Berlin, the Two-Faced Capital

- in Nyheter

The title makes Berlin sound strangely unpleasant, which couldn’t be further from my intent. Berlin is one city I can proudly claim to have visited twice, and would gladly return to many times.

Heck, forget being a visitor. I want to live there. Granted, I express that desire in most places I visit, but this time I really mean it because of how affordable Berlin is. Other cities would have made nice homes, but in some alternate reality where I’ve won the lottery. Touring through Paris made me suspect that there is an extra tax on everything just because you’re in Paris.

To a student or young, poor adult like me, Berlin’s cost of living makes it a paradise. Apartments are delightfully cheap, and so is the food. How can any youthful reveler dislike a place that charges one Euro for a filling kebab?

One important German tradition that brought me back to Berlin (this being my second winter trip), was the Christmas markets. I contend that no other place in the world can treat you to a more spirited, more genuine Christmas experience than Germany. Throughout December, just about every public space features lavishly decorated markets selling all sorts of Christmas goodies and crafts. Jolly patrons huddle together under tents, sipping hot wine and munching on bratwursts to ward off the cold. The lights and joyful human spirit give tons of life to the city, and I was determined to experience them again.

What is there to enjoy in Berlin during the other 11 months? Just about anything, really. Affordable international cuisine, a vibrant nightlife, and many of the most interesting museums I have ever visited. Their museums dedicated to World War Two and Cold War history are highly educational, and their Jewish History Museum is the best of its kind.

Best of all, everything is easily accessible with the incredibly efficient metro system. I know that associating Germans with efficiency is cliche, but the trains always arrive right when you reach the platform, and German passengers board and de-board with impressive timeliness.

Something you will notice about Berlin, and which inspired this post’s title, is Berlin’s inconsistent appearance. Years of having a wall run through the city left West and East Berlin looking very different, the former being wealthier and the latter poorer. This legacy is still visible, but also makes the city more dynamic. Nowadays, East Berlin has acquired a Bohemian flair, becoming a Greenwich village-type haven for the sorts of young people you would see in the musical ”Rent”. It contrasts nicely with West Berlin’s poshness.

Another inconsistency exists in the architecture everywhere. Not many old buildings remained after World War Two, and the few that survived now stand side-by-side with modern constructions. It’s startling to see the mismatched buildings wherever you go. But whereas some people criticize this aspect of Berlin, I feel only respect for this city that has simply done what it takes to rebuild itself after so many setbacks, without fussing over aesthetics.

A friend and fellow Berlin lover once said this about the city: ”Berlin has something for everyone”.

That statement so neatly sums up everything I have said, and exposes the reality that Berlin has far more than two faces. However many faces there are, though, is unimportant. Altogether, they are appealing in enough different ways to attract anyone.