Guten Tag, Berlin!

I knew it was going to be cold. I didn’t realize it was going to be freezing cold. I had to navigate my way from the airport to my destination. And considering that I have a terrible sense of direction, plus the wind started blowing that I barely noticed the snow falling, it was such an adventurous first day for me in Berlin.

I didn’t mind it at all. The cold, I mean. I was just happy that I got to be in a new city, in another country on another side of the world. The locals are generally pleasant helping me with directions and all. Strangers say hello to each other here and I think that’s nice. If you do that in the Philippines, you’ll get a “Do I know you?” stare.

I went to Berlin to participate in the UNESCO Creativity Workshop on Toy Design and Inclusive Play. We were housed at Pfefferbett Hostel which is a part of a former brewery complex. This complex with artsy and cool-looking buildings was where the workshop was held.

Most of my time was spent at the workshop but I managed to go on short walks and got to see touristy spots like the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the East Side Gallery (the remaining part of the Berlin Wall now covered with paintings from different artists), the Berlin Cathedral, Alexanderplatz (a large public square), and the Holocaust Memorial.

As someone advocating for ecological agriculture, I was glad to witness thousands of protesters at the “Wir haben es satt” (we are fed up) Demonstration where farmers and consumers stood up for
low-impact farming, animal welfare, climate justice, and good food.

I also enjoyed the nature excursion at the Müggelturm in southeastern Berlin. I like how “green” and eco-friendly Berlin is.

A friend and I talked about considering to live in Germany or another country in Europe where winters can be miserably cold. I decided it would be nicer if it’s warmer. And I thought, us Filipinos are much happier because of all the sun we get in a year.

But Germans are happy, too with their rules and structure (a local said so), efficient trains, lots of green spaces, bike lanes, beer, soda water, and currywurst (fried pork sausage seasoned with curry ketchup).

When visiting other countries, you normally hear of stereotypes which can be true but these don’t have to be necessarily a generalization. One of which of the Germans is their tendency to be uptight and too serious. On the contrary, those that I’ve met are actually warm and friendly.

That, to me is the beauty of travel. Breaking stereotypes and gaining a better understanding of different cultures. And realizing we’re one humanity after all.

Author: Ryan Bestre

Environmentalist. Teacher. Writer.

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