I love Berlin! So the exclamations go when most are asked about this sprawling German city. With a recent history unimaginable for the time and tragedy, in the short 25 years post Berlin Wall it has become the underground gem of Europe and seems to gaining attention at a rapid pace. Most of those I met in Berlin had got stuck here a few more days than anticipated thanks to its heart and raw beauty. It quickly grasped its hold on me and found myself lingering on just one more day time and time again.
Berlin is not beautiful. War torn and rebuilt with bland, flat fronted concrete horrors, debt is a defining aesthetic quality. Greenery is sparse, nor are Germans too fussed regarding floral decoration in a way that Parisians might be. Added here is the element of graffiti, which blankets the city from top to bottom and has become the iconic Berlin definition of city colour.
Graffiti is everywhere, vibrantly speaking the youth and hope that’s been injected into this city and what makes Berlin, Berlin. I’m never one to favor such things, with a taste more inclined to stark whites but here it works, adding to the grungy mystique that is so loved here. It also does add a seedy shadow and wandering the streets at night can feel a touch intimidating. The best way to soak up the graffiti is via one of the various tours, for around €18 you’ll be guided around the city to check out the best piece and learn about the history, crews and culture of Berlin graf, as well as hitting up a studio of sorts to bring your graffiti skills up to game and DIY your own (on canvas, not walls)
It’s also heaven for lovers of abandoned spaces. The stunningly futuristic Tefulsberg perched above the Grunewald forest upon a man mad hill created from war rubble is now home to a collection of graffiti artists that have turned the place into their own. It resembles 3 giant gold balls, reaching into the sky and true to Berlin form, has been transformed with spray paint. It’s only an hour from the city and with guided tours running on the hour it’s one of the more ‘friendly’ abandoned monuments.
Tempelhoff is the best place to relax. An abandoned airport that remains perfectly as its former self, simply swapping planes for people that move around the runway dwarfed by the sprawling space. It has become a public park and is perfect for riding, relaxing and beers.
Within the city embrace the streets of the central Mitte district. Overflowing with treasures hidden around every corner it’s simply a place to explore. From the amazing cafes such as The Barn, Farther Carpenter and Distrikt slamming out some of the best flat whites this side of the equator and bloody decent avo on toast (heaven), to the boutiques to splash cash. Hay, is perfect for interior treasures and do you read me?? for every single magazine you could dream of (and the owners charming dog lazing about the store <3).
Hunt out the smaller galleries such as Me; Collectors Room currently showing Cindy Sherman’s amazing photography, for a more unique gallery experience.
For a more grungy vibe head to Kreuzburg. Again filled with boutiques and cafes, the best time to visit is Thursday evening for the Markt Halle Neun, a bloody decent (and bloody hectic) street food market serving every food under the sun, including New Zealand pies! From here head out to the surrounding bars and clubs to experience that hectic Berlin nightlife that will see you wandering home well past sunrise..
Of course there are always must sees. Museum island is beautiful with its washed out colours set perfectly amongst the current autumn leaves. The Berlin Cathedral doesn’t come under the ‘church fatigue’ that is so often occurring when travelling Europe, it also allows access to the roof for stunning city views.
Brandenburg Gate is as stunning as the pictures show and its neighbouring Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is both sobering and visually amazing. No doubt you will also make it to Checkpoint Charlie but maybe don’t be a dick and dress up with a gun and army hat smiling for photos like it’s a play monument… Instead head to the typography of terror for a more in depth view of the war…
The East Side Gallery, the remaining section of the Berlin Wall is a perfect example of city spirit and the chance to get a feel for what this city has suffered so recently.