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Exploring Berlin: Back to Reuterkiez (Neukölln/Kreuzberg).

The light coming behind the heavy curtains was stronger than usual. Something had changed from the gloomy days of March.

I stood up, opened the windows and confirmed. Then fell on my bed again.

Saturdays were meant for exploring. And I was also in my biking phase. But today I didn’t want to go far away.

I could maybe search for some new coffee shop around the area. But, there really wasn’t anything “new” for me. Not in Friedrichshain, at least.

I left my apartment, still undecided on where to go. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to drink coffee. A friend had invited me to Schönenberg, but this was too far away for biking.

The Mobike that I used last night was waiting for me in the same place.

I pedaled under the warm sun and let it guide me. Little by little, I reached Warschauer Strasse.

Many people, as always, were crowding the entrances to the station.

I let the downhill road take me easily to Oberbaum Brucke, the bridge between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg.

 

After the bridge, I turned left and entered a coffee shop that I’ve known for a long time, but hadn’t visited yet.

The flat-white was perfect.

I paid with a 50€ bank note, expecting the usual Greek death-stare when you do this, or a sour comment of some kind. But no, this is Berlin. They either always have change on hand, or don’t want to tell you differently.

In Berlin, you get the politeness only in the most unexpected situations.

The place was quite small (not comfortable for more than a quick coffee) and I still wanted to go further on with the bike. So I wore my jacket and continued straight through Görlitzer park.

From there, until the river, there was nothing worth writing home about.

Just the usual Kreuzberg contrasts: Drug dealers standing in big groups, and young children playing basketball beside them. Addicts walking slowly and young women jogging through.

If you used a zoom lens, you would have a very extreme image of Kreuzberg.

But if you zoom out, you can see the real, whole picture: All of the things that don’t go together, coexisting. And that’s the truth there, at least when it’s day.

At some point, I reached the river.

The architecture of west Berlin is so much different, the streets so much narrower.

Lots of people were walking along the river. Some were running, or biking like me.

 

From far away I heard some piano music.

Then I saw an open market.

I went to the other side of the river and walked through the tents.

It was a Turkish market (Markt am Maybachufer). The stands were full of textiles, small gifts and food.

At the end of it, there was an amazing spot, with recliners, overlooking the river. At the wooden bar, you could buy a glass of wine.

Then, I found out where the music was coming from.

A street performer was playing on a portable piano. People were standing around him. Every ten seconds, someone went closer and threw some money into his hat.

I stayed for a while and then started pedalling again. It was time to go back to Friedrichshain.

Later in the evening, I thought about this day.

I remembered my first visit at those neighborhoods of Kreuzberg, one year ago, when I didn’t have any sense of direction yet.

Today, exactly one year later, Berlin feels like home. Are there any new coffee shops to explore anymore? Probably yes – but I need to bike a lot to reach them.

Then I thought about Kreuzberg.

It’s really weird. In some places it’s scary, in others it’s cozy. And in the end, it’s all of these together: A mediocre mixture of extremes.

And that’s what may be Berlin’s charm in the end. That mixture of every kind of people: the Germans, the expats, the punks, the clubbers, the entrepreneurs.

All of us, mixed into a sweet mediocrity. Just trying to do what we want for ourselves and be left alone while doing it.

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