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I’m actually not a huge fan of big cities. Give me wide open plains, dense forests, remote mountain valleys and miles of nothing but nature and I’m as happy as a clam. The great metropolises of the world have too little greenery and too many people for my taste. They are too loud and too grey. Honestly, I just want to see a tree once in a while.
Nevertheless, I like Berlin. It is even one of my favourite cities and I usually try to swing by, whenever I’m in the area. Why? Here’s my three reasons why, despite my general dislike of big cities, I love Berlin and a reason that drives me away again each time.
Berlin has Excellent Food
In Berlin, you can eat really well. The gastronomic specialities of even the remotest corners of the world, seem to have made it to Germany’s capital. Whether you crave traditional German foods à la currywurst or pork with sauerkraut (with a whole lot of beer) or are looking for the Asian, African or American cuisines – Berlin has it all and the choices are almost endless.
Currywurst and Döner Kebab are of course offered at every corner. Both of the famous dishes were invented in Berlin and are accordingly popular – there is even a currywurst museum! As good as the sausages are, I can’t bring myself to eat that stuff more than twice a week. This time around, I have gobbled my way through various Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese and typical German restaurants, take aways and bakeries. All of it was absolutely delicious.
When I look at a menu, I’m usually a bit overwhelmed. Everything sounds good and I find myself wishing that I could try everything offered at least once. Therefore, I’m a big fan of something that I’m boldly describing as “Tapas Restaurants”. A good example of that restaurant style is the South East Asian location Transit. The dishes are of course neither Spanish, nor are most of them starters, but the dishes are all served in small bowls, which can be mixed and matched from the menu. Depending on your stomach size, you can try a sizable portion of the dishes offered. I love it!
Berlin has Diversity and a Lot of Curious Folks
In Berlin, everyone seems to be a bit more creative than elsewhere. People watching here never gets boring, simply because a good deal of the passer-by’s have some kind of artistic aura surrounding them. Additionally, there seems to be the usual big-city obsession with the “hippest” neighbourhood in town. While this fabled area is constantly changing and opinions are divided, where it actually is, if found, the “trendy” places can turn a boring afternoon of observing the pedestrians into something incredibly entertaining. Guy with divers mask? Check. Hair in all the colours of the rainbow? Check. More metal on body than a medieval knight in full regalia? Check.
You could turn the whole thing into a drinking game as well, taking a sip of your preferred alcoholic beverage every time you see a cloth bag carrier, macbook owner, Starbucks drinker, fake-glasses wearer or wannabe artist – but then you’d probably be too drunk to find your way out of the extremely trendy district.
However, the diversity is not only reflected in the different people, but also in the art on the streets, the variety of restaurants and the colourful mixed lifestyles. Life is cheap in Berlin, which attracts a myriad of different folks, creating an exciting mix. Berlin is more than just German punctuality, big city bustle and beautiful architecture. It is life.
My favourites among the people watching games: “Gay or European?” and “Hipster or Homeless?”
Berlin has Fascinating Architecture
Berlins architecture is impressive. From the magnificent buildings of the German Empire, to the pompous structures of the NS-period and the “Plattenbauten” of the East-West separation – it is almost impossible to see it all in just one visit.
The architecture seems even more remarkable when considering, that around 80% of Berlin’s historical buildings were destroyed during the Second World War. The city was devastated, almost razed to the ground. The subsequent reconstruction phase lasted until the 1980s.
Berlin has too many Construction Sites
However, when visiting Berlin, one gets the impression that the reconstruction isn’t quite finished yet. A new building-wave seems to have captured the city. Everywhere something is being built, rebuilt, altered, or flattened. Cranes reach into the sky everywhere, building sites are congesting the roads and the beguiling sounds of jackhammers and heavy construction equipment were once again my constant companion during this stay.
Due to construction going on in the subway between Friedrichstrasse and Französische Strasse, a short trip out to the old Tempelhof airport suddenly turned into a three hour round trip. We had only taken the subway for one stop and were due to switch trains, when I noticed that the tracks between the two stations had simply been shut down. Being young and somewhat fit, I was still somewhat ok with this development. We followed the little footsteps for about a kilometer (and got only lost once) to the next stop and boarded the subway again. Only a few minutes later we were thrown off the train again. Another obstruction. If you ask the Berliners if the construction is always that bad, you usually get a sigh and an annoyed nod as a response.
Of course I was also in town to hunt for some good photos, but I’ve barely taken a picture without construction cranes crisscrossing the sky.
Luxury problems, I know. But I have to admit that I was a bit relieved when I was finally able to enjoy some peace and quiet on the train to Prague and saw the concrete be replaced by the beautiful green scenery passing by the train windows.