Navigating Berlin: An Advanced Idiot's Handbook

Let me get this out of the way by saying; navigation is not my strong suit, in the world of geography I am about as useful as using Big Ben as a compass needle, it just won't yield any positive results basically. However one thing that is an absolute godsend living in Berlin is the fact that navigating the city has got to be one of the easier tasks as a whole. All I did was download one app, which is the Berlin Map app, and I'm pretty easily able to navigate the city with ease, which is difficult to say for many cities in my experience. This would partly be in the design of the city at large, and German's obsession's with signs, it's pretty damn funny when you watch out for it. The way there are signs in public parks showing you where the public toilet is, I mean come on, somewhere there has got to be a line where we think to ourselves “I think a sign of a toilet at the toilet is enough” but no, there have been instances I've seen that literally have directions to where the public toilet is, with a little indication telling you how many meters you need to go before you reach the shitter.

But I digress, navigating through cities is typically a bit more difficult in experience than Berlin, this can be chalked up to various reasons, such as unimaginative design, the rampant use of signs, the fact that the main streets are relatively well designed. Now, like I said before, I have no sense of navigational skills, tell me to find Iceland and I'll probably become the next Columbus (without the massacres naturally) if you catch my drift. Which is why it amazes me that I can actually plan out where I am, know where I am, and where I plan to go with the use of the Berlin map app I downloaded.

On Thursday the 5th I actually put that idea to the test, how well could I get along from where I was, to where I wanted to go? I used nothing more than my map app and literacy skills (which honestly aren't even really necessary, so long as you have a vague idea of what you're looking for you'll more than likely find a sign directing you to where you need to go anyway) and that was the extent of what I had on me (alongside with some money of course) the plan? Get off at a random spot on the U8 and use the map I have to figure out how to get to Kreuzberg, all on foot. So I got off, mumbled about the weather (something completely necessary if you want that authentic Berlin feeling to your situation) and went to town..... Literally. So I walked thinking to myself how it's relatively crummy weather, and I came to the slow realization that I couldn't get lost. The way the streets work is this, there's a main road, that main road you can walk up or down, and you will more than likely find the next station of your U-Train, this makes my favorite approach to getting to know a city that much more difficult, which is getting yourself purposefully lost and then finding your way around.

Not only that but I also had an app that tracked me (on second thought I should've checked if the developer of said app wasn't collecting geographical data for any marketing reasons.) with its GPS function, which meant getting lost on purpose was damn near impossible. Yet despite my best efforts, I somehow ended up at Checkpoint Charlie completely oblivious to the fact that I somehow failed to navigate in a straight line to my destination and was instead having a roller coaster line which would've gotten any cocaine addict angry with me. Like I said, I'm terrible with navigation.

Despite that setback, the sun was beginning to shine, and I actually got to Kreuzberg, which is all well but I wasn't aware that I was even in Kreuzberg when I was in it, why? Because in my stupidity I came to realize that maybe, just maybe, I didn't walk past the sign that said “Kreuzberg” in big bold lettering to remind me what region of Berlin I'm in, essentially, a catch-22, I can't help but make fun of the over-use of signs in Berlin, yet I've come to rely on them.

By Florian Schmidt 
If you're into more observations of Berlin, why don't you follow me on twitter; @teabagtroopers

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