Study abroad can become very expensive very quickly. Even though Berlin is relatively cheap compared to other European cities, I’ve still had moments of panic while looking at my bank account (usually after booking trips—here’s to you, Dublin) and am therefore pretty picky about what material items I spend my money on. After all, I’d rather be able to go see the Alps than buy a new shirt.
So basically, everything on this list is a bit of a luxury, something I spent a while debating the merits of and am now extremely excited about. And of course, like all good purchases, each has a bit of a story.
1. Ritter Sport
Last night, I was made fun of in German (not the first time that has happened) but, for the first time, I vaguely understood what they were saying. And it involved the words “chocolate” and “eat” and “sick.”
I’ll preface this with a love letter to Ritter Sport—a German chocolate bar that you might have seen in small quantities in the States. But in Germany, they have every flavor imaginable, the dream of a midnight snacker like myself and the nightmare of anyone who isn’t down to consume 500 calories in five minutes. So far, I’ve tried Vanille-Mousse (milk chocolate vanilla mousse filling), Olympia (a milk chocolate with yogurt, honey and hazelnut filling), Knusperflakes (milk chocolate with cornflakes), Dunkle Voll-Nuss (dark chocolate with hazelnuts) and my favorite Weiss + Crisp (white chocolate with cornflakes).
Anyway, last night I was at my local corner store and I bought about seven at once. For midterms or whatever. Just, you know, to stock up. The cashier certainly found it entertaining.
When I was twelve, like many other American preteen girls, I overdid it with the body spray. Finally allowed in Victoria Secret, I bought every sparkly pink bubble coconut lavender candy cloud mist that I could afford with my allowance from washing the dishes.
Now I like to pretend that my tastes are a little more refined, but really, I’m just a sucker for perfumes named after cities. After all, who wouldn’t want to wear New Orleans? (Although I can’t say that I would like to wear Baltimore—doesn’t have the same romance to it) I really like the idea of a perfumer interpreting and translating their home into a scent. Capturing what they consider to be the essence of their city into a small glass bottle, so I can take a little bit of Budapest, Saint Petersburg, Paris or Berlin home with me.
So I know all of this sounds nauseatingly pretentious and also completely at odds with my desire to not destroy my budget. But a little perfume goes a long way, and it can be pretty cheap if you only buy sample size bottles.
Frau Tonis is a perfumery next to Checkpoint Charlie. The set up of the store is in and of itself beautiful, all clean white tables and glass bottles filled with perfume of different colors and levels. I bought three scents—Jasmin, Rose de France, and Grasse à Toi—in their smallest sizes. My plan is to figure out my favorite “Berlin scent” and buy it in a larger size before I go home, a little bit of Berlin while I’m in Baltimore.
3. A print from the flea market
I talked a little bit about my home stay in an earlier post, but I don’t think I described my room. It has much more space than any other room I’ve lived in (much bigger than my apartment in Baltimore) and all of the room is white and brown. My windows even face the white walls of other apartment buildings.
We’re only here till December, so I don’t exactly feel the need to decorate. But at home I love to load up my walls with prints and posters and photos, so I bought a print of the Bierpinsel, a crazy looking building from the 70s. I found it at the flea market at Boxhagener Platz, and as the flea markets are definitely one of my favorite parts of Berlin, I was especially happy to purchase it there. I’m fairly certain though that most of the rest of my purchases will come from flea markets, I can help myself around those one euro bottles and trinkets that would sit nicely on my desk at home.
I've bought two! Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon and The First Bad Man by Miranda July. Books are necessary for commutes. Find ones that are short, that don’t have too many characters, that you can follow despite only reading them in five minute bursts. I highly recommend both of these books for midnight reading on the U-bahn.
5. A scarf
It was three euros at the Primark, and it is huge and black and swaddles me like a blanket as I shuffle through the dark streets of Berlin.
And finally, what I wished I bought: something from each city I have visited. One person on my program is collecting glass bottles from her travels--nice ones or just from Coke bottles--and I thought about buying cheap earrings from every city, but I haven't really bought any souveniers yet. I'm hoping my journal, my photos, and every reciept and ticket stub will be enough.
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Ruth Marie Landry
<p>Ruth Marie Landry is a junior majoring in the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. On campus, she works in the library and as a tutor for high school students. She is also a DJ for WJHU (Johns Hopkins' only student radio station) and the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Vector Magazine, an online literary magazine. While growing up in New Orleans, she developed a love for spicy food, dancing to live music, and long, poorly planned road trips. Ruth enjoys big cities, Sphynx cats and Brutalist architecture.</p>