Brooklyn, New York
December 2, 2006
We paid our dues upon arrival, cash only, and crossed the alley to the adjoining building. Jetlagged on 4 hours of red-eye sleep, it took some wondering on the first floor before finding our room. Two single beds, a couple of plastic hangers and hooks, and (very German) floor-to-ceiling windows comprised the sparse set-up. Of course, the showers, toilets, and sinks were outside, on either side of the hallway. But the firm beds boasted fluffy white duvets, and the aforementioned windows lured the dim winter light into the room—that is, when it wasn’t cloudy or raining. This was November in northern Europe.
After a day of adjustment, I settled into the routine of schlepping up the hall for my morning shower. For those not familiar with the energy-saving German mindset, the need to push the shower button every 30 seconds for running water could qualify as an annoyance. I had lived in Berlin twice before on study abroads, so I remembered (and relished) the European counterpart to American wastefulness. Besides, when the water starts to drizzle, you just knocked the button with your elbow for a full-force stream. Water sprayed around the shower stall and onto my awaiting clothes, so after I saw one young-in ambling around in boxers, my lack of modesty kicked in and I scurried through the halls in the substantial hostel-provided towel.
The shower curiousities and the need to slam the room door shut constituted the only minor defects of an otherwise young, hip, and, most importantly, spotless hostel in the convenient Berlin center of Mitte. Nearby in one direction was the U-Bahn and S-Bahn (Berlin’s subway system) of Alexanderplatz, and in another was the S-Bahn of Hackescher Market. If you followed the main street of Karl Liebknecht Str. as it became Unter den Linden, within 20 minutes you were admiring the city’s most famous landmark, the Brandenburg Gate.
The funky lobby even had a café with not just decent, but superb food, including a reviving bowl of pea soup I ordered one afternoon—not to mention the accompanying Beck’s, wine, and liquor offerings. Even though we only made it up early enough twice for their breakfast, the traditional German offerings of musli, sliced meats, bread, yogurt, and coffee outdid the spread of regular ol’ American hotels. Three euros bought 1 hour of Internet access and a public phone hung downstairs, but even more glorious for my 20-something bar-hopper self was the lack of curfew—and seeing more than a few budgeters twice my age checking in for hostel nights.
From journal The Divided City