Emerging from the tube on Friedriechstrasse saw us greeted with a cascade of snowdrops. Wet and cold, they awoke us from the drowsiness a morning’s travel can bring and, with Checkpoint Charlie up ahead, announced our arrival. We’d made it to Berlin.
We then proceeded to walk the entirety of this rather lengthy street, before eventually turning round and walking back. Our hotel was but ten yards from our original tube stop. Evidently, the snow’s efforts at revitalising us were short-lived. Its efforts at soaking us, more permanent.
After drying off, we exited the hotel into sunshine, the sort of bleak glare that follows a mass of heavy cloud. This change in weather was an early precis to the city itself: Berlin is diverse and changeable.
Now firmly established as the cultural, clubbing centre of Europe, Berlin does not disappoint. The city’s landscape may be one that morphs and shifts endlessly, taking you from rubble and construction to the modernity of a 21st century capital, but around each corner there is a worthwhile surprise. There is Kreuzberg in the south, with its Biergartens and the famous (or infamously garlicky) Mustafas kebab. There is the trendy, much-Instagrammed East Side Gallery, with its Turkish quarter and Burgermeister, a disused underground station that may well house the best burger five Euros can buy.
Berlin’s history goes hand in hand with the multi-faceted nature of the city. Sites such as the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial are moving and hugely important to our memory of World War II’s atrocities. There are few places in Berlin that have stood past 1945, when the German capital was obliterated by a self-destructive Hitler and the incoming Soviet forces. This makes landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag even more significant. For tourists, the latter also offers a glimpse of German parliament and post-war modernisation as well as a free, birds-eye view of the city (it also beats the view of the much-publicised, over-priced TV Tower).
Throughout the city, the Berlin wall’s remnants highlight the lasting post-war conflict that gripped Germany until the ’80s, and reveal how the city first attracted the alternative, creative culture it is associated with today.
A place that deserves many trips, the city is brimming with diversity, Kurrywurst and culture. Wherever you go, you will be kept breathlessly busy in Berlin.