You ever have that feeling of deja vu? I swear I have it every time I tell a friend that I’m going to Berlin and their response is inevitably “Again?”…yes AGAIN. I never have a chance to really explain in detail why I love Berlin and why I keep going back to this wonderful city. First let me state that I’m biased to Germany in general. I took an interest in the German language which led for me to meet native German speakers and to eventually go to Germany. Even with me being biased, I still have great reasons why Berlin should be somewhere on your shortlist if you’re planning to go to Europe.
History – Any time you visit the capital of any country, it inevitably has lots of historical significance. If you’re into old architecture and monuments, Berlin has it. If you start on one end of the street Unter den Linden and walk all the way down, you will see 18th century buildings that have been converted into museums. Walk further down, you will run right into the Brandenburg Gate which is the symbol of Berlin. Right next to the gate, you’ll see the Reichstag which is their Parliament house. Of course you have to keep walking straight, it’ll bring you through Tiergarten and you’ll run into the Berlin Victory Column that holds an majestic Angel on the top of it. Heck, while you’re in Tiergarten, you might see some nude sunbathers like I did…so don’t be shocked! That was slightly off topic but you get the point, if you like old buildings and dig history, Berlin has what you need.
Multi-Cultural – So a little history lesson…post World War II, Germany needed to rebuild so they had a lot of people from Turkey come there to rebuild the country especially Berlin. From this, a lot of them stayed and became citizens and there are many 2nd generation Turkish-Germans living in Berlin. They definitely have an influence on the city and they give the city a little more flavor. Hookah lounges and Turkish food stands are all over the city. Besides Turks, there are people from other Middle-Eastern countries, different parts of Europe and Africans living in Berlin. In Berlin, all of these cultures seem to thrive and fuse into German society.
The Food – Plainly stated, I’ve never eaten anything that tasted bad in Berlin. Being that the city is so multicultural, there are a lot of food options. While in Berlin I’ve eaten Ghanian, Turkish, Lebanese, German and Austrian food. Coming from America, when you taste the food there, it tastes natural and fresh. No processed foods. Most of the time they cook it in front of you which is a different experience for myself. Just like other European cities, people eat outside without being rushed. So not only do you enjoy the food in regards to taste but you enjoy the experience.
Efficient Public Transportation and Taxi’s – Living in New Jersey, when you tell me I need to take public transportation, I envision sitting on a bus with miserable people looking to go to their 2nd job, a hobo sleeping in the back row and a seat with a mystery brown stain. It’s not the case in Berlin. All forms of public transportation run on time, they are quick and efficient. For a foreigner, it’s not rocket science to figure out how to get from one point to another…everything just makes sense. The transportation system operates on an honor system, meaning there are no turnstiles to verify that you bought a ticket, however they have undercover officers that can and will randomly ask if you have a ticket (big fines if you don’t buy one). But lets say you don’t feel comfortable trying to venture around the city with public transportation but prefer taxi’s…no problem. Most of the taxi’s are Mercedes-Benz’s, they are clean and the Taxi drivers speak multiple languages. Being that the city isn’t riddled with cars and traffic, you can get to where you want relatively quickly and not have to spend an arm and a leg. The taxi’s cover everywhere in the city so all you have to do is stand on any corner and wave. I remember from personal experience in New York City trying to get a taxi for hours at night and no one would stop or open their door, so you can imagine how refreshing it is to leave a party at 3 am and know that you’ll get home safely and quickly because the taxi drivers don’t discriminate.
The Nightlife – I will admit that the nightlife is my favorite part of Berlin. I’m a huge Techno and House music fan and Berlin has great night clubs. Berlin is one of the top cities in Europe for night clubs and they take it to heart. For one, no flash photography. They give you a sticker to put over your cell phone camera lens and it’s a huge no-no to record or take pictures. Germans feel that they should be able to let go when they are in the night club which is nice. From first hand experience, you might get quized at the door…know what club you’re going to and who is playing before you go there because they might deny your entry. This isn’t every club but it’s just a headsup. Once you get in, it’s always a great experience. They love to party from 11 pm to late morning most times every Friday and Saturday night. If you go by the Oberbaum Bridge, you will see a ton of people going to all the different clubs that are nearby which is a sight to behold. Ok fine, you’re not into nightclubs…there are lots of nice cozy lounges and bars throughout the city where you can have a drink and listen to music. I encourage you to meet the locals and spark conversation as most are very friendly.
The People – From my time in Germany, I’ve found that Germans, in general, are polite and willing to have conversations…this isn’t any different to Berliners. Being American, they are naturally curious about America being that American pop culture has a huge influence there.
It’s Trendy – You will see walking around Berlin that it is unique in it’s styling than other German cities. You will see lots of graffiti, paper advertisements and artistic paintings all over the city. You will see that Berliners love wearing the color black…black everything. You will see people on a 75 degree day wear black shirt, black jeans and black shoes. The feel walking throughout the city is that it’s just a very hipster and artistic type of city mixed in. There are lots of musicians and artists that live there so it’s no surprise.
Affordable – Berlin in general is affordable to visit. It’s known as a working class city with working class people. You won’t run into overpriced items all over the place and it’s not filled with wealthy people like you might see in Munich . You can easily have a nice Turkish meal that will fill you up for 5-7 Euro. Plenty of AirBNBs are available for around 40-50 Euro a night and hostels that are even cheaper. Train tickets, you can do a day pass for less than 10 Euro or multi-day passes that make it even more affordable. Berlin is a big hub for trains to other cities and taking a high speed train is easy and affordable. For example, I took the DB Bahn ICE Train (High Speed) which is a 4 hr 30 min ride to Munich for 36 Euro. Want to shop? Even in the tourist area of Alexanderplatz, the stores that are there aren’t overpriced because even the locals shop there. Berlin has 2 airports, Tegal and Schoenefeld. Tegal is located within the city limits and Schoenefeld is about 35 minutes outside of the city. Both airports have lots of discount airlines that fly into them and out of them, making it a perfect location to hop to another country on the cheap. Every time I visit Berlin, I’m surprised at how little money I actually spend while I’m there.
Los gehts! (Let’s go!) – If you’re going to Europe, don’t skip Berlin! You may regret it!