Coffee Shop Diaries

Day 14 of #KateKimEuropa2015

I’m in Berlin at this coffee shop called Buchkantine, which is at the Moabit neighborhood, just slightly north of Tiergarten, where we are staying. I fly out of Berlin tonight, while my sister had already flown back to the States this morning. She must be flying over the Atlantic right now.

So where I am at this place, a centaurian shop that is half-bookstore, half-coffeehouse. The book titles in the store are all in German, and for a moment, I desperately wished I could speak and read it.

This seems to be a popular spot for locals. It’s tucked inside a little street by the River Spree, which goes through the city. I am the only non-German here. It seems to be filled by locals Europeans or, at least, people who are fluent in German and other languages I couldn’t understand. Interestingly, even if I am foreign here, I feel somehow at home. Even if I feel that I’m different, I feel that I share something with others in this place. I don’t know what it is exactly, it could be real. Or imagined. It might be the cafe culture, or the literary culture, both of which are a substantial part of my life. It could be the pleasure of poring through magazines, or the sheer joy of being surrounded by books. Or an afternoon spent with friends and loved ones. I might feel a sense of belonging because of my proclivity toward the logic, order, lifestyle, culture, art that are the norm here.

Is belonging dependent on others welcoming you to their environment, or could you feel a sense of belonging by merely sharing the same interests as them? I doubt that it’s the former, because people are generally detached and oblivious in Berlin. I don’t feel the warmth of welcome as I do in Asia or California. But I feel like I could live in Berlin, that I could call it home if I choose to.

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Berlin at dusk

Just before coming to this cafe, I spent my afternoon on a walking tour to see the alternative side of Berlin, through the counterculture (ie. hipster) neighborhood of Kreuzberg. We looked at street art and graffiti, and I learned the difference between the two: street art is more focused on images and graphics, while graffiti is mostly text.

We saw some important landmarks in the area, such as the treehouse built by Omar Klein, which straddles East and West Berlin, and is a historically significant spot. It’s a makeshift treehouse near where the Berlin Wall once stood, and amid the fighting, separation and aftermath of war, Omar Klein turned the spot into something beautiful. He planted a community garden, which brought people together. It built community, and it was the location of peaceful demonstrations. What a great thing to do.

In this tour, I met so many people from all over the world! There were two girls from South Africa, who both speak American English, but one lives in Munich while the other lives in Amsterdam. I think they are students because they look very young. Another young pair was a couple from Brazil, who are currently living in Budapest to study. They seem to be an artistic pair, since they were dressed so. How interesting are these people we encounter when we travel!

I like these brief encounters, even if they are fleeting. I get to see, even for a moment, how others live, think and act. I get to imagine possibilities of what one could do with travel. These young kids inspire me with their energy and curiosity. They impart a bit of their braveness to follow my dreams, regardless of where I could reach it.