Can I just say I love it here? My observations my first week since I know several people are anxious to hear about it:
-Beer is cheaper than water. A lot cheaper.
-Even though no one appears to be eating low fat (fat free milk does not exist) and are definitely drinking large amounts of beer (light beer does not exist), everyone is really skinny. We are trying to figure out the secret. So far we think it has to do with the fact that you walk or ride your bike everywhere and that everything is natural. It might be higher fat content, but you will not find high fructose corn syrup in anything. Also, no one drinks soda and everyone smokes.
-Cash only! They don't use checks (they don't even exist) or credit cards. Your bank card can be used some places (like IKEA or the bigger supermarket chains) but pretty much everywhere is cash only. And I haven't seen one place that takes credit cards. The first couple of days this was really throwing me off, I mean, who carries cash in the US? You use your debit card for everything. But, now that I am used to it I think I actually like it better. ATMs and banks don't charge you and they are everywhere (literally. I have about 4 on my block). Its so much more simple. You have one card that you need to carry, thats it.
-People like dogs. They are everywhere and are not on leashes. Not even the big scary pit bulls with spiked collars. I love it! I want to know how they trained their dogs though cause that would scare me on busy streets.
-Everything is super environmentally friendly. All your trash must be sorted in the recycle bins, even plastic soda bottles are washed and reused (not just recycled), everything is manufactured differently to use less waste. All grocery bags are reused. Clothes dryers aren't used. I have a compost bin behind my building. Almost all the food markets are "Bio" (Organic). Its just a normal part of life here.
-The subway is on the honor system. You buy the ticket and stamp it on the platform - but there is no turnstile, no one checking tickets. You can just go and get on the train. I guess every now and then someone will come through and check, so you never know. But, it works. People pay for a ticket.
-People are super stylin, except for the shoes. Which of course, I love. No one bothers with silly strappy high heeled monstrosities. You walk way to much for that, so, there is an abundance of the type of shoes I love. Comfortable ones. You see girls on the subway all dressed up to go to the club. In the US, their shoes would be ridiculous. Here, they are flat and comfortable. Smart.
-That being said, my feet permanently hurt. Me and Cory have decided to make going to the Museum our Sunday ritual (so far, we have seen half of the German history museum and the new Babylon exhibit at the Pergamon). I nearly have tears in my eyes by the time we are done my feet hurt so bad. But, I love it. You walk everywhere (with the help of the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, bus and taxis) and I find it to be sooo much more convenient than driving.
-The local fast food is mostly Turkish. They have this thing called the Doner which is a Berlin specialty, its pork gyro-style meet with salad and this really spicy sauce and tons of feta cheese. Its really good. But I always get the falafel :)
-There is also tons of great Pizza. Its real Italian pizza, so a Pepperoni pizza has peppers on it, not meat. If you want something like they have in the States, you get Salami. Personally, I love the Italian Pepperoni WAY better.
I love my neighborhood. Our flat is less than a block from the subway station, and on the same block as all the shopping we ever would need (which is great because I will be carrying all groceries etc and I ain't so strong). There is also a women's gym around the corner, we are a short walk from a really cool park where there is a farmers market every saturday and a flea market every sunday, we are just a few blocks from the heart of our area (like a Borough in NYC), Freidrichshain, where all the coolest restaurants and stuff are, and we are convenient to both the city center (Alexanderplatz) and the Ring train which circles the whole city. And we are on floor Zero (that would be the first floor to the Americans) so its convenient for taking out the dog. Its perfect. There is also a massive cellar in the second level of the basement. Our building is from pre-WWII and its pretty creepy down there.
Now I just need to get a washing machine (the place for it in our flat is super small so this is a challenge, its like 3 centimeters shorter than the standard washing machine, grrr) and learn some more German. No one can understand me when I say anything even though it sounds right to me. But, I know how to say thank you, check please, and say right or left to the taxi. Cory has managed to make friends with every Hispanic in the city. Friday night we hung out with Luis, from the Domincan Republic, all night (It was funny because he thought Cory sounded like a Mexican gangster) so I might actually get better at Spanish than German.
I realize the lack of pictures in this post, it has just been so crazy and my access to the internet has been limited. Once I get a bit more settled I will start posting tons and tons of pictures!