Berlin Life Outside the Ring

“Where?” – It is often the reaction when I say where I live. And when I repeat “Botanischer Garten”, close to Dahlem, Rathaus Steglitz and Zehlendorf people are normally amazed and wonder why I chose to live in an area far away from the center, away from the parties and predominantly residential. Sure, it is not multicultural Kreuzberg or dynamic Friedrichshain, but it is a safe zone where colorful flowers blossom in the sidewalks and old ladies greet you with a smile. And if you think this is a lame reason then you should try the Johannisbeere flavor at Lauter Eis, the ice cream shop in Hortensienstraße. It gets me every time.

I am not going to lie and say this is the neighborhood I dreamt of living when I first moved back in October. In fact, I had a completely different idea of where I was going to live – I envisioned myself sharing a flat in Prenzlauer Berg with one or two roommates, in a relatively close area to my university. However, as I quickly learned, finding a house in Berlin is a nightmare. And it gets worse when you delay the problem because you are too busy counting flies on the wall. Often a temporary solution is to crash on friends’ sofas or stay at shady hostels, and until you find your castle you have to kiss some very unpleasant frogs.

When I was searching for a place, in WG Gesucht, I came across a few housing schemes; from people who said that their apartment was free but then they could not show it around because they were handicapped or because they were out of the country (India was the most frequent excuse) and I have also tried Facebook but without any luck. So, in a desperate attempt, I decided to abdicate from my vision in Prenzlauer Berg and contact my University’s Dean to ask him if the host families he had said that were welcoming students were still available. I had no expectations whatsoever but guess what? The princess got her castle. My landlord was moving out to his girlfriend’s place so I managed to get a whole flat to myself – a T0 but still – for a very okay price in Botanischer Garten. More specifically, Tulpenstraße, one of the many flower named streets of my neighborhood. Friends who come to visit me are positively surprised with my home (and even more so with the quality price) and for a moment they forget about the distance. I honestly used to mind but not anymore.

I have the S-Bahn 5 minutes away and a bus station about a 4-minute walk that takes me directly to Alexanderplatz. There are no people spitting to the floor and children play freely on the streets with their little dogs. Also, few minutes away is the botanic garden that gives my neighborhood its name, Botanischer Garten (I confess that I have not been there yet – I am waiting for the glorious sunny days) and there is a Penny down the street where I usually go for grocery shopping. Yes I know, a Penny … but for people who think it is crap, that is where I buy the best hummus and frozen salmon in Berlin. Schlosstraße is also around the corner.

Even if I had a chance, I would not move away. Well… maybe to Wannsee but that is not the point. The point is: I love my boring neighborhood.

Text: Matilde Velho Cabral

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Matilde Velho Cabral is a Portuguese girl in love with the colorful corners of cities and the melancholic beauty of words. She published a poetry book, studied Law and recently moved to Berlin to do a MA in Convergent Journalism. She loves to communicate and wants to discover the intertwined patterns of those who inhabit Berlin. Often she likes to hear whale sounds and her favorite book is “Lolita”.

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