Tuesday, May 22

5 Reasons to Go to Berlin

Last Tuesday at 4:10 P.M. I handed in my third of three papers written that day,  grabbed my suitcase, and boarded a plane to Berlin. Wellesley College, bless its soul, gave my 6 seminar mates and I an early graduation present in the form of an all-expenses paid trip to Berlin for 5 days, as the "excursion" for our final 300-level seminar on Berlin. To highlight how ridiculous my school is, they even gave us each 200 euros for "cultural expenses" and "food". And did not ask for receipts.

So, I had the best time.

For all of you thinking maybe someday soon to plan a euro-trip, Berlin is a must. Here are five main reasons why:

1. German beer, German wine, German food. Believe me, it is amazing. and even if you don't like German style food (very meat and potato heavy, starchy!) well, Berlin is also a culinary capitol with fantastic restaurants of every genre and flavor. I had amazing Austrian food as well as typical German, Turkish (the famous Dönner Kebab is a must-have), Thai, and Vietnamese. Oh, don't forget Falafel too. and in the springtime, every restaurant has a zillion fresh asparagus dishes and fruit pies/strudels/cheesecakes on hand.
Kaiserschmarrn: sugary pancakes cut up
and eaten with plum sauce
The Kebab with lamb meat,
best washed down with a cold beer

2. Architecture+History. In my opinion, Berlin is one of the easiest cities to understand without actually needing a crazy intense tour guide. You can literally walk through any major square and be able to easily identify buildings from the last 10 years, the DDR horribly ugly weird buildings of the Cold War period, the even more terrifying buildings of the Nazi Regime (huge, grey stone, and basically every one looks like it could be part of a concentration camp-literally) and then the beautiful few buildings remaining from before the war. There is actually a part of Berlin that is kind of like Disney land...totally fake. But that Nikolaiviertel is utterly quaint and beautiful and still worth visiting, to think in awe of what the city had been, compared to what it has experienced. I would put Berlin at the top of the list of cities that have undergone the most turmoil, destruction, rebuilding, and transformation in one single century. Each new political regime, beginning with the Kaiser up to WW1, the Nazis, the split-city BRD, DDR time period, and then post-fall of the wall 1989 to today "democracy" has brought a completely new "look" to the city. It can be weird to handle at times; history is literally piled on top of itself in this city.

you know, just a church in the
middle of the street
Home of the Olympics, 1936, where Jesse Owens
would take 4 gold medals. Only a few years later would this style of architecture mean something entirely different to the world. Freaking creepy.
3. Culture. Berlin has it all. You want hipster experimental theater doing weird versions of "End Game" in German and a new interpretation of Hamlet, you've got it. But if that's not your thing, there's opera, vaudeville, a philharmonia boasting some of the best musicians in the world, and some smaller dirty venues with great local beers and even better local and international acts. Don't forget the Berlin film festival and the chance to see old films in the remaining grand cinemas of the twenties. There is always something amazing going on at night, and then during the day you'll find impromput flea markets to keep you entertained as well. Or you could always take one of the beer bicycle tours:
a lot of catcalls and waving came our way, a group of 7 smartly dressed ladies...
4. Graffiti and art movements. I think I posted last year while abroad about the graffiti in Berlin. This time I visited a lot of new areas and thus, found a ton of new graffiti. So awesome. Hipster-ish Berlin artists are pretty cool, and not stuck up like the French.
nuns? owls? who knows.

5. The Museums. Check out my post about the Pergamon Museum here. That's my favorite. Last year I hit all of the major museums in Berlin, which were super, but this year I got to do a couple of less-visited ones. Berlin is home to the world's original Gay Museum, literally called that ("Schwules Museum", which is odd because "schwule" has kind of a negative connotation...?) and lemme tell you, it was fantastic. My hotel was right next to Berlin's Erotic Museum, which was also great. The set of ivory lady toys in various sizes in a mahogany box engraved with the message "for your pleasure" from the 18th century was a personal fav. Then in the Berlin Synagoge, which is incredibly beautiful, there was an incredible exhibit of photography from the only man to document the instating of Israel as a Jewish state in 1948. Oh, then across the street from the synagoge is a building called Tacheles, which got overrun by squatter artists 10 years ago who graffiti-ed the whole thing inside and out, started selling their work to tourists, and made so much money that the landlords have let them stay ever since.
the synagogue, only this front facade and a few rooms was restored,
the rest of the inside is gone forever after being bombed during WWII.

So there's my sales pitch.

If you weren't convinced, well, maybe, if you move to Berlin you could get one of these too:
a tiny do-it-yourself froyo truck!!
soon-to-be post-grad germanic enthusiast

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