To market, to market... in Mitte, Berlin

A strange thing happened to me back in early September this year. I remember it quite clearly.

Europe's summer had turned from hazily hot to crisply fresh and we were in Berlin, a city we'd been surprised to enjoy exploring by bike. I was days away from flying to Lisbon to begin three weeks of travel alone in Portugal and Canada. The months leading up to these travel plans were full of giddily happy self-indulgent moments. "Wow, I'm going to Lisbon!" and "Oh my gosh, I'm flying to Canada for the very first time!" . Despite satisfying ongoing travels - exploring our dear Amsterdam, melting away in the south of France and then road tripping around Europe - it would be wrong to deny that part of me had been eagerly looking forward, full of wanderlust, feet itching and my mind wandering around the new destinations already.

And then the strange thing happened that day in September as I stood on the edge of adventure; I wasn't excited anymore.

In fact, I felt suddenly claustrophobic and panicked.

Intimidated by the prospect of three weeks of "new", fearful of so many travel arrangements (including two lots of 48 hour turnarounds in London) having the potential to go horribly wrong, anxious of travelling solo for twenty-one days, I abandoned the packing I so urgently needed to do and I sat on the edge of the sofa, frozen, watching NewMan obliviously walk around the loft apartment we'd rented in Berlin's Mitte. I suddenly didn't want to think about leaving. We had our bikes in Berlin and we had each other. That's where I should stay...

After a year of purposefully pursuing the unknown I no longer felt drawn to it; it scared me motionless.

I had to get out of the flat. My mind was spinning and my stomach was starting to churn. So, I did what comes best to me, I grabbed my camera, my coat and our single set of keys and told NewMan I was going for a walk. Still blissfully oblivious to my short tones and dizzy head, NewMan nodded and walked back to the table where he sat and started to tap away on his laptop once more.

Outside a cool breeze and a cloudy sky greeted me and I was grateful for them both. They kept me company as I wandered around Mitte's chunkily grand grey and white buildings. It was the weekend and with most of our neighbourhood being full of offices, the streets were free of other feet and I only passed a handful of others on the walk that slowly started to help me relax.

I stopped to take a few photos on Museum Island and with each press of the shutter button, my breathing slowed further and I adopted a more a familiar heartbeat. Then I turned a corner and was side by side with one of Berlin's often overlooked waterways. A tour boat chugged away spitting water back at me, a German flag fapping on the boat's stern, waving goodbye. It felt like a sign. I expected the panic to rise once more but it didn't.

Along the road called Am Kupfergraben I was surprised to find a small flea market stretching out ahead of me along a cobbled street I'd previously moaned about riding along, my poor Dutch bike unaccustomed to roads so wide, so long and with so many bumps.

The soft soulful notes of a saxophone could be heard close by and when I found the man responsible a few minutes later I noticed that he was smartly dressed in an off-white linen suit. I stood opposite him and listened, occasionally taking photographs. He seemed not to notice. He was completely lost in his music; not your typical busker. I wish I'd had some loose change in my pockets to give him but I hadn't taken my purse with me.

Yet having no money on me and even less suitcase space didn't stop me from then spending many minutes pausing at each and every stall, elaborately perusing the goods on offer as though I was a local buyer with her very own loft apartment to fill with second hand treasures.

I took photographs too. The normality of the market calmed me and the glee of finding it unexpectedly reignited a small but significant spark; that spark which represents my pleasure in discovering the "new"; people, places, events, stories, experiences, memories. It is the "new" that makes travel such a joy and I'm lucky to have the opportunity to chase it.

I now know that a few moments battling this uncertainty, the action of which importantly pushes me outside my comfort zone, is a small price to pay.

My camera battery dying, but my enthusiasm recharged, I left the stalls of treasures and returned to that lovely loft apartment in Berlin. After kissing NewMan's forehead and pouring myself a glass of water, I packed a bag for my three week adventure.

The market I stumbled upon was the Berliner Kunst and Nostalgiemarkt, a great place to find art, vintage artefacts, second hand books, music and other trinkets on Saturday mornings on Am Kupfergraben close to Museum Island. If you're looking for a more comprehensive guide of things to do in Berlin, I can suggest Veronika's itinerary for three days in Berlin.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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