the sex club turned art museum nazi bunker, the train warehouse club, lots of other examples of this were around). It makes you feel like you are walking around in the midst of a lot of history, and not in the way of “hey that’s a really old church over there” (like many other European cities) but more in the way that everything that there are many layers to the city, and each doorway, alley, staircase you might use every day had a different role 10, 50, and 100+ years ago. I also sensed a sort of rebellious, anti-the-man spirit and general distrust of things/people that I really did like. And yeah, it is fairly cheap (aka our tour guide’s friends lived in a 4-person house for the total cost of a single room of a 2BR apartment in SF).

The queueing shit though, probably a dealbreaker for me. Way too scene. At least, until I’m a Berlin artist/tour guide myself, working under 10 hours a week and can afford to throw away a few hours standing in a club line, I guess.

29 Comments