Date: Wednesday 18 March to Saturday 21 March 2015
Location: Berlin, Germany
I guess we’re all influenced by fashion, no matter how hard we try to go against the grain, so when I started looking around for a little Spring getaway there was only one place it could be…Berlin. Berlin, Berlin, Berlin is all I’ve been hearing for the last year. First it was my corporate clients, then it was the people in my social media realm, then it was my friends! So FOMO kicked in and off I went to Berlin!
Everything I knew about the city was directly related to the Second World War but we wanted to see a different side of the city so decided to actively try to avoid this piece of the history books. Besides, history classes from year 7 through to 9 taught me all that I ever needed to know about the wars and more (oh the things I could tell you about trench foot!)… But not much about any other era of history.
After arriving pretty late we decided a quick dinner on Friedrichstrasse was probably the best idea and ended up in a very nice ‘traditional’ (read ‘commercially traditional, especially made for tourists’ – saying this, the food was lovely) restaurant just round the corner from the Brandenburg Gate. A late night wander showed us this monument in a beautiful light.
We were staying in an apartment on the edge of what was the old East area and so the next day the first thing we went to see was the remnants of the Berlin Wall (so much for no war stuff…). There are pieces of this monument left all over the city, some have become canvases for younger generations to voice their opinions of today’s politics in beautiful murals. Others have turned into museums showing the history behind the construction and what happened after. And some, like our section, have been turned into parks and wide green spaces filled with people enjoying the sunshine in the shadow of the crumbling concrete. It’s nice to see that time marches on and things change even after major disasters.
Over the next few days we pretty much covered most of Berlin. This included a bus tour of the ‘trendy’ neighbourhoods of Berlin … There are lots of those (It’s a bit like Shoreditch on steroids). The tour showed off several decades of communist architecture which as much as the tour guide tried to tell me looked different … it actually all just looked the same. Like Lego houses. While we were around these areas we took the opportunity to scout out the local shopping, which is amazing! Berlin is full of beautiful little boutique shops which are actually individual (something I still struggle to find in London). We all picked up some really nice little pieces that will be wardrobe staples for years.
We also took a trip to KaDeWe (essentially the Harrods of Berlin) for some well deserved tea and cake! I have never seen so many beautiful cakes that I wanted to eat!! It was like heaven … and diet hell … all in one beautiful place.
We broke the ‘war pact’ again and saw the ‘Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas’ (memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe), or the Holocaust memorial as it’s commonly referred to in the UK. As a piece of architecture this structure is emotionally moving but as a memorial to this historic event it is beyond anything I have seen before. The effect created by the uneven ground and the irregular height columns of dark concrete is incredible. Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold should be very proud of their work together.
All in all I had a great holiday away in Berlin and I would visit again (mostly for a sneaky shopping trip) but I can’t say I’d ever want to live there. Although it has a lovely calm feeling about it and lots of green space I can’t imagine being constantly surrounded by all the memorabilia from the Second World War and the Cold War. Either you must become blind to it or it must weigh on your mind all the time, neither are appealing options.