Travellers’ Corner: Cool Berlin

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You hear so much these days about Berlin being so cool and ‘the place to be’ that some Berliners tell you that they are starting to feel fed up (which is somehow understandable, even if you are a cool person, wouldn’t you also ask people to stop telling you that all the time?). It is probably also due to the “Berliner Schnauze” (Berlin snout), a term used to express that Berliners tend to be upfront when speaking their mind.
I moved to Berlin in August 2014. There are museums, historical sites and galleries all around. You can tell that this city saw monarchy, fascism and socialism and there are a lot of interesting places to go to if you want to find out more about the history of this city and Germany in general. If you like the old stuff (antique pieces, I should say) you will want to see the Pergamon Museum. If you are interested in modern art, you will definitely like the Neue Nationalgalerie a lot, just to give you two examples. Berlin has inspired a lot of musicians (David Bowie and Iggy Pop, for example, who spent a couple of intense years here) and it still is very much a music city with lots of clubs for all kinds of music.
Berlin is known for its “Kieze” (which could be translated as neighbourhoods), meaning that there is a strong sense of belonging and identity in each part of the town. You will hear people from Charlottenburg (in the western part of the town) say: “I have never been to Pankow (in the Eastern part of the town), why should I go there?” So the Kieze are like little towns in their own right. Talking about East and West, although it has become less of an issue in recent years, you could drop me anywhere in Berlin and I would normally still be able to tell you if it is the East or the West.
It might be interesting to know that, although Berlin is Germany’s political centre and the capital, it is not its economic centre, unlike Paris or London. This might be the reason why Klaus Wowereit, the mayor of Berlin, once said that Berlin was “poor, but sexy”. It is true that there are many other cities in Germany which are performing better or which are more important in economic terms (Frankfurt, Munich…). German history and the system of federalism it brought about also accounts for the fact that Berlin is not the one and only cultural or print media centre in Germany, there are other cities to compete with.
Having said that, Berlin has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that is very appealing. Unlike other German cities it still seems to be under construction all the time and you never know where this journey will take you, in regards to architecture, arts or society. So Berlin might be considered an avant garde place in many respects. This, of course, is just my point of view. Ask for instance a businessman from Munich and he might tell you that Berlin, in his opinion, is just a place where things don’t work out the way they should. As an example of Berlin’s ‘chaos’ he could go on and mention Berlin Brandenburg airport, which should have been opened in 2010, but has not due to poor planning and management.
Another thing, which might be of interest, is that Berlin is still quite cheap when it comes to housing, going out or public transport. A day ticket, for instance, which you can use for trams, buses, local trains and underground all over Berlin is 6,70 EURO, so a bit more than £5. Most restaurants and pubs are not too expensive either and there is a large variety to choose from.
So, dear Berliners, just to repeat to you, this is definitely a cool place to be..

Written by Edgar Meier

Edited by Alicja Zajdel
Photo courtesy of BLS

Berlin

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