Being in the city can be overwhelmingly tiring from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a true homos urbanus and have been enjoying Berlin more than ever -believe me, it feels as if I’ve been living here for two years-. Yet, getting away from the chaos and the noise of the city is very rewarding and at times even necessary. For the first time in history, most human beings live in large urban areas and many in megacities and suburban extensions with populations of 10 million or more. Being a ‘Homo Urbanus’ is the rule rather than the exception nowadays. This phenomenon, of millions and millions of people crammed and stacked in huge urban metropolises is somewhat new, especially if you consider that no more than 200 years ago, the average person could have met 200 or perhaps 300 people in a lifetime. Today, says the north American economist Rifkin: ‘a resident of New York can live and work among 200,000 people within ten minutes of his or her home or office in downtown Manhattan.’ Hey, and I thought I knew loads of people.
Let’s not get started on cities such as Tokyo or Mexico City, but considering these numbers, Berlin is somehow a lucky capital with, statistically speaking, ‘only’ 3,809 Berliners for every square kilometre. Next to the 26,939 per km2 New Yokah’s living on top of each other in Manhattan, Berlin is one green spacious capital.
And yes, even though there is a sense of space here, I had the need to leave it, at least for a day or two and fortunately I was able to go visit my very close friend Luisa in Hanover, where she’s living now. Things got even better when she proposed going to her family’s hunting house for the weekend. And so we got some snacks and along with my other very close friend Laura, we drove to this ‘hunting house’ in the middle of the woods.
Our trip to Datscha
Getting away and going to a house in the woods, made me think of this Russian café in Berlin’s Friedrichshain called Datscha. The word comes from the Russian verb to give: ‘dat’, and was once associated with a gift from the Tsar, given in a form of property, Datscha then evolved into the term describing a holiday house. According to this café/bar, the constitution of the Soviet Union implemented a law that guaranteed a holiday right for all citizens who had their own ‘datscha’. By then, no one could wait to get out of the city on the weekends and every single Russian who lived in a city longed for a few days away at a place where they could enjoy evenings with friends, grilled food and sip vodka or two or three… and indeed, we were heading to our own German version of a Datscha, leaving all worries behind and clearing our minds for a while.
The first thing that struck me as ‘life liberating’ was the lack of Internet access, how much I longed for such a deliverance from constant messaging, tweeting, liking and emailing. What started as an issue for not being able to get work done, ended up being pure and pure pleasure, pleasure from this sense of ‘letting go’.
Besides, after spending an entire morning having food outside, reading, chatting and enjoying the surroundings, I couldn’t get enough of the noise, or rather, the lack of it. Sleeping was a bit scary at some point, since there was absolutely no noise, it was a sense of nothingness that seemed threatening at first and extremely calm at last. After a few hours of not being able to hear anything, my ears started to get accustomed to the sound of silence and began to record the sound of the woods… that’s when I wished I could be like those old people that know which bird is which and are able to talk to them, in their language. Sometimes I wish I could speak like a bird…
Coming back home to the city was quite odd to be honest, after three days of total isolation from people and the world, a few hundred Homo Urbanus seemed more like the 200,000 you are likely to meet in the green apple. And however much I love being in the city and consider myself a perfect example of a city person, I truly missed times spent in pure nature and with friends like Laura and Luisa. I even remembered the times I spent as a child in my very own Colombian Datscha and wished I could stay in the woods a bit longer.
P.S: I truly recommend going to Datscha, at least to grasp the notion of a Russian getaway lifestyle while enjoying traditional Russian dishes and a whole lot of different vodkas. They are located at the Gabriel Max Straße 1, in Friedrichshain.