Images from my arrival in Berlin during the taxi trip from Tegel to Kreuzberg include:
Bicycles: Beautiful women on bicycles, incredibly fast bicycles, slow bicycles, children on the backs and fronts of bicycles, groceries on bicycles, and flowers in the baskets of bicycles, and a dog in a cart attached to a bicycle.
Graffiti: Random tags and designs on every building (a scavenger hunt for unmarked buildings would be a challenge), and scenes that sprawl across entire sides of edifices crawling down from the very top corners and spreading to meet the colors that climb up from the bottom. Later on, I would write down that living in Kreuzberg felt like living on the pages of one sketchbook shared by a collective of artists. If you watch closely enough, you can see the sketches traveling and growing and morphing into something new. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yphwzD1XaBY
Traffic and speed: My taxi driver nearly killed a few people. Neither party was as upset or shaken as I imagined myself being in that situation. Also, a massive truck carrying loads of beer had spilled its contents on the street. So, one of the first prominent odors I encountered in the city was, quite appropriately, beer.
The first conversations I had in Berlin were naturally about logistical travel issues. How much is a taxi to Kreuzberg? How many nights will you be staying in the hostel? Where can I find a Geldautomat? Once I had gotten somewhat settled in the hostel I would be living in for the next two weeks, 36 Rooms (which I later learned was so named because the area it is in, by Görlitzer park, was known as SO 36 in the divided Berlin http://www.so36.de/sobleibt_english.htm http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_SO_36&ei=LTeASvn8DJKC_AaR2O3nBw&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=6&ct=result&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dberlin%2BSO%2B36%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den-us%26sa%3DN ), I brought my computer downstairs to email my family, bought a Berliner Pilsner, and walked outside into the courtyard. Moments after I sat down at an empty table and started typing quickly to my mom that I had made it safely, was alive, and thought my hostel seemed fine, I was asked by a good-looking man with dread-locked hair if he and his friends could sit. They were all from Norway and were going out for their last night in Berlin. “This city is unlike any other,” one of the girls said to me, “you’ll hate to close your eyes.” I hadn’t the slightest clue about the accuracy of her sentence at the time, especially pertaining to my own set of lids, but I felt my anticipation send a jolt to my heart as it soared higher than it had at 35,000 feet.
I woke up on my first morning in Berlin to a hot and mostly empty hostel room, except of course for myself and a muscular guy with “California- ONE LOVE” tattooed across his back.