The Berlin Cathedral has a disproportionately large sense about it. A castle that was demolished in 1950, replaced by a very Brutalist structure, and then recently reconstructed from scratch according to its 19th century front, with a hyper-modern interior is located across the street. This building is known as the ridiculous Stadtschloss. A glass roof that resembles a tent can be seen on Potsdamer Platz. This odd structure acts as a time capsule, preserving what people in the early 1990s imagined their future to be like. The neoclassical landmark that came to represent the newly unified Germany is the Brandenburg Gate, which can be seen only a short distance down the road.
This metropolis bears the imprints of the 20th century in a profound way. A wall still physically separated East and West Berlin not so long ago. And the history that came before the wall was much more gloomy: Stolpersteine, also known as stumbling stones, are small golden rectangles that are embedded into the pavement throughout Berlin. Each one bears the name of a Jewish resident of Berlin who was murdered by the Nazis, and they serve as a constant reminder of the people whose children and grandchildren could be living here now. If you are familiar with the city’s past, you will discover evidence of suffering at every corner in Berlin.
When the weather is nice, however, and you bike from the Neukolln district to Kreuzberg to Friedrichshain to Prenzlauer Berg, the architecture fades into the background, and you will find a sense of freedom in whizzing by the endless stretches of cafes and restaurants and parks full of people speaking so many different languages.
The activities that take place inside, such as at Berlin’s cafés and clubs, as well as within people’s homes, contribute significantly to the city’s allure. The city’s troubled past has given birth to a yearning for happiness, which may sometimes take extreme measures. In both dance schools and on the streets, there is a significant dance and club culture that includes a wide range of musical genres, from techno to Afrobeats. After the collapse of the wall, there was an increase in the availability of many huge spaces, which led to an increase in the number of outstanding artists who had studios in Berlin, which in turn led to a flourishing contemporary art scene. And in terms of the literary scene, Berlin is home to a significant number of well-known German-language authors, some of whom hail from neighbouring countries such as Austria and Switzerland.
But maybe the finest thing about Berlin is that its guiding principle of everyone being equal is being actively practised in a variety of different ways. You don’t need a lot of money to have a good time in Berlin, which is still an inexpensive city (well, generally speaking). If you have the right attitude and sense of style, you will have an easier time getting into Berghain or any elite club than any millionaire. I don’t know when it occurred, but somehow Berlin climbed beyond its horrible history and somehow became a fantastic place to be. I wish I knew when it happened.