If someone had told me a German city would be one of my favourite travel destinations, I would have never believed them. I used to hate where I was coming from, the language, the weather, and most of all, the mentality of the people. Traveling broadens your horizon, but after living the dream in Australia for a year, appreciating home wasn’t easy. Now, a couple of years later, I can. And not only that, I can truly say that Berlin would easily be in my top 5 cities list if I could ever decide on one.
Berlin’s nothing like the rest of Germany. At. All. If you’ve been there, your passport might say that you’ve been to Germany, but without seeing any other place, you’d have a very one-sided impression.
It is artsy. It’s alternative. It’s trashy. It’s open-minded. It’s creative. You’ll see people randomly gathering on the streets playing music. You’ll see posters on every wall, bus stops and street lights. They’ll be slowly falling off as there are just too many of them sticking on top of each other. You’ll see the graffiti underneath, and if there isn’t one yet, there’ll be one tomorrow.
Except for the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery, I haven’t been to any of those “please take a picture of me in front of that”-attractions yet. Having a friend who’s local, we just strolled through the streets of Kreuzberg. We went to a club called Tresor to dance to some techno. We sat on the sidewalk at 3am to enjoy our kebab: to our right, the ambulance took care of a guy who had a bottle thrown against his head; to our left, the police had to stop another fight. We just sat in the middle and peacefully ate our kebabs.
As the sun was rising, we headed back; so did the rats on the streets; if we wanted to, we could have stayed; if we felt like dancing again after brunch, we would have found a place to do so. Berlin doesn’t sleep.
Then there’s this line on the ground, throughout the whole city. If you watch closely, you’ll see a sign that tells you that a few decades ago there used to stand a wall that parted not only Berlin, but a whole nation into East and West. I will always have stories of people trying to overcome the wall or pictures, which can only be found in history books, in my head. These stories show people celebrating the reunion of the country standing on top of that wall.
Today, you can buy little pieces of the wall in souvenir shops. Today, crowds of tourists take photos in front of the remains at the East Side Gallery, from both sides, which are painted with colourful graffitis. Today, it’s just a line going through the city, next to the skyscraper of Germany’s biggest newspaper publishing company. How ironic.
I guess that’s why Berlin stole my heart a little, there’s so much history, but at the same time Berlin is so present. People don’t seem to be stressed, they never seem to be in a rush, they’re just living the moment and enjoying life.
In summer you can flee the feeling of being in the city by going to the Badeschiff. For 3€ you can lay at a sandy beach, listen to music and swim in a pool which is built onto Berlin’s river Spree, with a view of the Berlin TV tower and the Oberbaum Bridge. If you’re into flea markets, you should check the Mauerpark Flohmarkt out to find jewellery, clothes, old cameras, vinyls and work of uprising designers. You’ll also find live music just outside the market and lots of kind people that are keen to chat.
My final tip: Keep your eyes open. There’s so much to see and whenever you go back it’ll be a little different. Also check out flyers and posters on the walls to find out about ice cream festivals, concerts and exhibitions- there’s always something going on in Berlin!