For the last half an hour or so I’ve been sitting, staring at my computer screen, trying to come up with a word which sums up Berlin.
But I’m finding it difficult to hit on that one single word, or phrase, or even sentence that could entail everything this city is and what it has to offer. From the moment we arrived I felt its contrasts; Berlin is a big city, it’s bold and it’s beautiful. But it is also full of small cosy neighbourhoods, it has its ugly parts and it has a sad history as the heart of a divided world.
So I thought the best way to share my first impressions was probably to try and sum it up in a few words and I’ll write some more about the various topics in future posts.
From the moment we stepped into our apartment in the east of the city, I knew I was going to like this place.
We stayed in a Smartloft Apartment building, which incorporates exhibitions by various artists. (The person who designed our flat obviously had a thing for antlers.)
I loved the idea of living in a place among pieces of art – even if it weren’t entirely sure what all of them meant!
That initial impression remained with me as we explored the city, seeking out unique little cafes and bars, which each seemed to have their own personality firmly stamped on them.
Berlin is…a foodie’s heaven
I’m not going to lie; we spent a good proportion of our trip eating! Schnitzel, currywurst, käsespätzle (essentially fried pasta and cheese) and cabbage soup, what’s not to love?
The city is also a paradise for snack connoisseurs like myself: warm pretzels at a football match are the best!
During our trip we visited Checkpoint Charlie, one of the old Berlin Wall crossing points between the East and West of the city.
There is a museum right next to it which is absolutely packed full of historical information about the area. What stood out most to me was the many, many stories of the lengths people had gone to in order to try and cross the boundary. It’s unbelievable to think that as late as the 1970s people were still being shot for trying to gain their freedom. I read one story about a couple, with their baby, who had driven a van through the wall. The desperation that people must have felt to attempt such things is almost incomprehensible.
Art is everywhere in Berlin and not just in the 170 museums in the city. Street art plays a massive part in its personality. The graffiti which began on the Berlin Wall has quickly spread into other areas of the city and it’s pretty unusual to see a wall or a bridge which hasn’t been put to use as an outdoor canvas.
In one cafe we went into one evening, a group of about 20 people were sat around a large table talking and laughing as they took part in what looked like an art group, with participants drawing everything from portraits of each other to comic book strips.
Berlin is…a city of hope
Like many places which have endured a terrible history, Berlin has managed to move forward. As the above summaries hopefully show, it is a city brimming with energy, creativity and positivity. While a history like that must never be forgotten, the ability to move on from its past, and not be defined by it, is what makes this city so special.