As they say here in Europe, it is with one sad eye and one glad eye that I am planning to move from my current home on Monbijouplatz in Mitte, up north into Prenzlauerberg. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here nine months already, because I honestly never felt like I finished moving in.
My apartment: vast, bamboo-floored rooms are lit by bare bulbs hanging from the ceilings by cheap utility cords and the art is leaning, rather than mounted, on the walls. My furniture is an eclectic mix of the nice new things I bought to begin properly furnishing the place combined with the ratty old stuff that the cat has sharpened his claws on thousands of times. I and my friends fondly refer to this place as “the crack (pent)house,” because the unfinished décor combined with the gorgeous, 5th floor, 360 degree views of Berlin’s most notable landmarks from the huge windows are a such a stark contrast. *Why leave?* you might wonder. The reason is simple: I have decided to make some changes in my life that require me to cut expenses, and this place no longer has a reasonable spot in my budget. Not to mention that at 130m2, it really antagonizes my utter hatred for cleaning. In another life I suppose I really could have loved this place, but not this one.
All of that aside, I can say that I have been here long enough to become somewhat of an expert on the area, and there are a plethora of wonderful and horrible things to experience, the highlights of which I’ve decided to immortalize on this blog for posterity’s sake, while the memories are fresh and the feelings haven’t faded.
Saying goodbye with one sad eye:
- Joon, the proprietor of the local späti, Presse und Rauch, refers to me as the “Burgermeisterin” on sight (it’s a foursquare thing) and always gives me an update on how “my subjects” are doing. For some reason I find that particularly funny, because this is the main place where all the prostitutes come to get a drink or a snack in the evening before their shift begins at 8pm.
- The café-unusual-combo-yarn-shop that sits where the platz ends and Monbijoupark begins – Handmade Berlin. Wonderful fresh made smoothies and paninis with pleasant seating indoors and outdoors. The friendly service is laid-back, the atmosphere one of complete relaxation and they often display cool handmade clothing and even knitted artwork. My friend asked me to help him keep the place a secret as it’s a haven of his, but I couldn’t bear to leave it off the list (sorry Anthony!).
- The view of the park from my terrace is impressive, über-green, an oasis in the city, simply delightful. I love to watch the barbecuing and Frisbee tossing, the lively competitions on the soccer and basketball and volleyball courts, children in the sparkling swimming pool. And if you happen to be a peeping tom (I only looked once I swear!), when darkness falls the ping-pong tables hidden behind the wall of bushes get a LOT of action.
- Ampelmand Strandbar (beach bar) is fantastic in the summertime. Cozy down into a lounge in the sun with a Caipi in your hand and watch the boats sailing by on the Spree. Live musical performances from the local buskers run on a regular daily schedule, around 3pm you’ll hear a crooning baritone playing the electric guitar while singing love songs from the last 50 years.
- Vinaggio-Vino is a secret little wine bar, tucked in between two large buildings, and serving a limited menu of pastas, meats, chesses, simple Italian food. The selection of wine is impressive, the food rustic and delicious with a comforting homemade feeling and the ambiance is romantic. Great place for a discreet rendezvous.
Saying goodbye with one glad eye:
- Anywhere you go the geldautomaten (atm/cash machines) will charge you a whopping 5 euro transaction fee. I estimate that I’ve unfortunately lost a few hundred this way because I never found a branch endorsed by my bank anywhere in the vicinity.
- In the springtime when the trees finally achieve full bloom, beware of the ravens on Monbijouplatz. They will swoop down without you seeing them coming and they will give you a hard peck on the head if they think you are too close to their babies. This happened to me and luckily I was only startled: I know someone who had a lot of blood spilled due to those dirty-feathered tyrants.
- The main entrance to my hausnummer being in the creepy alley out in back of the building next to the S-Bahn tracks: the pack of homeless French guys that live under the bridge have always been very friendly, but they drink beer constantly and they pee on the shrubs by my door – it stinks to high heaven. Furthermore, it is not well lit at night (looks better in the picture than in reality) and the spaces under the dumpsters are usually teeming with rats.
- The fucking tourists. Aside from this area being stag party central, it is also where they come from all over Europe to enjoy major sports events, festivals, whatever. I can deal with the pleasant run-of-the-mill touring couple or family, but down here they come in roving male packs of a baker’s dozen each, and all are obnoxiously loud, disgustingly inebriated, mildly violent and frequently lost with no concept of how to get back to wherever they are staying, so they just sleep in the park or live in the bars that are open 24/7. That also means many of the bars in the area truly suck. Avoid Flamingo at all costs: it’s full of sex-crazed singles from out of town who have only two objectives 1) exuberantly showing how badly they dance and 2) hooking up with someone whose name they don’t need to know. One exception is Silberfisch – their only saving grace is that sometimes the DJs are really good. However please note, it is usually a 100% sausage fest except for the brave bartender chick (and don’t get excited homo guys, it’s like that in a hetero-chest-pounding-we’re-British-fucking-studs-and-we’re-dressed-like-super-heroes-good-ole-boys kind of way – you will hate it).
There is much more I could say if I extended my range over to Hackescher Markt or further down Oranienburger Strasse, but this is all that matters in the immediate nähe.
Bye Bye Monbijouplatz!