After seeing a large chunk of Eastern Europe (and Western on different occasions) I have to say I was quite surprised by Berlin. Although the city has an intense and battered history, you wont find the same Europe as you do in other places. There isn’t the same cobblestone quarters and ornate buildings, there is a whole new breed of Europe here.
Since most of the city was demolished in the second world war, many of the buildings, roads and monuments are new. There are only small patches of historical monuments and many come with the disclaimer “here is where once stood….”. Sure there are Nazi Historical Tours run by almost every hostel on the block, but if you were wandering around on your own you would probably never guess the parking lot you are standing on was once the Nazi bunker.
The city still remains quite divided – East Berlin (old communist half) could use a scrub down but has a definite ‘artsy’ feel and every dirty warehouse seems to be new, hip nightclub. Contrasting West Berlin is quite clean and modern with beautiful new parks, buildings and shopping centres.
Many people describe Berlin as one of their favourite cities but I can’t say the same. While I certainly had a lot of fun drinking and dancing into the late night, I found the daylight hours to be kind of abusive on the senses. Its a city in transition and its pulse is loud.
I’d certainly go back someday but I’d go with a different mindset. Don’t look to the past here but into the future. Tours of parking lots aren’t as fun as visiting the various modern art and design galleries and the best time to really see Berlin is late into the wee hours of the morning. Sleep late, pace your drinks and stay up till sunrise.