9 December 2011


My apartment has a name, Isabelle, which is also, not coincidentally, the name of my landlord's dog.  It's a nice little place, a studio apartment with enough room for me.  I have a separate space to work (a decent desk, with an uncomfortable chair), a sofa, a table (that can actually be folded out of the way), a pretty roomy washroom, and a very basic kitchen.  However, there's no microwave, no toaster (or toaster over), and the utensils are just enough for what I might need (a few knives, 2 pots, 1 pan, wooden spoon, spatula, ladle, etc.).  There's plenty of cutlery and dishes as well. 

Now that I've been here for a few days, I've managed to stock the apartment with a few "extras" that I thought were necessities to get me through the next few months.

1. large plastic storage bin (on wheels to keep under the sofa).  This was really important, considering that the apartment has no closet.  This is currently being used as a drawer for my sweaters and pants.  I may get another one for my laundry.

2. A kettle.  Here's a picture of the one that came with the apartment. 

And no, I didn't just dismiss it out of hand as "old" or "obsolete."  I tried it.  And it took forever to make lukewarm noodle soup.  So I bought a modern, electric kettle.  Deal with it.

Ok, so there's just 2. But they're fairly big.  I'm currently resigning myself to not having any kind of oven (toaster or otherwise) to cook things in, as it was a big part of my cooking before.  I can deal with stove top cooking, but it is a little more difficult.

Outside the apartment, I'm still getting to know the neighbourhood, but there are lots of amenities not too far away. 

Here you can see my location Berlin.

Ok, it's smaller than I thought it would be, but I'm at the red marker
As you can see, I'm pretty close to the middle of the city, and I could walk to a number of important sites, like Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, and other things.  I have seen some of these things.  Here's a picture of the Brandenburg Gate:

And since this post has become "all about the photos," here's another picture of the Fernsehturm (the CN Tower wannabe).

Fernsehturm (literally TV tower), from Alexanderplatz
Those pictures are from my phone, when i wasn't carrying my camera along with me.  Oh, random thought.  I managed to unlock my spiffy smartphone, and I can now text faster than the 2 minutes per word it was taking with the ancient phone I was using here.  I even think that I might be able to get a data plan here pretty cheap . . . but more on that later.

So as I was saying, my area is pretty cool.  i generally find myself between the transit stations of the S-bahn station at Ostbahnhof (the Eastern station, which is also used for regional and international trains), and the U-bahn (Subway) station at either Schlesisches Tor or G√∂rlitzer Station, depending on where I'm going.

Berlin's transit network is pretty spectacular (although I hear it's not quite as efficient once it snows).  I've been able to get pretty much anywhere in the city via the network of U-bahns, S-bahns (kind of commuter rails, but they go right through the city), trams and buses (coming home from a jazz jam at 2am on a Wednesday night, all that was running were the buses).  While not the cheapest ticket in town, the transit isn't a bad investment.  I'll definitely look into buying the monthly pass in January.

As you can see from the following map, there are several grocery stores in the area.  The best one that I've found, however, is Rewe, which is located in the basement of the Ostbahnhof.  Some of their vegetables are not conducive to the single man (bulk packaging), so, unless I host more often, I'll probably start buying some produce at the stalls near the Market right near the Aldi (see map).

So, while the place looks like a dump from the outside, the neighbourhood is quite safe (and there's a night bus that runs right down the street), and the apartment is pretty cool on the inside (with both meanings of the word cool being operative).  While it's not unbearable, let's just say I'm glad I have a warm hoodie with me.

I'm still getting to know Berlin and the neighbourhood, but the great things about the couch surfing and ex-pat communities here is that they're very active in many parts of the city, so I'll be getting to know more of at as the days, weeks, and months go by.

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