My Berlin is the most hospitable city I’ve ever been to. This was the impression I got, from almost the first minute after I landed. I come from a “warm”, but not very strong in politeness and civility, place, so most European cities seem calmer and more polite in comparison. But we are led to believe certain things about the Germans, which do not co-exist with hospitality.
All that was shattered when I entered the bathroom in Ostbahnhof, arriving from Schoenfeld, and the machine there, which said 50 euro cents, swallowed up my whole Euro without change. I said to myself, oh well, never mind, shit happens. But as I entered the bathroom an old lady, who probably saw what happened, came to me and said “Zu viel” (too much), and just gave me a 50 euro cent coin. Needless to say I was a bit dumbstruck. And I don’t think she was even one of the staff there.
You may say – so what, this was a one time episode which doesn’t say anything about anything, but actually, it continued all through our visit.
One day, we got caught in heavy rain near Museum Insel, without an umbrella (not knowing it is possible to need an umbrella in June. In Israel, it’s usually boiling hot from June till October). We took cover under a booth where a couple were selling postcards. Seeing our distress, they actually gave us one of their umbrellas, without wanting anything in return.
When we stood in the middle of some street with the map open, trying to figure out how to reach some place, people just came and offered their help, often, btw, more than one person. Starting conversations with people was extremely easy (especially in comparison to places like New-York), and one day, as we were sitting near Potsdamer Platz train station and having a conversation with some anarchist playing on air (something to do with volumes), someone just came and gave us some icicles. Out of nowhere and for nothing. And you can’t say it’s the guilt, since no one knew who we are or where are we from (we’re not the kind of people to walk around Berlin with a huge Star of David or something like that).