I’ve been to this amazing city more than a dozen times in my life. Having grown up in Hungary and then moving away, the city is a bit like me, a mix of East and West. It’s a place that feels that I home in and it will always have a special place in my heart.
#1 What is your impression of Berliners?
I’m always astounded how well they speak English. I mean, I speak a little German, enough to get by, but everywhere you go, coffee shops, taxis, restaurants, they all speak the Queen’s English! It’s incredible. Another great thing about Berliners is how friendly they all are. There’s a stereotype that Germans are a little stern and cold, but the opposite is true. They’re so friendly and helpful. Lots of times I would go into a bar and a native Berliner would hear me speaking English and come up and chat with me asking me where I’m from etc. There’s absolutely no tourist snobbery in Berlin, they work very hard to make you feel welcome. They’re a lovely bunch of people, I love them!
#2 What’re your must-dos in Berlin?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the iconic TV tower. I was fascinated with it when I first saw it when I was about 5 years old. I love its gorgeous, shiny dome and the fact that it’s slap-bang in the middle of the city. When I was a teenager, I went up inside of it through a lift and up into a revolving restaurant inside of its dome. The restaurant is still in use today and lots of people have no idea there’s one in there! You get a stunning view of the city, you can see for miles and miles. Some might say it’s a little touristy, but there’s never really big queues or anything like that, so it’s a bit of a hidden gem!
Another must-see is the Brandenburg Gate and the nearby Reichstag. The Germans have done a great job with rebuilding the Reichstag. It fell into disrepair and disuse after World War 2 and in the Cold War. Today though, it has a huge glass dome on the top, which was only built in the last 10 or so years. You can walk up some steps inside and at the top, you get an amazing view of the Tiergarten below. The staircase is in a spiral shape with a big mirror in the middle of it all. It reflects all the people walking up the staircase and has the natural light bouncing off of it too. It’s breathtaking to look at. It’s like an ever-changing work of art, always displaying something different, minute by minute.
#3 Is there a place you like to visit that’s a little “off the radar”?
Yes! Templehof airport is right in the city centre and it was abandoned around 10 years ago. Nowadays, it’s a sort of free-for-all creative events space type-thing. They use it for theatre productions, art exhibitions and music events, you name it! It’s so unique and has a completely different vibe compared to more bespoke, fancier venues that you’ll find elsewhere in the city. Tip: always check their programme for weekly and upcoming events.
#4 How does the history of the city come alive in Berlin?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Berlin might look like a rebuilt, “new city” after the damage caused by World War II. , but it’s not like that at all! Of course, there are a smattering of newer buildings, but it’s mostly older-style architecture that is most common in the city, especially in the city centre, Mitte. They’ve done a lot to preserve the “Old Berlin”. It’s nice to see. One sort of spooky reminder of the Second World War though is the “gaps” you get between buildings. There are these unused plots of land in random places, it looks a little bit like a gap in someone’s mouth, caused by a missing tooth. You’ll be walking in a nice area and see a row of stunning houses, but then you’ll see a big gap between the two of them with nothing there. I suppose these buildings must have been destroyed in the war and were never rebuilt. It’s a reminder of the destruction caused by the war and shows that the echoes of the way still persist in the city to this day.
Of course, Berlin’s also been shaped so much by the Cold War as well. Although the Berlin Wall doesn’t exist anymore, you can still feel when you’ve crossed over where it used to be. The architecture suddenly changes and the whole aesthetic becomes different. Really, I guess the contrast is mainly down to differences in money. West Berlin had more cash to make things look nice, look pretty. East Berlin, not so much. But the Eastern European side of me means I prefer the old East side to the West. I feel more at home there. I like that they’ve still kept part of the wall standing, at the East Side Gallery. I love how it stands as a work of art, with new graffiti artists from all around the world being invited to put artworks on it every few months or so. It’s an awe-inspiring example of turning something that caused so much misery into something so beautiful. Truly wonderful.
#5 What are some of the tastes of the city?
The city is such a melting pot of flavours, with all kinds of different dishes and meals to try. There’s a huge international influence, so the typical German cuisine has been updated with all these amazing Vietnamese, Brazilian and Portuguese etcetera influences from all over the world. In the past, German food was quite heavy, you know, lots of potatoes, meat, a bit bland. Kind of stodgy stuff. I think that kind of food has suffered a little bit, with this influx of flavours. So nowadays there isn’t “one taste” of Berlin, it’s a real mixture of all sorts from all around the globe.
#6 Is there anything you don’t like about the city?
I’m really not a fan of this “stag-culture”. Seeing all of these 8 people, beer-drinking bikes, touristy, gimmicky stuff…. there are tons of them in the city now. Berlin has a great bar and club scene, so it’s a stag-do hotspot. But people come in on holiday and have this attitude of “let’s smash it, get super drunk”. I mean, there are lots of young people who are getting more into beer, you know, craft beers, microbreweries. They appreciate the beer when they visit but don’t take it too far with their drinking. But on the other side, there are groups of tourists getting drunk, being super loud, centre-of-attention type-thing. That’s one thing I really don’t like seeing when I’m in Berlin. Other than that though, I love it. It’s my only small complaint!
So, that’s my city review of Berlin! What are some of your stories of this incredible city? Share your favourite memories of Berlin down in the comments.