Our program coordinators warned us that Sundays are a bit different in Germany than what Americans are used to; most of the major stores close and the city collectively lulls, heaving a long breath out after a week of urban hustle. Having a two-month cap on our time in the city has inspired my friends and me to refuse the day-long nap. We have revoltingly spent our first two Sundays exploring some of the many sub-cultures Berlin fosters.
Last week we took the U-Bahn a bit above the East Side Gallery to RAW Flohmarkt. Every Sunday, locals swarm the many parks of Berlin to visit the myriad flea markets, which mainly sell vintage clothes. Thrift shopping is to Berlin what bagels are to New York: the blood that pumps through the city’s veins. Berlin is both a highly sustainable and a famously creative, arts-driven city, so the prioritization of unique and environmentally friendly fashion makes a lot of sense.
RAW stretched out before us in a long line, filled with vendors selling upcycled clothes, antique jewelry, and art. Many of the used-clothing stands would have a box on the ground labeled 1 Euro, which I hungrily searched through in hopes of some hidden obscurities. I came out with a sweatshirt, a sweater, and a tank top, spending 8 euros in total and feeling like a professional. Although there were food stands at the market, we went around the corner in Friedrichshain to an arepa shop for lunch.
After refueling, we headed to Treptower Park, where a singer I love, Alice Phoebe Lou, was putting on a pop-up free concert. Hundreds of fans sat on picnic blankets as the indie-folk singer shyly strummed her guitar beneath a tree in dry, golden-hour lighting. The day felt wholesome.
The following Sunday was hot; 85 degrees and heavy. A 40-minute tram-ride away from our accommodation is Plötzensee, a small ovular lake with a beach. We loaded up day bags, packed a lunch, and made the trek over.
We were surprised to find a long line of visitors before us upon arrival, all waiting to pay the 8-euro entrance fee. The crowded queue prophesized the beach. Hundreds of sticky people covered the small strip of sand, slabbing on smears of sunscreen and hiding beneath miniature umbrellas. Unable to find the flip-flops I’d sworn I’d packed, I had opted for my leather boots over my Doc Martins, and realized my ludicrousness immediately when I had to wear them in my bikini to the public restroom.
Despite the humidity that was exaggerated by the airless mass of bodies, we found our place in the sand comforting. We lay on our hotel towels with ease, and then crept past the metal waterslide into the ice-like water to wash ourselves of the heat. A few members of our group rented paddle boards, sweeping past a lone swan on the opposing end of the tree-lined lake. There was food to purchase too, and I ordered a mango smoothie that was served with a generous stem of fresh mint leaves.
Though sandy and tired from the sun exposure, this Sunday felt just as wholesome. I eagerly await the next one.
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I am Multimedia Journalism student at Skidmore College. In my free time, I make a lot of art and go on as many adventures as I can with my friends!