The German capital is an effortlessly cool, seriously fascinating contradiction. These oh-so-trendy streets have seen more than any city’s fair share of tumult, the 20th century alone bringing with it two world wars, the Nazi headquarters, and a wall which divided it in two. What is most alluring about Berlin however, is its gritty, no nonsense approach to life, something which is seen in every street and neighbourhood.
The wall came down thirty years ago, and with it so did the emotional barriers. Today Berlin is a free city once again, embracing its care-free, creative attitude. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more diverse European city where, despite its dark history, creativity and freedom burst forth. That isn’t to say that Berlin has forgotten its history, and there are traces everywhere, from the remains of the Berlin Wall to the House of the Wannsee Conference, where the Holocaust was planned. History will forever be woven in to the culture, but Berlin is today looking forward rather than back.
Cosmopolitan and energetic, Berlin is a city which welcomes foreign visitors and expats to embrace its edgy culture, its vibrant food scene, and its endless opportunities. Young people from around the world flock here, lured by a city where pretty much anything goes.
Berlin Beats to the Sound of its Own Drum
Berliners secretly enjoy their reputation of being considered a bit gruff, but in reality they simply live by the motto live and let live. This no-nonsense attitude, combined with their quirky sense of humour, and an unquenchable thirst for social interaction is what gives Berlin its true sparkle. Funky cafés line the streets in their thousands and, venture out after dark any night of the week, and the clubs and bars are booming.
The arts, architecture and history are entwined in the make-up of this refreshingly laid-back and unpretentious capital. Start-ups flourish in the city’s innovative environment, and the creative arts know no bounds. Even the buildings tell the story of the strong emotions which once flowed through the streets. The Axel Springer building, for example, located in former West Berlin was a source of antagonism to the East Berlin regime through its neon signs. In an attempt to block the ‘western’ advertising banners, high rise buildings, known as Springer blockers, appeared. Despite their unsightliness, they remain to this day, representative of the unified city and the anything goes attitude it now lives by.
Berlin’s thriving food scene
When the wall came down, after years of constraints and restrictions, it took a while for the citizens of communist East Berlin to embrace the concept of local, seasonal produce. But once they did, the city as a unified whole has never looked back. Today Berlin is one of Europe’s culinary powerhouses, a constantly evolving scene driven by the fundamentals of regional and sustainable produce.
Leading the pack are restaurants such as Nobelhart and Schmutzig whose slogan ‘brutally’ local pretty much says it all. Food miles count to the discerning foodies of Berlin, and high quality produce is prized above all else. Amongst the famously meat-centric German cuisine, even vegetarian restaurants are getting their turn in the spotlight in Berlin, with Cookies Cream the first German vegetarian restaurant to be awarded Michelin status.
Specialist bakeries are emerging too, with back-to-basics recipes and traditional baking methods being reborn. One of the latest additions to the bakery scene is Brot ist Gold, which offers its loyal customers just one type of bread! But boy is it a good loaf of bread.
Digging Deep in Berlin
Visitors arriving at Berlin’s Tegel Airport expecting the immaculate beauty of Prague or Barcelona, are going to be sorely disappointed. Berlin isn’t the most beautiful city in Europe, but it doesn’t really want to be either. This is a city made up of schrebergarten (allotment gardens for growing fresh produce), of a jumble of architecture, of wildly different neighbourhoods, of history and of edgy street art. When TIME magazine votes the working class precinct of Wedding the 4th coolest neighbourhood in the world, you know you’ve arrived in a city which is impossible not to fall in love with.
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