Berlin…very hip and slightly schitzoprenic.

Berlin…very hip and slightly schitzoprenic.

PotzdamerPlatz

Summer was ending and I was planning on staying in San Miguel for the winter, but I got a call from my friend Barbara Weibel inviting me on a river cruise through Russia. As we know, invitations to travel are like dancing lessons from God…so off I go across the big waters once more.

Before going to Russia though, I wanted to stop in Berlin. Over the last couple of years many of the bloggers and digital nomads I have met along the way have started to make Berlin a major stop on their travels. Everything I had read described it as the “go to” place for hip, creative young people looking to make a move in Europe. According to a recent NY Times article young adults are even moving to Berlin from Israel…much to the consternation of the Israeli politicians. For many years it has been the cheapest capital city in Europe and as a result there has been a large influx of Generation X and with them came a renaissance of avant-garde music and visual arts.

Berlin…very hip and slightly schitzoprenic.

I arrived with this misbegotten idea that Berlin was a 19th century city. A somewhat romantic notion of broad tree lined boulevards populated with elegant homes, stately public buildings and charming leafy squares with a string quartet playing in a beautiful gazebo. What the hell did I know…I found instead a modern city with very little left that was old or historic. I had forgotten the extant of the devastation that Germany in general and Berlin in particular suffered at the end of WW2. Over 80% of the historic buildings were destroyed. In the final year of the war 70 tons of bombs had been dropped on Berlin and by the wars end it had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Never before had so much been destroyed and never before had a whole country been rebuilt.

Berlin…very hip and slightly schitzoprenic.

18th Century Konzerhaus

I had an apartment in the Kreutzberg neighborhood…easy walking distance to the subway and many of the cities parks and tourist attractions. The apartment was about 10 minutes form Check Point Charlie the famous entrance and exit between east and west Germany. They are celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall this year…25 years ago…another reminder of the painful history of Berlin in the 20th century. There are preserved sections of the wall in several locations around the city and cobblestones are imbedded in the asphalt paving of the streets where the wall once stood.

Berlin…very hip and slightly schitzoprenic.

Checkpoint Charlie

I spent the first couple of days getting familiar with a new city…learning the subway, trying to figure north from south, finding places to eat and walking. It was easier to walk often times than try to figure out the subway which I found very hard to comprehend. Kreuzberg is in the south of the Friedrickstad section which holds many of the important sites of the city…The Brandenburg Gate which is the symbol of a unified Berlin…the Reichstag, seat of the German Parliament…PotzdamerPlatz newly built on the no-mans land of East Germany and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The Memorial is a 4.7 acre plot of land in the middle of the city adjacent to the Tiergarten Park and the Brandenburg gate. The design has the site covered with 2,711 concrete stelae of various heights laid out in a grid on the gently sloping hill. Many people told me how moved they were by the Memorial but the design did not do it for me. It did not convey to me the magnitude of the horror or grief generated by the Holocaust.

Berlin…very hip and slightly schitzoprenic.

Memorial to Murdered Jews

Yes, it is a new city but it has held onto many of the 19th century traditions, beautiful parks, operas, orchestras, ballet and of course museums. If you were wondering if there would be enough to hold your interest for a visit in Berlin then let me tell you, a city with 44 theaters, 3 opera houses, 138 museums and 400 art galleries and a myriad of clubs and cabaret’s has more than enough venues to keep you engaged.

Another aspect of the city that impressed me was the amount of open spaces. The city has 2,500 public recreational and green spaces…one of the most nature filled cities in Europe. Everywhere you look or walk there are parks, gardens, playgrounds and plaza’s which makes it a great city in nice weather to just hang out in.

Berlin…very hip and slightly schitzoprenic.

Brandenburg Gate

If you go to Berlin I suggest a Berlin Welcome Card…a pass for the subway and a discount card for exhibits and Museums. It saved me a lot of money and hassle on the public transport and included maps and city info.

It is going to take some time for me to decide my feelings for Berlin…some cities make you fall in love with them immediately, some take time and perhaps more than one visit to develop a favorable relationship and some cities never resonate. The jury is still out for me on Berlin. It feels like a city struggling with its past, which is understandable, and looking for an identity. So many emotions and experiences melding together to form the consciousness of the city and I have not got my arms around it yet…but I will…if not this trip then the next.

Disclosure: Many thanks to Visit Berlin, which provided me with a Berlin Welcome Card for public transportation around the city, as well as complimentary access to The Wall.

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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2 Responses to Berlin…very hip and slightly schitzoprenic.

  1. LindaRose says:

    sure does look hip, not like I would´ve imagined, either!

  2. Cathy dammeyer says:

    Larry …you never cease to amaze me with your introspective of the places you visit…I have to admit I love your comment and may quote you ” invitations to travel are like dancing lessons from God”.
    Safe travels
    Cathy

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