The beauty of Berkeley

I love San Francisco. I miss living there. I want to move back there. But that doesn’t mean Berkeley lacks its charms.  A week or so ago I took a walk on a particularly warm and sunny January day and found the hills to be full of lovely sights to behold.

One of my favorite things about Berkeley and Oakland is the prevalence of fairytale-like architecture. There are houses that look like they came out of children’s books depicting Swiss chalets and the Germany of the Brothers Grimm.  There are numerous hidden and not-so-hidden staircases; some merely planks stuck into a hillside, others ornate walkways with an art deco or beaux artes flair.

And there are creeks. Water seems to be everywhere in the winter. In the hills, in the flatlands, even in my neighborhood!  In fact, just last week I was peering into a backyard a few blocks from my place to look at the lovely creek coming from a brick culvert when I was surprised by the sight of the head and neck of a very large bird that looked suspiciously like an ostrich!  Yes, an ostrich. Or maybe an emu. A giant bird standing in a creek in a backyard only a few blocks from my home. How cool is that?!  It turns out the bird is a Rhea. I found out when a guy came out of the house to which the backyard belonged. He was kind enough to tell me. There was also a chicken and turkey in that yard. I want that yard! I want a giant bird!

So, here is my pictorial of Berkeley wonders.  On a warm, sunny day, it’s easy to feel like I’m in another world.

The first sign I was entering a fairyland!

The first sign I was entering a fairyland!

German church!Actually, it's a German school. But doesn't it look like something out of a Grimm's tale?!

German church!
Actually, it’s a German school. But doesn’t it look like something out of a Grimm’s tale?!

Mysterious and magical stairway. Where does it lead?!

Mysterious and magical stairway. Where does it lead?!

I got to the top....it led to a another street.

I got to the top….it led to a another street.

Look where the stairs led me!

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A watchtower in someone’s front yard!

And then…

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Another stairway! This one is fancy. As are the houses lining the path.
It’s called Rose path (or something like that). I guess that explains the rows of rose bushes that lined the walk.
This had a 1930’s kind of feel to it.

The fancy stairs and walkway had some fancy people. The woman in the picture below gave me a bit of the stink eye when she saw me. Maybe I’m supposed to stick with the wooden plank stairs….

See the rose bushes on the left? Must look nice in the summer. That pink spot way off at the end of the walk was a fancy lady. Not THAT kind of fancy lady.
She eyed my picture taking suspiciously. And now she’s in the pic! Isn’t that funny?!

The fancy stairs were nice. But they did not take me to heaven.

And apparently birds poop on fancy stairs, too.

Made it to the top of the fancy stairs without incident.

Made it to the top of the fancy stairs without incident.

Those stairs led me to an interesting and odd high up street that had all sorts of warnings about “no turnaround!” “dead end”, etc.

One of the interesting things about this small, narrow, and secluded street was this oddly out of place very San Franciscoish building.  I don’t think I’ve seen any other Edwardian/Victorian (which do you think it is?) homes up here. It was original, too. I was really surprised to come across this on a deadend street high up in the Berkeley hills.

This single structure multi-unit residential building doesn’t look like it was ever a single family residence,  but rather a rooming house or something. Maybe it was a fancy lady house? Hidden way up here on this secluded street.  Maybe that explains why that senior citizen fancy lady was giving my picture taking the stink eye? Perhaps she IS that type of fancy lady! Or was.

I bet she used to hang out that top single window all gussied up, waving her handkerchief at the rich guys that rode their carriages up the hill for some discreet fancy lady action.

What do  you think?

Edwardian or Victorian?

Edwardian or Victorian?
Whore house or boarding house?

At the end of this secret street was a crossroads: One went to a higher up deadend, the other wound down a very tight curve that warned against large vehicles. It was very quaint and reminded me of Europe or parts of Mexico City.

The curve in the road. Do not attempt to drive down this in a stretch limo.

The curve in the road. Do not attempt to drive around this in a stretch limo.

Stairs for the pedestrians. I was brave- I walked down the road!

Stairs for the pedestrians.
I was brave- I walked down the road!

And get this- there were stair on either side of the tiny street. This was made for some fancy people alright.

And get this- there were stair on either side of the tiny street. This was made for some fancy people alright.

I get to the bottom and what do I find? Another heavily wooded, really cool street, what else?

I could hear a noise like a waterfall coming from behind a fence at the back of an apartment building. I wondered what it was, so I asked an old man taking out his trash, who smiled and said “it’s the creek!”

He was obviously proud of his neighborhood, as well he should be. He said something about how it was like living in the middle of nature there. It was.

I want to live there.

I walked down the street in the direction he pointed. There was a viewable part of the creek. Another yard belonging to a large home.

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Another yard belonging to a large home. See the creek under the cute little bridge? Damn.

Down the street a little bit was this gate that opened to stairs (!) that led down to the creek.

I wonder if that means it’s public property.  The gate was right off the sidewalk, and I’m pretty sure waterways are public…

Should I go down those stairs next time?

Perhaps I will when it gets hot. I’ll bring a little rubber dinghy. If for no other reason than to say “I brought my dinghy!”

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And get THIS place. Geez. It must be nice to be rich!

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Check out this driveway!
Too bad it doesn’t lift up like a drawbridge. They’ll wish it did when they see me coming across asking if it’s a public walkway.
Maybe they should consider getting some alligators for that creek.

Nice yard, eh?

Nice yard, eh?

I was reaching the end of the enchanted hills.  Shortly after the last creek, I emerged from the forest into the less enchanting foothills and UC Berkeley Greek row. Ugh.

But a short while later, I came upon the golden castle, lit up by the last light of  day. Not a great pic, but that’s because the gilded towers were blinding in the light.

And finally- the castle!

And finally- the castle!

And remember: Even royalty recycles.

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2 comments

  1. Great tour! Thanks

    1. Well you’re welcome!
      Thanks for reading!

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