jc travels


Today is a special day for me. Today marks my 1 year anniversary since moving to Berlin. It may not sound like much at all, but to me – it’s a pretty big deal. In the past year, I have experienced and grown so much – far more than I could have ever fathomed I would one year ago. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this time last year, I was unpacking into my first apartment, living the Auslanderbehörde nightmare, typing piles of government paperwork into Google Translate, and stuffing my face with döner kebaps after a year of miserable separation. Oh, how time flies.

The first thing people always ask me is, “Why Berlin?” Simple question, difficult answer. I would often find myself answering with something specific enough to be relevant, but still sort of vague – left open-ended and up for interpretation. Because to be honest, I didn’t really have an answer.

“The people are cool.”

“Work is fun.”

“Lots of creativity here.”

“It’s pretty centrally located.”

I tried to write about it 6 months ago when I reached my half-year point, but found myself struggling for words. I had something written, but I never shared it because it didn’t feel right. What I’ve learned is that sometimes, it’s just better not to put abstract, evolving feelings into the confines of words. I wouldn’t want to compromise the integrity of something that I believe to be more profound than what I am able to communicate. So at the time, it just made more sense to leave everything unspoken.

And because today we’ve come full circle back to August 26th, I find myself wanting to revisit this topic. To seek solidarity with a question that I was never able to answer. I’d like to think that I’ve found the answer and that I’m much wiser now. But the truth of the matter is that while I do think I have a better grasp of what this place means to me and why it means so much – it’s still not clear, it’s still not definitive. Because probably another 6 months down the line, I’ll reread this and have a completely different stance then. But that’s okay – that’s part of the beauty of this city. Allow me to explain.

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A couple of weekends ago, Berlin was as beautiful as ever – clear skies and a perfect 70°F (or 21°C as they say here – I still think Celsius is so weird). As autumn progresses and winter approaches, Berlin is getting colder and colder by the day. While the Californian in me longs for summery San Diego weather, I’m liking the idea of splurging on some cool winter clothes – namely big wool coats, long johns, and snow boots – which I’ve never really found the need to own before.

So to make the most of this perfectly sunny day, we paid a visit to the Berlin Zoological Garden. I really like this zoo – it’s not as big or as extravagantly decorated as the San Diego Zoo, but that’s what I like it about it. It’s just you and the animals, sans the bells & whistles, and you can get really close to the animals too. Sometimes the fence standing between me and the exhibit only stood halfway up my shins – I kid you not! I suppose the people who built the zoo put a lot of trust in the sensibleness of Berlin’s zoo-goers.

A day at the zoo, in pictures:




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Looks like it’s finally September, so you know what that means… Oktoberfest!!

(It’s okay, wasn’t really that obvious to me either.)

Figured we’d make a trip down to Munich for the opening weekend of Oktoberfest, since we’re already in Germany anyways. After the end of another exhausting week of work, I was so ready for a mini-vaycay. Caught a bus late Friday night, and 7 bumper hours on the autobahn later, we woke up in Munich!

Since we took a night bus, we arrived a little before the sun had started to rise 6:30am. Even then, we already started to see crowds, decked out in lederhosen and dirndl, starting to fold the main station and surrounding streets. Although Oktoberfest doesn’t officially start tip noon, you could feeling something brewing. (Beer?)

We then headed to our Airbnb, conveniently located located smack in the center of town, in the lovely neighborhood of Isarvorstadt. Although not particularly close to the central train station, we welcomed the walk after being crammed into a bus for so many hours beforehand.

We walked by an adorable coffee shop that was open early along the way, Alof, and stopped for some coffee for a quick pick-me-up. This little gem is owned by a lovely couple, and the woman just exudes optimism and hospitality! (Which in all honesty, is a little rare to come by here in Germany.) Good vibes to start the day.

After dropping our stuff off, we rushed out to the Bavariaring, where Oktoberfest is held. We knew we had to arrive early well before the official start time in order to get a seat at one of the tents. Though were we early enough?? Read on.

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I’m alive!

Between work and running errands to get adjusted to (legally) living in Berlin, it’s nearly impossible to find time to sit down and blog. I sort of miss it, I haven’t touched my food blog in ages – I have so many recipes backlogged that I need to catch up on! Hopefully once everything begins to slow down.

There’s also the issue of not having WiFi at my apartment yet. But I’m surviving with weekends filled with an obscene amount of café-hopping. It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon, and after a morning of apartment viewings, I have settled in at a nearby coffee house, CK Café, in Prenzlauer Berg. This is one of my favorite neighborhoods here in Berlin – quaint area filled with mom and pop cafes and restaurants, beautiful boutiques that I probably can’t afford, and lots of young couples and budding families.

Things so far have been really great. I spend most of my days at work, and while the hours are long and laborious (Germans don’t mess around), I don’t mind it much. I’m really loving the work that I do, and I’m learning a ton. My team is great – filled with talented, funny, and ridiculously wholesome people from all over the world. They have an extraordinary way of making me feel like I’ve known them for months already.

Recently, I’ve been working on designing an Android app for one my company’s ventures. This is my first time working with Android interfaces, but my boss pretty much gave me free reign and 100% creative freedom with it, which has been so much fun. I’m proud to say that I just finished building it out right at the two week mark. Whew, tiring but extremely rewarding. A great way to start off the new job.

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It’s the morning of day 5 since moving to Berlin. I’m hiding out from the rain and bumming WiFi from Milch & Zucker, a cozy coffee shop in Kreuzberg.

The transition here has been pretty seamless, and I’m surprised at how quick it was to get into the swing of things. It feels like only a few weeks ago I was navigating through the S/U-Bahn labyrinth, picking up late night (or early morning) döner kebaps, and drinking beer by the Spree River under the extended daylight of the summer sky. Either it hasn’t hit me that I’ve moved across the world yet, or there just isn’t as much of a shock as I had anticipated.

While most parts of Berlin have remained just as I left it, it feels different this time around. I think novelty and mystery of a city is always more magical the first time. I went and revisited some of my favorite spots where I shared some pretty great memories with my friends last summer – but it doesn’t hold the same significance without them around. It’s strange.

But of course this experience is going to be entirely different than that of my study abroad program – this time, I’m settling in for the long haul. I’m excited to see what else this eclectic, vibrant city has to offer and hopefully will add a few more “Berlin favorites” to my ongoing list.

Most of these past five days have spent been running errands and settling in – applying for residency, finishing paperwork for my apartment lease, opening up a German bank account, shopping for household supplies and groceries, etc.

In between though, I’ve been able to squeeze in a few visits to some open markets and street food festivals – catching them while I still can before Berlin’s summer comes to a close.

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