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Becoming Berlin

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The first needle-to-skin line of any tattoo will hurt. After a while you become numb to the pain as the idea of what your tattoo will be suddenly starts to take shape on your skin.

Once you’ve started, there’s no turning back.

So once I was settled in my chair inside the Black Cat tattoo parlor in East Berlin, waiting for the first sting of the humming tattoo needle, I tried to remember the schnitzel I ate that afternoon.

But not even out-of-this-world, fresh German schnitzel could block out the sharp strokes of ink carving back and forth into my right arm.

Oh well, I thought. This is Berlin.

Four days before I made the hasty decision to get two tattoos, I reunited with Stephanie and Dana in a crowded Tegal Airport arrival terminal. We were about to spend five days in Berlin together before heading back to our home countries. We did everything we could to make the days seem longer so that the imminent goodbyes seemed further and further away.

However, we were met with the harsh reality: that time in Berlin, Germany moves out of your hands like the bartenders reach to your hand. You are gulping down a bottle of Berliner Weisse before you can say “danke”.

Before we knew it we were stepping out of the U-Bahn (the subway system in Berlin), onto the Hermannstrasse platform and out into the humid air of southeast Berlin en route to our AirBnB.

Booking our accommodations before setting off to Europe was extremely beneficial. Skip running around at midnight trying to find a hostel bed or paying north of 200 euros for a last-minute AirBnB. Find and pay for your housing in advance. It’ll save you more stress than you think.

Our first day was devoted to tourism, taking selfies around every corner and stopping by monuments like the iconic Pariser Platz gate in West Berlin and the ghostly Checkpoint Charlie, which still does its job by creating a crossing point, and Kodak moment destination, between East and West Berlin.

Although we were in Berlin for nearly a week, I recommend spending some of the cash you have left to eating out. Berlin is a fantastic people-watching city. For breakfast, lunch and dinner you can sit at any café’s outside seating and watch the eclectic, alluring Berlin passerby.

Mom’s with blue hair and tattoos, young married couples on matching bikes, mid-life crisis inhabitants with piercings in every accessible piece of their faces; Berlin is colorful to say the least.

The city is a walking art piece. And with the walking artwork come the graffiti, stickers and paintings on nearly every wall, door and light post. Try to find a piece of cement in Berlin without any creative human touch. I dare you.

By the time we soaked up every inch of West Berlin as we could, Stephanie, Dana and I made the pilgrimage to the East Side Gallery, which rests as one of the largest outdoor galleries in the world.

East Side Gallery, Berlin

With the Berlin Wall as its easel, the East Side Gallery is covered in hundreds of paintings from artists from all over the globe, ranging from Italy to Palestine. Images of kissing politicians, words of peace and power and letters written in sharpie from visitors crawl across the Wall like ivory, their presence stopping every pedestrian in their tracks, both local and tourist.

Berlin was the perfect close to my two-week hop around Europe. The city reminded Stephanie, Dana and I that once you’ve caught the travel bug, not even low funds and summer jobs can keep you from getting on a plane.

Once you’ve started, there’s no turning back.

By Madison D’Ornellas

Wayfaring Student is an alternative media platform that aims to inspire people to take the leap and pursue their dreams, whatever those may be.

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