photos: Tania Strauss
My story is not different from anyone who has moved to Berlin and got stung by its venom. The venom is strong enough to infect you and leave you alive with its side effects, happily suffering. My friend describes it as “Berlin biting you in the ass”. This is quite accurate. You see a bite in the ass leaves a mark, a literal mark and a feeling. So does Berlin.
I moved to Berlin exactly 300 days ago. Just writing this is making it even harder to believe. 300 days. That is the longest I have ever been away from home. Well, I am kind of confused now as to where home is, but Berlin seems the most appropriate next to this word. I have found a home in the coldest, greyest, probably cruelest city in Germany. It is also the coolest, most liberal, accepting and very different from the rest of Germany.
However, it wasn’t the cool Berliners or the grey cold weather that had me falling in love with Berlin. I can say it, and you can laugh, but it was the grounds of this city. I must’ve done laps all around by now, from West to East. With every walk I did on those grounds, I fell in love more and more. Those grounds took me to places; they made me see things —new things, weird things, cool things. They helped me meet new people. We went out, we danced, jumping up and down on the same grounds that helped us meet, and those grounds would jump back with energy, to pump you with more euphoria as you listen to that electronic track in a Berliner underground club. They were the same grounds I sat on in a hot summery day eating cake with my best friend, the same grounds I used to lay on to soak all the sun in Mauerpark or Tiergarten. The same grounds I used for skating, and falling down turning blue and bruised but feeling the most alive. The same damn grounds where I slipped on a chunk of icy snow on a heavy snowy day, but it was al-right, I was excited, it was my first time. They were the same grounds where I got lost and frustrated because I was too tired or too cold and just needed to get home. They were always the same familiar grounds were I could cry when it was too much and my tears would fall down to the ground to let Berlin know she was just being too cruel today.
With every step I took, I kept falling in love, in a way no human being made me feel before, Berlin became my new lover and I was totally infatuated by her. This city seemed to glow even in its most gloomy days. I have been trying over and over, to pin point or describe what was it about this city that has gotten me in those love chains, but I could never really translate the feeling. I was just always happy I was there, experiencing those feelings in this wondrous city. But now my time is up, and I have to let go of my lover. I have to say, I am not particularly fond of those last weeks. In other words, I am sad. I am blue. I am grey-er than Berlin on a very cold winter day.
Just as it happens that when you have to let go of anything, it becomes so much better and more valuable in your eyes. But with me it was different, I always knew, from the beginning, I always knew, I loved it here. I appreciated every second, every cup of coffee, slice of cake, juicy burger, cheesy pizza, great friends who quickly became family, music, dance, walks, laughs and tears. I took it all in. I loved it all soo much.
Sometimes for Berlin that’s not enough to love you back, it’s not enough to make her hold on to you tight and not let you go.
I am not sure if it’s a curse or a blessing that I moved here 300 days ago. I am 100% sure that it changed my life, to the good or the bad that is relative, maybe a bit of both. But this change was inevitable. My roots started to extend within a different soil. I grew beyond my own mind, my culture, beyond what I am used to and beyond everyone I know. Those who knew my heart will learn that I have changed a lot. My heart has changed, and I think this is it. If there is one thing I learned from those 300 days, is that there are lots of view points you can see this life from and it’s a shame to just settle for one your whole life.
In those last few weeks, I keep thinking that Berlin taught me that the lover you get too attached to is the one that lets you go first and confirmed to me that if I didn’t belong anywhere in the world I could still belong in Berlin, I could still be the weird introvert I always wanted to be and it would be okay. I could never really conclude my year in Berlin in writing. I couldn’t ever really say goodbye to this lover. I don’t want to. I am not done with Berlin, yet.
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Text: Nada El Meniawy, Photos: Tania Strauss
Nada El Meniawy is an exhibition designer from Cairo, currently working on her Master Thesis in Exhibition Design technologies. She wrote part of her thesis in Berlin being inspired by the unlimited amounts of museums and variety of exhibitions the city had to offer. Berlin has helped inspire her to pursue her dream in exhibiting emotion in forms of text as a primary exhibition object.
Tania Strauss is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer whose journalism and creative work has appeared in several U.S. publications. She recently fell in love with Berlin after spending six weeks in the city, and is planning to relocate there this coming winter. You can find more of her street and travel photography on her portfolio online, and on her Instagram.