"More bridges than Venice" Berlin by GillianMcLaughlin
Berlin Travel Guide: 6,866 reviews and 15,332 photos
On 19th July I will have been a VT member for 6 months exactly. On 15th August I will have been in Berlin for one year exactly: I will also be leaving Berlin on that day. I have had an odd relationship with my adoptive city: while I can see that it is a truly wonderful place, with layers upon layers of discoveries, it has also marked a time of enforced solitude for me, professionally and personally. But hey, if you have to be alone, there are worse places to do it than Berlin.
Anyway as a result I have often pondered on how I was going to approach my Berlin pages, and long though of starting them. Today seems to be a good day to do just that. Had it not been for the fact that residents and visitors have already accumulated more than 3,600 tips, I might have been tempted to whisk you round the classic tour taking in the Brandenberg Gate, Alexanderplatz and Check Point Charlie. However a fox in one of Berlin's many cemeteries near where I live in Kreuzberg gave me the inspiration I've been lacking; le d?clic as the French might say.
You see I decided that today was the day to investigate one of Berlin's many cities of the dead. As I wandered, I marvelled at the elaborate family plots, supplanted by some extravagant follies and plants left to roam at their will, and smiled at the natural simplicity of others who had opted for natural stones (boulders even) to commemorate the lives of loved ones.
It was just beginning to rain when he appeared on top of a wall, my fox did. He and I stared at one another for a while until he decided it was time to get back to the wife and kids. Down he climbed in that dainty way that foxes do so many things, he looked at me again and then, unhurried, trotted off along a path.
Moments later he stopped and turned his head to look at me again, looked ahead and then looked back at me once more. I felt a bit like St Exup?ry's Little Prince as I wondered if he was suggesting I followed him. As "aimless" had been my intent until we met, I thought that there was nothing to lose in the rain by heading off in his direction.
As unhurried as before, off he trotted down paths he clearly knew well; and I followed, dutifully, ten paces behind. At length he made a sharp turn left round a high wall. By the time I reached that point he'd completely disappeared from view. I smiled to myself, shaking my head and walked on.
No more than twenty paces later I found myself staring at a set of fairly simple stone crosses and focussing one one word.
Yup, without knowing, or thinking about it, I'd stumbled on the final resting place of the prolific 19th century composer, Felix Mendelssohn, and a miscellany of family members. I wandered on and about five minutes later I happened upon Mr Fox's home. Relatively freshly dug, it burrowed down beside the long past caring Elizabeth M?ller
As I meandered back towards one of the gates, still bemused by my encounter, I found myself thinking about all those places I knew in Berlin. That drew me into reflection. What I really like about Berlin are not those great symbols known the world over, nor the fine and eclectic collections of art and antiquities to be found in Berlin's many museums and galleries. Rather, it is the lesser-known landmarks, the Potsdamerplatz, the East Side Gallery, the historic port and the incredible friendliness and creativity of the people. The surprises, like today's, round every corner.
Had the name Phoenix not been purloined by that soulless conurbation enforced on the Arizona desert it would be the perfect subtitle for 21st century Berlin. A vibrant city risen, against the odds from the ashes.
There is a spirit here that is rare. Berliners have all the pride of Parisiens, and, like Glaswegians, they stay put and refuse to acknowledge that another city has merits unknown here. With all the reckless abandon of New Orleans, Berlin defies the norms of the country in which it happens to find itself, and with the optimism of Cape Town, it refuses to bow before the evident problems it is living though.
A city with no single centre, but with a plethora of atmospheric neighbourhoods, ladies, and gentlemen, I give you, Berlin.
- Pros:A city of endless discovery
- Cons:Orientation can be a bit of a problem for some
- In a nutshell:Something for every mood, every taste and every age
19th April 1999 heralded the first meeting of the Bundestag in it's new Berlin home... 66 years after the Reichstag was... more travel advice
I would not ordinarily direct visitors to places which are not easily accessible other than through the local language.... more travel advice
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