Bikes, Beer, Boutiques, Blooms, Bakeries, Bands and Butts (of the cigarette kind)
There are many things that make Berlin stand out from most capital cities but I dare you to walk down a street here without seeing at least one the things I have listed above . I am going to break down for you the things that they hold dear here and hopefully provide you with a better understanding of Berlin life.
Bikes – Super cool fixies, clapped out old rust mobiles, elegant looking Gazelles and super technical machines with enough gears to get you to the moon and back there is no denying everyone has one and they ride them with pride. Berlin is a pleasure to cycle round (ignoring the couple of months when it is tourist season) it is relatively flat and with excellent bike lanes and parking facilities there really is no better way to get round the city. They even hook up their kids and dogs in bicycle trailers and hit the streets, it’s green, self sufficient, fun, great exercise and after the initial cost free which I think sums up the German lifestyle quite nicely.
Beer – I don’t really need to say too much about this do I ? Germans love their beer they drink it all of the time yet the only people I see drunk are tourists and the occasional vagrant who might have been out in the sun too long. The upshot is they can handle their drink and even remain compos mentis enough to collect all their beer bottles so they can recycle them and get the pfand.
Boutiques – Chocked full of achingly cool places to shop there seems to be a boutique for everything. They do one or maybe two things but they do it with style and normally a price tag to match. I quite often pass a shop that sells spectacles some new some vintage and all expensive the thing is I don’t think this shop does the actual eye test they just sell the frames. No Tesco extra here i’m afraid if you want a handbag you go to the handbag shop and if you want the shoes or gloves to go with it well i’m afraid that is another boutique altogether and normally on the other side of town.
Blooms – Flower shops are everywhere I can actually think of 6 off the top of my head within a 5 minute walk from my house and that doesn’t include the small selection most supermarkets will offer. Some also sell the fruit or veg of the season but all are well stocked and with a more interesting selection than most UK high street florists. They are also one of the few shops that seems to be allowed to open on a Sunday which brings me neatly to the next topic.
Bakeries – The root cause of my ever expanding waistline. The bread, cakes, pastries and savouries are to die for here and everything is freshly made for the day with the view that once it is gone it’s gone. They never over stock and will sell things a little cheaper at the end of the day but you can’t beat a fresh, warm, soft schrippe first thing in the morning. Again in abundance and allowed to be open on a Sunday which makes them a good port of call when you realise you spent your entire Saturday at the lake and now you have no milk or groceries. Cake for dinner it is!
Bands – If you are in a band or a busker (another B) then Berlin is the place for you. There is pretty much an open mic every night of the week which will normally turn into a paid gig if they like you but if it doesn’t just hit the street and wait for the cash to start rolling in. Germans really appreciate artistic talent so if you are any good they will be throwing in 1€ and 2€ coins in your case instead of the 10p and 20p’s you might get back home. It is also not uncommon for people to stop and listen and soon you might have a crowd who are enjoying your music some of these people will apologise profusely if they have no cash to give you.
Butts – Smoking. I do not smoke and I do not like cigarette smoke this can make it extremely hard to be social here as everyone else seems to. You can smoke in most bars and clubs here and even in some restaurants and lots of places will proudly display they are a raucher bar. Most of the boutiques have a little bench outside for the staff to relax and have a cigarette when nobody is browsing. You buy packs of ciggies at the supermarket till from a push button machine with the rest of your groceries and it was a real culture shock for the first little while. Pro – as a non smoker you don’t get left with all the jackets and bags of all your friends disappear outside for a quick one. Con – do not expect to go out and not come home smelling like an ashtray and sounding more than a little Barry White.