Berlin, Germany – June 2016
We have been hearing great things about Berlin for years, so our week-long visit at the end of our Spring 2016 Eurotrip was much anticipated. In general, frequent travelers seem to agree that Berlin is the most progressive, liberal, artistically enticing and affordable city in “western” Europe. Based on our stay, we would agree.
Berlin has a tragic history in the last century – ignominiously being the seat of a Nazi power during WWII, almost complete demolishing as a result of the war, slow redevelopment after the war and then half the population living in constant fear of the Stasi secret police during the Cold War.
We stayed on the west side of the side near Kurfurstendamm strasse. Turns out this is the main shopping thoroughfare in the city which is where we normally try to avoid. However, the nights were all free using Club Carlson points, so we can’t complain too much!
WWII Remnants and Cold War
The city was turned into ruins as a result of WWII. Unlike other cities in northern Germany which rebuilt relatively quickly, the ruins remained for many years particularly in the eastern part of the city where they were neglected during the Cold War. Apparently it has only been in the past decade or so that the buildings have been restored as waves of hipsters arrived. There were still some interesting relics of the past tragedies.
During the years that Berlin was rebuilding, it became a people magnet because of the cheap cost of living. An artistic and alternative culture soon emerged. Now, Berlin is a considered one of the most creative and progressive cities in Europe. We would say that the graffiti (although not the tagging) which is literally everywhere is one of Berlin’s most apparent superlatives – there is no other city we have been to in the world with as much interesting street art. The ruins of the old city made most of Berlin an easy target for spray painting.
The alternative and artistic culture which emerged during and after the cold war has influenced the social and political policies/leanings of the city. To our eyes, the city truly seemed like a place where one could be whoever they wanted and act however (within the laws).
Flea Market and Shopping
Berlin has some of the best flea markets we have seen anywhere in the world, and they went on throughout the week not just on the weekend. Each market seemed to have a different theme, be it antiques, clothing, brickabrack or handmade items. Our favorite was probably the one in Volkspark, where we found the best food options. We also found many neat art stores on our walks through the city.
Food and Drink
We tried to eat “the highlights” of Germany while in Berlin, although we mainly stuck to the Bavarian specialties. We found the food in general to be about as affordable as in the US, with the quality as variable. We particularly enjoyed the beer gardens, which are one of Germany’s best contributions to the world!
German Industry and History
Back Home in the States
We loved our long visit in Europe but were also ready to come back home and see the pups. It was a full five weeks of travel – a week in each of five cities – so we had plenty of time to explore, get a feel for each destination and also spare time for when bad weather came around. It’s so tempting in Europe to try to squeeze in as much as possible, so having the time to linger was a real luxury. Next time however we will probably shorten our stay in each place and add in at least another destination or two.