As the train leaves Berlin behind, I am struck by the fact that I’m leaving home.
It’s been less than two months since I came in to check if there was any chance left for Germany in me. London was calling at a distance. I felt at home nowhere and everywhere, glomad-style. All that changed in a few days, as I experienced Berlin from a more local perspective.
I knew that I couldn’t judge Berlin until I found myself there without a return ticket. Last year, living in Taiwan, I learned that real travel isn’t about sightseeing, but about losing yourself in another culture. Enough to take it in. It takes time to know the local rhythms. Weekend escapes aren’t travel, they’re really just sightseeing. Yet places are very similar everywhere… more so than cultures. Places may look quite different at first, but they can feel the same. Not much changes from a beach in Portugal to a beach in Taiwan. Yet everything changes when you slowly walk the streets of cities from such distant countries.
The difference is culture.
You could expect, then, that truly knowing Berlin would take a few months. But I’d seen the sights before, and all I was missing was how it felt like when I became a part of it. That was made easy by having friends here. I thought that was the reason for feeling at home almost on arrival, or maybe the fact that I remember lots of spots from my past two visits. Yet, as the dust settles, I recall the times I’ve been back in Lisbon or in Dublin or in London. Even Lisbon rarely felt like home, though it was always a place to cherish.
It’s not hard to understand though – how quickly Berlin felt like home. I usually get bored easily, or I would… if I didn’t constantly switch things around. In Berlin you’ve never seen all of everything. I’m also probably a bit quirky (considering that a renowned personality test places mine in a group that only 1% of people share). Still I’m surely under average in Berlin standards for weirdness. Berlin attracts people who don’t fit in other places and are not afraid to be who they want to be. Whenever I see something over-the-top, I’m reminded of why quirkiness can thrive in the city: its culture is open minded.
It feels good to know you can be yourself, without necessarily being the strangest character in town. I guess that’s what it should feel like to be home.
Curious? Browse through my Berlin album!