Berlin, the place to be

Having been to Munich first, I expected Berlin to be very similar, only bigger.  But Berlin is a totally different Germany. It’s a city of contradictions with a very cosmopolitan and modern vibe, while Munich is full of Bavarian tradition.

With its long and turbulent history,  today’s Berlin’s art scene pays homage to the cultural renaissance of the Weimar Republic days  of the 1920s. The city is known for its numerous bars, restaurants, galleries and festivals. There is a very laid-back vibe in the city that embraces you like a nice, warm blanket, making you feel as if you’ve been here all your life.

For  an old European city, and a capital at that,  Berlin’s architecture is more modern than you would expect. What wasn’t destroyed during the war has gone through an extensive restoration and most of those buildings have become museums, educational institutions or government buildings.

The city is huge and one has to remember that it really is two cities blended into one. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it cut through the city to separate it into two sides and two different countries. While the wall is long gone, there are remnants of it are scattered around. Depends where you are in the city, you might notice a double row of cobblestones that trace the route where the wall stood. You might miss it if you’re not looking.

Berlin has a lot of memorials that commemorate the wrongdoings of the past. There is a poignant Sinti and Roma Memorial, the Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe and the former East – West Berlin crossing Checkpoint Charlie to name a few. They are silent reminders of the horrors of the past and the immeasurable pain and suffering of the many who lost their lives.

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Checkpoint Charlie – then and now

But it’s not all sadness and pain. Today’s Berlin is welcoming, vibrant and very cosmopolitan. Everyone seems to speak English and you hear a variety of other languages around you. We went to a pretty outstanding Thai and  African restaurants, great coffee shops and funky bars. We did one of those bus tours throughout the city, walked for miles and loved everything about it. We even stopped at a computer games museum – the Computerspielemuseum – where Alex relived his childhood. It was the first ever museum for computer games. I guess it’s not the only one anymore 🙂

We stayed in this awesome hotel – Novum Select Hotel Berlin Ostbahnhof – that was a mix of the old and new. The rooms were very modern while the staircases had vaulted ceilings with a very Gothic vibe. Out balcony looked out to a grassy courtyard and a cute patio that was part of the hotel grounds. I think it used to be some type of a school in the past and the combination of the styles really intrigued me. Then again, things like that do 🙂

I wish we had more time in Berlin. It feels like we only got a small glimpse into this interesting yet unassuming city. This definitely means we have to go back.

Have you been in Berlin? What’s your fave part of it?

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