Berlin is the City-equivalent of a sexy librarian. Smart, beautiful, and has no idea she's hot, so she's not a condescending ego monster. We'd swipe right on Berlin.
I wasn't ready for how much I'd love Berlin. The city isn't hollywood-romantic the way some other European cities are - it's more urban and gritty than Paris or London. But it's gorgeous because of the contrasts - pop color graffiti next to huge flowering trees, old building exteriors with modern minimalist design interiors.
Before I give you a rundown of Who/What/Where/When, I owe you a snapshot of my brain in Berlin. I scrawled the below notes on a train between Berlin and Amsterdam to document the FEELS I had after spending time in this awesome city:
Vegan Food is everywhere. It's pronounced "Vehh-Jinn".
Puppies are well behaved and run around off leash. (Maya! at Alaska Bar!) *that story later*
Subway system is CLEAN and so easy. S-Bahn + U-Bahn.
Kreuzberg is just like Oakland, CA. (i.e. hipster?)
Berliner style is on point. Midi-length wool coats, modern + voluminous shapes, vintage boots, Kanken Fjallraven backpacks. I suddenly need a red beanie. And a bike.
You can drink open containers of alcohol anywhere. Train? Sure! Street? Sure! Want it to go? Sure! Our friendly liquor store guy thought we were French at first - then smiled when we sheepishly admitted we only spoke English - and he switched to English. He offered to open our beers for us. BEST guy.
Everyone is very, very nice. "Of COURSE I speak English!"
There are bike lanes everywhere, separate from road and sidewalk.
The crosswalk pedestrian "go" symbol is a funny little man in a hat walking.
Everything, every single building at ground level up to 7ft, is covered in pop colors of graffiti. But not in a violent way. Just, kinda expressive art graffiti.
No brewed coffee here - espresso or americano.
Not a ton of tourists - quiet for how big the city is.
The birds sing at all times of day.
Streets are long and straight - you can see what feels like miles down them (the driving ones anyway). Small streets are cobblestone.
Sidewalks are a mixed pattern of stone and tile, and the bike lanes are asphalt.
CASH is king. Very few spots wanted credit cards, but it was easy to find ATMs.
Most of the apartment buildings have tiny doors in addition to big, double door main entrances. What are they for?!
It was sunny, windy, rainy and hailing all within a 20min span of time. In April.
People (painfully cool people) sit on the edge of the canal in Kreuzberg and drink beer with their friends.
Danke. Bitte. "Tchoos!" Everyone says that when you leave somewhere. It's like "later! see ya!"..."Chooooss!"
The color of this city is salmon pink and grey with pop colors of purple, black and red.
I could live here.
Knowing I would spend a short time in Berlin on my first visit (only 6 days!), it was important I avoided planning anything. Especially touristy things. I absolutely saw Checkpoint Charlie and fragments of the Berlin wall, as well as the Reichstag (Germany's historic parliament building) - but I saw these things by accident, while wandering. Seriously! I didn't use a map to find them, I just walked through Berlin until I stumbled across them. Accidentally discovering fragments of the Berlin wall was actually very moving; at the time I walked up to it there were no tourists or signs, but I suddenly felt something significant about it - deeply sad and powerful. It wasn't about avoiding this historic monument in German culture; not planning my visit was about creating circumstances to experience wonder. This spontaneous discovery method will be easy for you Adventurer types out there; it will be hard for the Curators and nearly impossible for the Strategist types. Whether you try this out on your visit to Berlin or to another city - I highly recommend spending half your time in Wander-mode and the other half visiting planned locations. Set yourself free!
Berlin was a city I'd love to spend extended time in because of it's energy. I imagine its free expression, creativity, youth culture and innovation are the result of this city's intense history and recent cultural shifts...Without pretending I understand the political complexities Berlin has experienced, or why it's vibe is 'just so' - I can say with confidence that it was welcoming, electric, youthful, and free.