I switched hostels because the former didn’t have a kitchen and it was too centrally located; I’d be traveling via subway to Kreuzberg, the Brooklyn of Berlin, every day spending a euro forty on the short trip, which is ninety cents cheaper than the whole ticket (which I think is too expensive and so won’t pay for), and which is only valid for trips of three stops or less, and Rosa Luxemburg to Schlesisches Tor is seven stops and when my three stops expire I’m always on the lookout for men dressed in official looking or just plain black clothing.
The Berlin public transport system is expansive but today seems poorly planned since it was meant to serve the Berlin of 1938. Despite the 15 U-bahn lines and the 10 S-bahn lines (their different operators could be part of the problem), I find myself transferring twice sometimes to get to a desired stop. In New York, two transfers means a big trip or a re-routing. So while I’d like to place Berlin’s public transportation into the world’s best subway systems, it’s too cumbersome.
My new hostel is definitely more “alternative,” which is what I want. It’s in an old building without a bar, although it does have a kitchen, which is key, and over the weekend the prices are still low, unlike my last hostel, which rose the prices according to the day of the week, and attracts young Americans in Europe for their first time, and groups of Spaniards and Italians who may or may not be in high school, who throng to breakfast, leaving cereal all over the bar, and take all of the rolls– no, I need to get away from that, to stay in a hostel where there are exposed brick walls and hip young women wear patterned stockings and bright red lipstick, whose backpacks are covered in floral patches and it’s hard to tell what country they’re from: Spain or Germany, or they could just be dirty.
Since it’s a gray spring day, I decided on spaghetti. The grocery store, just a few blocks away, had two aisles. The apples had brown pockmarks but they were selling beautiful powdered figs for seventynine cents each. Scattered throughout the cheap foods were “bio” (organic) alternatives. And I didn’t bring a bag, so I carried my groceries in my arms. About fifty paces outside the store I dropped my spaghetti. A large German woman with a red face asked if I needed help, in German, and then rattled on about god knows what, and saw my pasta sauce precariously balanced in my pocket, and pausing slightly, took it and tucked it into my arm, right above my bread. “Danke,” I said. “Bitte, bitte.”
In the hostel lobby a girl with a sticker on her Mac reading “Fuck the Matrix” sat, looking sexy. But when she got up to leave, she also left her orange peel and a full cup of coffee. When I took her place to plug in my computer a Greek girl with dark skin and pretty brown eyes asked me to upload her photos on my computer because her camera’s memory was full. I didn’t really want to. At all, but I knew it would be nice. She said I could finish working, and I asked her when she was leaving. She said fifteen minutes so I said, just let her do it now. But she didn’t know how, so I did it, and we talked and I thought about how my good deed wouldn’t go unpunished. She said, “If we see you later maybe we get a beer together,” (she and her Cretan friend). Yeah and then maybe we’ll have a threesome, bad Daniel thought.
After I had a rather difficult time making spaghetti, with the bowl being too small, and my being unable to find a colander and having to make do with a strainer, with pieces of the spaghetti slipping to the ground and being very difficult to pick up, touching the sink and the mayonnaisey knife someone had left in it, I sat and satisfied my belly. While I had been cooking in the seating area I’d heard a man talking with a woman who might have been his lover, with pink dreadlocks and matching shorts over her wide-booted linen pants. On the phone he spoke German but together they spoke English. He was exotic looking with a big afro and almond-shaped pretty brown eyes. He offered me wine, and after accepting and returning to my seat, I decided that their offer was an invitation, so I picked up my bowl and moved to triangulate their conversation, introducing myself. They were drunk because they’ve had a stressful day what with his trying to find an apartment and not realizing that their hostel room had been given to someone else and so having to come back and then go pick up a car on the other side of town, which necessitated like four transfers on the early-2oth-century-planned U-bahn. As I took my last bite of spaghetti they were leaving and she put on her red leather coat, and he came back from the bathroom with what looked like eyeshadow and I figured that while they met in Goa, India, and had traveled together for the past two months, it might be as friends, a suspicion supported by how she hugged me goodbye, in a squat, leaning forward so I felt her small body and strong natural energy.
I decided to go upstairs and get a coat before going to a cafe, but when I opened the door a red-headed man and his friend in the bunk above him looked up from their nap. They’re from Frankfurt and they invited me to go out with them so we went to the Lidl, the supermarket I should’ve gone to, to get some vodka and energy drink and water for their hangovers tomorrow.
And while it’s still early in my stay in the 36 Rooms hotel, I am confident that my choice to move here from St. Christopher’s was a good one.