We started planning out trip in November of 2017. My friend Salome had just returned from her “Euro trip” and having caught her emotions from the trip like a bad flu, I decided that I needed to experience the same emotions as well. We decided to save up money for the summer and then set out for Europe.
Berlin was one of three cities on our “must see” list as we had heard a great deal of stories about it from the past and the present. This city is alive and it didn’t cease to exist even when it was split in two in 1961– it’s more as if it just spent 30 years gathering strength for its inevitable comeback.
Long story short, on July 25th, 2018 I found myself finally in Berlin. I didn’t yet know just how big the city that lay before me was, how full of history it is, and how many interesting places I was going to encounter during my Berlin days.
It’s easy to get lost in Berlin. We got lost on our very first day – on the way home from the airport. For the rest of the time, we would do this intentionally; and while listening to Moby’s “Go” in my headphones. And that’s exactly what we did; just kept moving around the streets with ceaseless energy.
When you get lost in Berlin, whether you want to or not, you encounter really cool streets, or a distinct neighborhood inhabited by distinct people and full of graffiti and interesting buildings. It seems as though every street and every neighborhood in Berlin is unique – both with its architecture and its people. In some parts of the city, you might think you’re in Italy, and then once you move a few blocks you pop up in Shawarma vendor lined “Istanbul”.
Parks and other green areas or recreational zones hold huge parts of Berlin. Local residents often come to these parks after work with friends and enjoy an evening of conversation over beer. Görlitzer Park is one such park and going for a stroll around it in the evening is an activity you certainly won’t regret.
In this park, we ran into the same man every evening – tall, thin, with long black but greying hair. We dubbed him the “Frisbee god” since what he could do with a Frisbee went far beyond the definition of “play”; his movements were incredibly precise, it was more like a dance. Hopefully, the next time I visit Berlin, I’ll get to see him again.
The center of Berlin – Alexanderplatz – is a large public square and transport hub, which is always full of tourists. It offers a metro station, plenty of fast food objects, Starbucks, a mall and pretty much all things “touristy”.
But if you want to see the real face of Berlin and feel its real rhythm, you should wander beyond the center and check out the nightclubs.
This is where Berlin’s residents come to transform at the end of the week from office employees to ravers. At night, a different life starts in Berlin and the city seemingly transforms. Places you may have walked past several times during the day become strangely new at night.
They say Berlin is a youthful city, and I would agree with this – the pace of life here is noticeably faster (not unlike New York) and the lethargic attitudes that you find in other places in Europe are nowhere to be found here. Despite this, Berlin is indiscriminate and all-welcoming regardless of race, social class, age, gender, sexual orientation or beliefs – as long as you know who you are and you’re comfortable in your own skin, Berlin is sure to accept you and find a place for you. The diversity in the city makes it hard to feel out of place.
If you visit the Berlin Cathedral, be sure to cross the bridge across from it where you will find the DDR museum, which houses items, clothes, food, and other memorabilia from the era of the German Democratic Republic.
Within the museum, you can listen to old radios that people used to crowd around as their only source of news, watch TV shows that kids used to fall asleep to during the DDR days. The museum gives you a chance to travel back in time to the period when little German kids sang songs praising Lenin and communism.
Also be sure to visit the photography museum. The photos exhibited here will give you a chance to get lost in some deep thoughts. Right next-door also is the zoo, where various animals live in a seemingly 5-star resort. It will take you at least two hours to explore the zoo since there are many “friends” to see here. The zoo has its own aquarium, which houses beautiful jellyfish and other sea creatures.
The zoo has its own aquarium, which houses beautiful jellyfish and other sea creatures.
We had to go past the Berlin Wall several times, and each time I would notice some new drawing or detail. This wall, once the city’s dividing wall, used to be a symbol of loss and separation, but now, it has become the face of art and freedom, through which many arts have made their name
You will be sure to see a sign on the wall in German and in Russian:
„Mein gott hilf mir diese tödliche liebe zu überleben.
„Господи! Помоги мне выжить среди этой смертной любви“.
After leaving Berlin, I hope I too will be able to survive the emotions this city inspires.