Just to provide you with some context, I am originally from Cergy – a little charming town 1 hour from Paris – and decided to start a new life in Germany. Although I have been living here for a year and a half now, I have never been to Berlin before. So, in August I took a few days off and decided to do a trip there!
Berlin, city of freedom and extravagance
Colorful hair, atypical fashion styles, music everywhere, Berlin is the city of freedom of expression. Also known to be a hipsters’ city, people really don’t care how you dress and what you do. So if you go to Berlin, be prepared to meet some interesting and extraverted people.
The city is huge: 8 times Paris size. Get ready to walk and take public transportation to go from one point to another. Indeed, each Berlin district has its own flair and you will almost feel like you are not in the same city: from Charlottenburg busy shopping streets, to Mitte district and the rests of the Berlin Wall, to Kreuzberg and its nightlife spots etc. There is something for all tastes.
One negative point though, is the cost of cultural activities. I personally enjoy going to museums and have some historical backgrounds on what I have been visiting. In France, almost every museum is free for people under 25 and elderly. I found the entrance fees in Berlin’s museums a little bit discouraging (in average between 10 to 15€).
Ignorance and social media addiction
I was eager to go to Berlin to understand what happened to the city during and after World War II. You will see many memorials in remembering of the people who lost their life to the insane Nazi regime. I was shocked to see people taking selfies right on those memorials. The most famous one is the Jews Memorial. It consists into more than 2700 stones of different sizes and heights, built in 2003. It has since then become a very tourist place and you will see all other the internet pictures of people smiling, taking incredible poses and eating there. I felt humbled and touched by the memorial and could not imagine myself taking a picture of it.
Besides, next to each memorial is written an explanation in German and English. So either people don’t read it or, they simply don’t care…The “likes” race takes upon the original meaning and purpose of the monument. “Yolocaust” is a project in which an artist did collages of those people’s selfies with dead bodies in the background (website link below). The aim was to show the shocking truth and how selfless this behaviour is. I also felt the heaviness of the post-war regime by going to Checkpoint Charly, where people tried desperately for years to escape Communism and go into the “free” western world.
Thanks to innovative start-ups and tourism, Berlin is growing fast, at the point where rents have doubled in the last 10 years…The government has therefore decided to freeze rents for the next 5 years. I talked to taxi drivers who complained that living costs have skyrocketed, making life of an average Berliner worker more and more difficult.
30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall
On October the 3rd, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, will be celebrated. This date is already a bank holiday in Germany. 30 years…only. It is strange to think that people my age never knew what war was. I met Berliners for whom the memory is still vivid. I could sometimes feel a sense of nostalgia since that world represented their whole childhood or youth.
I would definitely recommend going to Berlin, at least for its tremendous History. There is so much to learn about human nature, how crual but also how gentle it can be. I guess we all have these two sides in us: good and bad. I personally prefer living in smaller towns but you will never get bored in such a city and meet lovely and open-minded people for sure!
Sources: www.capital.fr/entreprises-marches/des-milliers-de-manifestants-contre-le-montant-des-loyers-a-berlin-1334390; yolocaust.de