Regeneration is possibly the best word to sum up Berlin. While every city goes through its changes, growth and transformation Berlin has had its fair share and seen many incarnations. While its history is well known the city as we know it today is still quite young. The creative energy is palpable and makes for an exciting city break.
I was slightly worried that the second time around might be disappointing. Maybe I had elevated Berlin so much in my mind that I would return and question what all the fuss was about. No need to worry at all for I went, I saw, and I fell deeper in love with this city.
It is not easy to do light-hearted sightseeing as remnants of an oppressive past dot the city but even with that in mind there is an energy there which does not dwell on the past but looks to the present day. Street art/graffiti is so rife you would think that it was legal (it isn’t) and the standard of the work is quite high. An Alternative Berlin tour done on my second day gave a great rundown of who some of the well known artists are mixed in with some quirky tales.
The edgy/gritty feel I noticed on my first trip was a little less apparent as lots of the money being pumped into the city has cleaned it up a little. In the under three years since I was there it is noticeable that corporations are making their mark by bankrolling street art and changing the face of historically significant areas.
Behind the East Side Gallery lies land that was previously known as the death strip which separated West and East Berlin. It is also where you will currently find YAAM = Youth African Arts Market. A market that as the name suggests was cultivated by African youth and artists in the city. Founded in 1994 it soon became a significant place for the African & Caribbean community and it has long been a popular destination for all Berliners. Soon however it will have to relocate from its current location…to then be swiftly replaced by a hotel.
It felt nice to revisit a place that was familiar but not yet well known. With better navigational skills and having seen most of the popular sites I was open to visiting anything my travel mates wanted to see and was able to direct us there relatively easily.
I was however determined this time around to visit the Reichstag, which we did, and it was the highlight of the trip. I was happy to find out that the Reichstag is 1) Open on a Saturday and 2) Easy to book just one day in advance. The dome was also opened and not closed like indicated online. More to come on this later.
Trying to pinpoint exactly why I love Berlin can be difficult to fully express though. I like the people, the high value for low-cost, and the vibe but mostly I like that unlike London it is a city with no pretensions or glaringly obvious class divisions.
Also Berlin does not try to be cool or hip, it just can’t help itself most of the time. I could potentially see myself living there but I don’t know what Id do exactly. I’m sure I’d need to know German to get a job remotely similar to what I do in London. So for now I will continue to admire from afar and up close when I get the chance.