Friday, June 3, 2016

Kottbusser Tor

A few days after I arrived here in Berlin, on Tuesday, May 24, I visited Kottbusser Tor for the first time. If the rest of Berlin is loud and crowded, Kottbusser Tor is deafening and bursting. The place is overflowing with life. People hurry past to and from the U-Bahn station, a grocery store, restaurants, cafes, other small shops, and apartments seem to be piled on top of each other, people are shouting, intersections are full of traffic.

I went to Kottbusser Tor on that Tuesday to meet one of the students from the Freie University of Berlin who will be working with me as a translator as needed. I had only Skyped and emailed her before, but once I got here we decided to meet up, and she suggested Kottbusser Tor. We would meet in front of the Kaiser's (a grocery store), where some apparently homeless people sat, where people came up from and went down to the U, and where I stood awkwardly waiting for about 15 minutes. As she was running late, she ended up texting me to go to Cafe Kotti, which was just a bit down Adalbertstrasse and up some stairs.I found it pretty easily, which surprised me, and I sat in a cloud of cigarette smoke and ordered a chai tea.

Since that Tuesday, Kottbusser Tor has become a favorite area of mine to stop and wander around. The stop is on my way to my apartment most times (it depends of which U-Bahn I'm taking), and if I have extra time, I actually enjoy getting off there and wandering around. I thought the part of Schoneberg where I live was diverse, but Kottbusser Tor is even more so. Japanese, Singaporean, Chinese, Thai, Turkish, Indian, and even Mexican restaurants line Oranienstrasse, a street close by the U-Bahn stop. An array of smaller cafes, clothing stores, electronic stores, random knickknack stores, book stores, etc. are crammed together. People crowd the sidewalks and cars pack the streets. People sit on the curbs, against buildings, or in the middle of the sidewalks begging, eating, or just taking a break. According to the Wikipedia page, the area is known for drug-related crime and is also affectionately referred to as "Kotti."

And there at Kottbusser Tor, this busy, bustling, brimming corner of the world, is Betahaus. Betahaus is probably the coolest working environment I've ever seen. I went there for the first time on May 27, when I met up with a guy who I had randomly met on the U-Bahn the previous Sunday afternoon. I told him a bit about what I was doing here, and just like that, he decided I had to meet a friend of his who runs an organization called Singa Deutschland (more about them in an upcoming post). We went there and talked to her briefly, and I'm getting at least one interview and also meeting some more fantastic people as a result! The second time I went to Betahaus was to meet someone who works with MigrantHire, which is a fantastic organization that is striving to help newcomers coming to Berlin as refugees and migrants find jobs. I had the opportunity to interview someone involved in this work, which was just inspiring.

Clearly, I'm a little behind on posting about how things are going, but more about my trip to come soon!

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