Some might say that buying two plane tickets and booking a hostel three days before a flight are irresponsible and rash decisions. I, a study abroad student in Berlin, call it spontaneity and “I am only a college student studying abroad in Europe once.” Last weekend I woke up at 5:45 a.m., got dressed, and took the U7 route on the U-Bahn to Shönefeld airport, the uglier and more frustrating of the two relatively mediocre Berlin airports. I landed in Madrid at noon after a three-hour flight and headed straight to my hostel. I was visiting a few friends who were studying there over the summer, one of whom was living in the back of a bookstore. The subway system there is infinitely more confusing than Berlin’s (although they have phone charging ports which is a plus) so I reverted to walking almost everywhere. Almost immediately I noticed the major contrast of Berlin and Madrid architecture and general city atmosphere. Put simply, Madrid really seemed like the typical European city. All of its brick alleyways lined with overflowing plants drooping over the high balconies and cobblestone plazas stood in stark contrast to Berlin’s high-rise glass buildings and rapid above-ground subway lines across the city skyline.
A girl I met in my hostel showed me around the city on the second day I was there. I met her by total coincidence as I was getting dressed to meet up with the friend I had intended to meet whilst in Madrid. By complete chance, we both study similar majors, urban economics and planning, and even had similar life stories. She showed me around Retiro, Madrid’s most famous and largest park (the picture at the top of the post is of the old botanical garden structure within the park). Lined with massive status of old kings and military generals, the trip inspired my final project for one of the classes I’m taking in Berlin on memory politics. I’m studying German colonial memory in comparison to Spanish, Portuguese, and British practices of remembering and paying monetary or other reparations onto the countries affected by their imperial practices, both in the past and today. Passing by the Spanish royal palace and thinking about how I hadn’t really heard of Spanish nor German efforts to reconcile with violent pasts. Recently, I was reading an article on a Sudanese restaurant in Berlin located in the “African Quarter” of town. The owners stated in the article that Berlin, of any other city in Germany, cannot be classified as a part of Germany, it’s its own country. Exploring Berlin and its deeply complicated and multifaceted, multidimensional, and sometimes overwhelming multitudes, especially after my few days in a contrasting Madrid, certainly proves that statement to be true.
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<p>My main interests are music (bossa nova, hip hop, R&B, soul, funk, etc.), visual and performance art, spoken word poetry, and movies when I have the time! I've lived around the US from California to Wisconsin to Virginia and was born in Brazil. San Francisco was a good place to grow up but too expensive, Wisconsin is beautiful in the summer but deadly in the winter, and Virginia is... a whirlwind of a state. I go the University of Virginia and am currently undeclared, hoping to study something with politics, architecture, or media studies.</p>