Culture: The War and The Wall – a Bad Tourist’s Take on Berlin

Berlin 1

Steeped in history, a relic of chaos and Hell on Earth; a lot of words beginning with U can be used to describe the German capital. But a barren wasteland by day can play host to some naughtiness by night, as our resident Bad Tourist finds out…

With a population 3.5million, Berlin is Germany’s biggest city, and after the war and the Wall, this is definitely a unique place. I had wanted to visit for ages, and finally found the opportunity at the Halloween weekend with my friend Amy. It’s safe to say we weren’t disappointed.

The change from Munich to Berlin was a dramatic one. My first thoughts in the city were ‘I miss Munich’. Perhaps I had become a bit spoilt by the luxurious Munich lifestyle, whereas in Berlin I suddenly realised the lower standard of living. Dirty, cramped public transport and stations, streets with litter were a surprise having come from a city that infamously is clean, large, and spacious. The divide was eminently noticeable – I actually felt like I had entered another country.

While the architecture may be a bit bland and grey, there are some really cool Flea Markets to explore.

While the architecture may be a bit bland and grey, there are some really cool Flea Markets to explore.

We arrived early in the morning and as we made our way through the city I couldn’t help comparing to the almost rural Munich. In parts the architecture of the city was depressing: grey, square, string wide and blank. In others places a little more tight-knit with a buzz. But walking around in the cold I had to wonder if this city could ever get warm. To me it seemed the warmth wouldn’t suit the cold architecture. However, there was one place that I saw where it really was nice: Museum Island.

Despite there attracting designs these are also some really cool museums! There are five in total, each offering heaps of educational fun (yay). History, art, modern history – they really do have it all! For a fair price of 22 you can day access to all museums which I though was pretty cool, but after spending half a day in the Neu Museum, I was left questioning who could really manage five museums in one day.
A big thing in Berlin is FOOD. Not big expensive places that require a man to feel ashamed in slacks (the places frequented by my beloved editor, for instance), but instead, cheap, easy and diverse food; abundant all over the city. If you ever wanted to try something new to eat, you’ll find many opportunities in Berlin. And, being a vegan, it was perfect! Not only loads to eat, but cheap, too! Cheap food when eating out, is often a pleasure – at times, a vegan can go without, so I was very happily surprised.

As for the nightlife; that was an experience in itself. I went managed to visit the Bergheim, which as my friend Amy mentioned, was a very notorious nightclub in Europe, and explained how it’s renowned for being incredibly hard to get into, often turning customers away. Online there is a website with tips and tricks on how to get let in, such as to wear dark clothing, not to use your phone, and staying quiet. After hearing that I was very curious to see if I made the cut. Queuing for this nightclub was such an unusual experience. I felt like I was in a vampire movie or something. An absolutely massive queue (two hours’ worth of wait) and nobody was making a sound, nobody was getting their phone out – it was weird!

After the two hour wait, we finally made it in. Amy and I had already heard they weren’t keen on tourists, so we devised a plan that only I would speak (with my basic German). At the door we were only asked:
“Sind sie zusammen?” (“Are you together”).
“Ja,” was my response, after which, we were led straight in.
I felt cool, really cool.

The only way I can describe the inside was like one of those Tim Burton Batman movies. All dark, contrasted with really vivid, bright colours. The music was amazing, the mood was fantastic, but something odd started to catch my eye. It was very gay-oriented. There were completely naked people, and other wearing only wearing leather and chains; this place was some form of crazy club where sex on the dance floor was not a surprise. Luckily however we arrived two hours after it opened so all of these wild activities had not begun and we left before any started to happen.

Berlin 4The main narrative of the city is still present; the War and The Wall. The city has fantastic museums dedicated to highlight the plight of the Jews, and the torture of those living in the city when the Berlin Wall was built. Having limited time in the city I only managed to visit one of these museums, and that was at the Jewish memorial sight. After a long queue we were led to a rather gloomy place, that felt more like a graveyard than a museum. We were lead through a detailed timeline of events, showing how it all started and ended, with personal stories to really highlight the issue. For me personally the letters to loved ones stood out the most. Reading their last words was a very emotional experience.

Berlin 3The Berlin Wall itself, as an experience, was totally unlike anything I had seen before. It was beautiful and raw. Here the message “Love and Acceptance” was everywhere. With diverse and impressive artworks (see pictured) everywhere, it was an absolute pleasure walking along the Wall, which I have to admit was a longer than I thought. Having been under the impression that what remained was only a small amount, I was surprised to find a rather an impressive stretch of art. It was cool to see how each different artist displayed their message.

I wanted to visit this city, even live here, for ages. As I walked through, bustling past fellows tourists, I couldn’t help wonder what have they come for? The city does look really unappealing, unattractive, ugly even. I cannot picture anyone other than someone as deranged as me enjoying their time here. The best part of the city is the atmosphere; it really has this motivating, energetic energy. Berlin is a city that survived chaos, and in that respect I feel like it’s very much like a developing city. The history here is so prominent – I’d recommend this city to any adult, it a cool place where anything goes.