Throughout my trip so far, Berlin is the one place to which I feel I owed more time. Sure, I got a chance to see all of the major sights and to sample of few of their culinary additions, but I wasn’t in town long enough to get a feel for the culture or the people. If fact, I didn’t even get a chance to check out whether or not the night-owl, club-hopping reputation that Belin now carries with it is true (not that I’m really much of a club-hopper). I think Germany is going to pop back up on my itinerary again in a month or so, so hopefully I’ll be able to spend a little more time digging into what life is like for those who live here, but until then, I’ll just have to make do with what initial impressions I gleaned from 2 days of walking around, pounding the pavement.
To start off, Berlin is big — really big — both in the city’s layout and in the scale of what there is to see. Fortunately, they have a very intuitive and well-run metro system to shuttle folks like myself to far-flung spots all over the city, savings the soles of my shoes from even more abuse.
Berlin is also a tricky city to write about, as there are a great number of connotations that come to mind when mentioning the headquarters of a country that has had quiet a checkered past over the last century. To its credit, the city has taken on a much more youthful feel, but every few blocks, it still drops a reminder of past events, creating a very mixed, ambiguous aire to the place.
The majority of the sights are roughly lined up on an East-West corridor, with the Siergessaule (in the above picture) marking the Westernmost point in Tiergarten and the Fersehturm (below) marking the Easternmost point. Though they are too far apart to show via pictures, there is a great scene in which you can stand at either of these two points, look down spacious and tree-lined boulevard known as the Unter den Linden, through the Brandenburger Tor (the second picture below) and see the other off in the distance.
As mentioned previously, it is difficult to walk more than a few blocks without running into a historical landmark dating back to World War II or the years shortly thereafter. These tend to take on a more sombre tone than the rest of the museums and cathedrals, and even despite the hordes of camera-toting tourists (myself included), it is difficult to overlook their significance.
My favorite sight in Berlin, however, has to be the Holocaust Memorial: a sea of 2,711 concrete columns of varying heights that creates and almost wavelike pattern in the middle of the city. Anyone is free to wander through the columns, allowing the view to constantly change with the ungulating terrain.
Besides the war memorials and the scenic towers and gates, Berlin can also be a great city to eat and drink in, as well. Though the cuisine tends towards a nearly infinite variety of wursts (sausages) and lager beers, it is one of the easiest cities to eat in that I’ve visited, as there are restaurants, food vendors, shops, stalls, and even men carrying around portable grills everywhere, and always at the ready to sate your appetite.
Though not as renowned as the those in Munich, Berlin still boasts quite a few beer halls in which you can indulge your need for crisp, refreshing lagers:
One last point that I found interesting in regards to Berlin: the locals here apparently have an infatuation with what is known as a Donner Kebab, as there are vendors everywhere and lines stringing out of all of them. Essentially a Turkish invention, this cheap, gyro-like concoction is the perfect “put you to bed” food for a whole nation of late-night lager drinkers.