Picture this— I’m making my way down the hallways of a Berlin apartment building with another IES Abroad student, taking care not to draw too much attention to myself. My eyes dart across each door sign, looking for a name matching the one I was provided over Facebook Messenger.
I don’t really have a clear face for the person I’m looking for, but that’s not really the important part of this operation. They have something I want, and I’m here to get it.
As we arrive at our destined apartment, I rap my knuckles against the door, hoping that all is ready for pick-up. It’s the agreed upon time, after all—Saturday afternoon, between the hours of 4 PM and 6 PM.
The lady making the offer opens her door gingerly, my requested package sitting at her feet.
“Thanks for taking this off my hands,” she says to me.
I nod, replying, “No, thanks for letting me have it.”
I grab it off the floor, smirking at my fellow student. With a wave goodbye, the door is closed on us. Sauntering towards the elevator, I examine the product in my hands, scanning it for any discoloration, discrepancies, or defects.
“Oh, sick,” I tell my friend beside me, satisfied with my find. “It’s got a bear design. Take a look.”
Removing its convenient holding strap, I unfurl my new, light blue exercise mat. A series of nine illustrated bears are embossed into its material, each providing an amusing, visual instruction for a given yoga pose. It’s the first thing I’ve ever nabbed off the Free Your Stuff Berlin page on Facebook.
“Wasn’t that kinda way too serious a vibe for picking up a yoga mat?” I joke, admiring this Facebook acquiaintance’s riverside modernist building as we leave it. Admiring one of the mat’s yellow, cartoon bears, my friend adds, “Oh, yeah, totally.”
When you’re a student abroad, there’s only so much money you’d wanna spend. Groceries, obviously, are a necessity. New clothes? Maybe, but probably would be nice, especially if you gain an interest in local fashion. A night out with your friends? Well, you’re in the city for a reason. But if you can get, say, awesome decorations for your room for close to nothing— or maybe even just nothing— why not go for it?
Berlin’s an astonishingly good place to get stuff in ridiculously good shape for absolutely free. There’s been more than a few times I’ve come across entire spotless printers on the side of the street labeled, “FUNKTIONIERT — ZU VERSCHENKEN.” WORKS — TO GIVE AWAY.
There’s a couple spots in the city to head for if you’re looking for a bargain. The flea market down at the Mauerpark every Sunday can be a good start—aside from artisan creations, plenty of students and shop owners alike try to sell off their secondhand goods, especially some fashionable retro clothing. There’s also an abundance of dedicated thrift shops— Humana, for instance, is a second hand clothing store with multiple locations around the city center. PICKNWEIGHT literally lets you buy vintage clothing by the pound.
As for online spaces, I’d definitely recommend Free Your Stuff Berlin—It’s mostly based on its Facebook page, a group of about 185,000 people, 6% of the Metropolitan area. As a city of mostly rental units, but also a city of people who (quite wisely) hate to see good things go to waste, you’d very easily be able to find entire sets of furniture on this page for free. Of course, sometimes this means having to endure the bewilderment of onlookers as you carry an unboxed blender with you home on the train. But, hey, a bargain is a bargain.
Recently, I got a hold of a few copies of The New Yorker magazine. Carefully cutting them from the page, I’ve taped up a selection of my favorite illustrations from these editions on my wall, transforming it from a barren, hotel-esque off-white hellscape to a kitschy, very collegic mosaic.
An Empire State Building covered in cicadas, a wanderer walking in a mountain storm, and a collection of commentaries on the finer points of humor in our modern lives populate my student flat walls.
It’s easily two dozen different prints of art, of varying styles, themes, and color schemes. Of course, I’ve added a picture to show it all off a bit.
And I got it all for the low, low price of €0. And you can too!
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Hey there! I'm Avery Trinidad, a junior majoring in Sociology and concentrating in Global Studies over at Williams College! I think long walks by the beach are an unironic fun time, have made a hobby of writing songs with ukulele accompaniment, and have an apparent talent for making eggs. I'm a big ol' New York native, with a booming voice and headstrong attitude to boot. Though born and raised in Manhattan, I've had the opportunity to take German as a third language since my freshman year of high school. I'm looking forward to documenting my experiences in Berlin, especially after it emerges from such a tumultuous time in not only its own history, but the world's! Bis bald!