The big map of Berlin, almost like a mural greeted me the moment I stepped out of the lift at Citadines Kurfurstendamm. There were more than 20 points marked on it as places to visit but I had just two full days to explore Berlin and could barely see all of them. I may not able to pen a guide book based on my trip but I can tell you little, offbeat, quaint, interesting things about the city that made me fall in love with it, wishing I could spend longer time there.
Berliners are nostalgic
Berliners love their history but then its not just about events and incidents ..there is an element of nostalgia that echoes everywhere. The stories of the cold war, the tearing down of the wall, the reconciliation – every story and piece of history is laced with emotion. East or West, old or young, the wall is still fresh in their minds. My guide was just seven when the wall was brought down and he told me how his parents brought him and his sister to the wall after it had been broken, with hammer and chisel so that they could take back chunks of the wall as souvenirs. In fact, the company that built the wall 25 years ago still manufactures ” original” pieces so that people can have a bit of history with them. My guide joked saying that if everyone brought back all the crumbles of concrete they had with them, they would be able to create a wall two and a half times its original size. I would like to come back in November when the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall is going to be celebrated in Berlin ,
There are many city centres
So if you ask a West Berliner, how far is it to go to the city centre he will say five minutes. And then if you tell him that you are referring to the historic city centre, then he will say how Berlin has many city centres and both the East and West have their own respective attractions. In a way its true. Berlin is so spread out and every area is reminiscent of the erstwhile powers that ruled it – the French, British and American quarters in the West and the Soviet controlled GDR in the east. And two days is just not enough to see one city centre, let alone more.
Berliners are so friendly
The Germans are known to be stiff and uptight but barring one rude taxi driver, I met so many charming and friendly people on the streets, some of them used to go out of the way in helping me with the routes or sharing little pieces of trivia with me. Most of them cold not speak English, they will not rest until they have explained the directions to me. I would like to come back and spend more time here in the city and meet more people.
There is an “alternative” Berlin emerging
I had written an entire post on street art in Berlin, but what is fascinating is that most of the artists here have become legends . The Eastern gallery is one of my favourite places to see street art. But there are more cultural spaces that are reverberating with music, cinema, arts, workshops..For instance, the street art movement was a take on reclaiming the streets from commercial advertising . I went to a place called .Hans hof Schwarzenberg where there was a cafe, a cinema, a workshop and where artists could express anything they like, including poking fun at tourists. I would like to delve deeper into the alternative spaces and lifestyles in Berlin when I visit here next time
Berliners love their bikes
My guide said that you are not a true Berliner if your bike has not been stolen even once. I am not a biker but then seeing the young and the old alike whizzing on bikes as I walk filled me with energy, Many a time I would take the wrong detour and lose my way and in the silent lane, one biker would turn up and politely explain the way to me.
Green cover everywhere
Apparently more than half of Berlin is green..there are so many gardens, parks, forests, open spaces in the city. I have not seen such a big city anywhere with so much of green cover. Even the zoo here is more than 200 years old and has a historic touch to it. The river Spree which was once a boundary between East and West flows here and you can see joggers running even at mid morning. i was told that an erstwhile air strip is now a birding hotspot – planning to get more details and come here. And then of course, can you imagine such vacant open space that was once occupied by The Wall
Vegan cuisine in the land of steaks
Berlin may not be about wine and cheese, chocolates and desserts but in the land of steaks, a new trend is emerging . There are close to 20 vegan restaurants and I got a chance to eat at La Mano Verde one of the most plush ones in town. The whos who of Berlin has apparently been here and the charming French host, Jean Jury who owned it said that he had met Shah Rukh Khan as well. It was a gourmet restaurant, based on various concepts, fusion of flavours , celebrating “plant based cuisine” rather than just creating meat substitutes. Although I am a vegetarian, have never been too fond of vegan but this time I relished the food.
I can think of more but sleep is weighing on my eyelids. Anyways I would love to come back and see more of this beautiful historic city. And meanwhile, do share your reasons to love Berlin.
To read more posts on Berlin – Street Art in Berlin