A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Berlin for a few days. I had been to Germany on trips that I had taken with my parents a few years before, but had somehow always managed to evade this capital city. A few months ago, it just so happened that my best friend and I were in Europe at the same time (for entirely different reasons, though) and had arranged to meet in the city after plans to go on a longer trip together fell through.
So why Berlin? It seemed like an interesting place to buff out on history and one simply could not resist the appeal of seeing a new city for the price of a £17 plane ticket from London to Berlin (prices like this still seem like an urban myth to me).
This was indeed a good place to revitalize one’s interest in history. As the child of parents who grew up in the Soviet Union and later immigrated to Canada, I’ve always been fascinated by the politics of the Cold War and the different sides that history can take on depending on who is recounting it. And while Berlin is, with its abundance of vintage boutiques, impromptu band gatherings, sushi joints, underground bars and contemporary art displays (all of which we’ve also visited during our three days there, by the way), an incredibly modern city, you still cannot escape the history of war and political strife that hide beneath Berlin’s streets and buildings.
The East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall was especially stunning, but also made me reflect about how easy it is to denounce segregation of the past (by taking pictures of yourself next to historical monuments, among other things) and how difficult it is to stand up against or even recognize the walls that are being put in place in our own time period.
Random observation: The giant McDonald’s in front of Checkpoint Charlie did feel out of place and really rubbed me the wrong way despite the fact that I still ended up logging into its WiFi.
All in all, however, I really liked the city. The metro is easily navigated, there is a lot to do (I won’t list the places that you should visit because you can easily find those in a thousand other locations) for both fun and self-betterment, and you come across the most amazing art in the most unexpected places. There is truly something there to fit all interests.
Berlin also gave me this desire to read and otherwise dispel my ignorance surrounding a wide breadth of stories and topics and that is what I loved most about the city.
Also: I caved in to my worldly desires and purchased a pair of Birkenstocks at Alexanderplatz. I’ve also been totally wearing them with things that match and things that do not match back in Vancouver.