When Americans hear that I am from Berlin, Germany the reactions are quite interesting, to say the least. Eyes are growing bigger, jaws are dropping, and the occasional sound of disbelief accompanies this first reaction. Once they get over that initial shock, the questions start. Questions always seem to date back to Hitler and then the erection of the Berlin Wall. I am old, but not that old. I wasn’t alive for either. And then there are those travel shows or other documentaries telling of Berlin, and every time, it leaves me sad in front of the tv set. Berlin is always portrayed as a cold, ugly, unfriendly place to be. And again, all mostly shown, dates back to Hitler’s reign and the time of the wall. These days, most places they talk about are of locations in East Berlin. However, Berlin is soooo much more; owning a past rich of Kaisers and nobles and pride.
With a city founded in 1237 A.D., there is a lot of history to be seen. I have been climbing over fences -put up for protection (protecting whom or what is actually unclear) - as a little girl sneaking into the ruins of some old castles, playing princess right there, having imagination run wild while walking up and down the stairs that have been walked on by Aristocrats and royalty. And looking up to murals on what used to be an impressive ceiling; mesmerized by the shine of the gold still left within the bomb-struck building; sneaking up to the old Berlin Museum which holds the bust of Nefertiti hostage for over 20 years ; looking at artifacts through the old milky window and capturing the sight of big statues of stone and gold before being chased off by the museum guard; walking along the Berlin Wall, touching this cold concrete structure and hearing shots on the other side, shooting a feeling of unease through the stomach; standing on wooden visitor platforms, that allowed the view over the Berlin Wall, looking at the guard towers of East-German guards and making funny and silly faces at them; being surrounded by buildings that date back to the 1400’s; walking on walk ways that have been hand crafted way back when; looking into a fountain which was built for Frederick the Great ; walking through parks that have been enjoyed by people through the rococo/baroque era ; places reminding of Gothic times; strolling on an island made for a princess by her prince; feeling the influence of Napoleon; touching the remnants of Roman, Greek and French architecture … this is where I grew up, a city they then called West-Berlin in Prussia-Germany.
Opening the wall allowed for even more history to be explored by us, who grew up in West-Berlin. Schloss Sanssouci being one of them, as well as the very area where Berlin has been founded; today, this area is called “the museum island”. Besides this amazing history, there is the food. The smell of fresh baked bread, fresh ground coffee waking you up every single morning. Berlin’s cuisine offers a lot more then sausages and ham hocks, which is more typical for Bavaria. Summertime promises the full enjoyment of cultures in the great outdoors. Berlin is an international metropolis, with Turks, Arabs, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards and many more having found their new home right here in Berlin. It also promises long warm days and short mild nights with a clear night sky. Beer gardens are open everywhere, and with Berlin’s own breweries, the smell of hops entices you to enter and partake in Berlin’s culture. In the winter, the evening air smells of spiced red wine and roasted hot almonds; hot chocolate and Grog available everywhere. Winter promises short cold days and long, even colder nights, but always accompanied by a magnificent display of decorative street lights.
Forgetting politics for just one moment, and open the senses, Berlin is an artistic, romantic, beautiful, mind boggling, crazy and wonderful place to experience. When clearing the mind, all of Berlin’s History and all else it has to offer clearly overshadows any remnants of Hitler. Just close your eyes and let Berlin sway you gently through time.