In a city as big and scattered as Berlin, and which doesn’t readily offer itself up to feeling at home, it’s worth going out of your way to find your sweet spot, the automatic place where you head when you have a free hour, or no specific plans.
Mine is Auguststrasse. It’s a bit out of the way for me – about a half an hour from home if the S-Bahn is in a good mood – but it’s not too far from University, and located near most of my friends – Chicca and Charlie, Wouter, and Doug. If you’ve heard of Clärchens Ballhaus (an old and grand dancing hall), the Stolpersteine (literally “stumbling stones”, these are small, cobblestone-sized memorials to victims of the Holocaust, embedded in the pavement) or the beautiful New Synagogue then you’re in the right part of town here.
At my internship, we did a feature on Auguststrasse so I’ll try not to copy that too blatantly. For more detail on what you can actually find on the street (hint: it’s mainly galleries and cafes) head over there, because I’m just going to focus in on Factory Girl. This coffee shop is not only my favourite in Berlin, but also my happy place in the concrete jungle, and my “regular”, if not my “local”.
In the (carefully composed) grunge-chic interior, there are lots of plants, staples of 70s and 90s aesthetics and an enormous range of delicious cakes, as well as their own kind of yoghurt-crème dessert called Magnolia. I spend a lot of time sitting in a round table by the window, chatting with friends, having a language exchange with my Norwegian language buddy, reading a book, or just watching people walk by.
My friends often take the piss out of me for always being there, but I think it’s one of the things which keeps me happy and sane. Some of the staff there have begun to recognise me, say hi, and give me winks and discounts. That always makes me feel so welcome – no easy feat in a city like Berlin, at least not for me.