bruecken_schlag_worte

Brückenschläge und Schlagworte

Tag: Berlin (page 1 of 3)

The Wall That Once Was

Tomorrow Germany will celebrate an important anniversary. Tomorrow 25 years ago, the Berlin Wall came down.

It is one of my favourite topics to write about, the past of the devided Germany and what it means to me and my life. Everything would have been different. I wouldn’t have majored in the same field. I wouldn’t work in the same field. I wouldn’t have lived in the same places. I wouldn’t have met the same people.

25 years ago tomorrow, Günter Schabowski announced new regulations on Free Travel for GDR-citizens in a press conference, and when he was asked when they would come into effect, he said he supposed they would come into effect right now. It was more of an accident than a thought-through, political decision, but it gave the peaceful revolution its decisive twist. So many people went to border crossings that the guards couldn’t control them for long. People were crossing. People were going back and forth. By the end of the night, people were dancing on the wall.

Footage of that night drives tears to me eyes every single time.

Today and tomorrow, an installation set up in Berlin. White balloons are set up to mark the line where the wall used to seperate East and West. Tomorrow evening, they will take flight, the balloon border will vanish, and this will remind us all of the way the wall disappeared.

Balloon Wall, Berlin, GermanyI live in the old West. This morning, I had a doctor’s appointment in the old East. I went there by bike. I have mentioned before how there is a cobblestone strip in the pavement where the wall used to be, and I cross it every day when I go to my work which is also in the old East. It often elates me. But today it was different. Going through the balloons indicating the wall, the eerie feeling I sometimes have in this spot was much stronger. I very significantly realized that 25 years ago, the world would have ended here. No trespassing, or else I would have been shot.

What I found stranger yet though was that I also realized how little one knew of this border as soon as it was out of sight. The balloon wall had been up for a couple of days already, or at least in the making. I hadn’t noticed much of it. People ask how it was possible to live in a divided city – the difficult truth is that it must have been fairly easy as long as you didn’t live right next to a visible sign of it. Thomas Brussig, a German author, once wrote that the strange thing about the wall was that the people closest to it took note of it the least. It was an unquestioned fact. How incredible it must have been when it actually did change – when it actually moved until it fell. And without violence. Dancing on the wall, where days before one would have been shot. A gap was bridged. Ultimately.

Going through the balloon wall felt like crossing yet another bridge.

Living in this city is amazing. I am reminded of the historical dimension of things constantly, and it doesn’t only make me understand better how this country and this world came to be what they are, it also allows me to understand myself. I feel myself in relation to everything that has been and will be in this place. And I love Berlin, I love it for making me aware of things I couldn’t have learned anywhere else in the world.

This is my last post on this blog. I have written on it for almost 5 years, with higher and lower levels of professionalism. It has been about travel and about culture, about identity and alterity, about myself and all the things I have seen that were so different from everything I knew before. I have loved sharing my views with you, but it is time to move on. Time to settle. I have new projects lined up in my personal and professional life, also writing projects, but those will be in German. I really miss writing in German. And I miss writing about things other than travel, as much as it has meant and does mean to me.

Be assured of one thing though: I will always be keeping bridges.

Bridge in Berlin (Lübars), Germany

Berlin is huge. I know, not by, what, American standards, but it is the biggest city in Germany, and even being from the second biggest in the country, it took me quite a while to get a grip on it. But the beauty of it is: There is so much to discover.

Alt Lübars (Berlin), GermanyA few weeks ago I took a metro, met a friend, took another metro and a bus to reach a rather remote area of Berlin called Lübars, a part of Reinickendorf. It is very close to the border to Brandenburg. That means that the border between the GDR and West Berlin used to be just here. Nothing to be noticed about that. It is just beautiful nature now. Fields and marsh.

The runway in the picture crosses the creek called Tegeler Fließ. Tegel is South of here, you might be familiar with the name because of the airport. It wasn’t a particularly pretty day, but I enjoyed it all the more because there weren’t many people out and about. One wouldn’t believe that you were in the capital, in this huge urban mass of skyscrapers and monuments and malls. It was peaceful.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Schleusenbrücke in Berlin, Germany

In the foreseeable future there won’t be too much travelling, I warned you about that (and believe me, no one regrets that more than I do!). So there will be many bridges from Berlin on Sundays. Luckily my home of choice has much to offer in the bridge department. Such as this beauty:

Schleusenbrücke, Berlin, GermanySchleusenbrücke (literally: Watergate Bridge) in Berlin Mitte is one of those little gems that are easily overlooked – especially with construction work going on all around it. I am starting to develop a real thing for bannisters. And how did I notice? Because I realized that I have been using that word on my blog in just about every post that deals with a bridge. But just look at this one – even apart from the fact that there’s a fisherman leaning against it! So beautifully art nouveau, so pretty with its bronze medaillons embedded into it that show the cityscape at different points in the 17th and 18th century. Schleusenbrücke ornaments, Berlin, Germany

The construction site in the background, by the way, is where the City Castle is being rebuilt after the Palace of the Republic was torn down, the parliament building of the German Democratic Republic, or „East Germany“. I am dead set on writing about this project in the near future because I have a thing or two to say about it. For now I am just happy to have discovered yet another unique bridge in Berlin.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

So what is the Deal with East Germany?

When I lived in the States aged 16, I was asked a fair amount of weird questions about Germany. There were mostly the many variants of „Do you have X in Germany?“ [Replace X by anything from electricity to chickens. I am dead serious.] Other than that, the biggest portion of questions was concerned with German history, mostly along the lines of the obligatory „Are you a Nazi?“ I have written about this in my post on German patriotism. Today I want to address a different question I was asked back then which seems a little more unusual. It was „So are you from the good or the bad part?“

As a Northerner I should have replied: „If by the bad part you mean Bavaria, I am from the good part.“ (I am kidding, obviously. Or am I? ;)) But that was not what the question was after. I quickly translated  it in my head to „Are you from the West (good) or the East (bad)?“ Although I think I just replied that I was from Hamburg which is the West, I cringe at the the many things that are wrong with the question to begin with.

A while back I sat with my temporary roommate over breakfast, conversation carried us from topic to topic, and eventually I showed her this youtube video.

It is a song by German singer songwriter Reinhard Mey, someone I have also mentioned before in my patriotism post, and it tells the history of Berlin from 1945 until 1990, finishing with the downfall of the Berlin wall. A West Berliner, Mey sings:

I lived my whole life in half a city.
What do I say now that you give me the other half as well?

My roommate, who grew up in the Southwest, in Stuttgart, and I were both in tears, and she said: „No one ever explained that to us properly. Going to school in Southern Germany you were just never told what a huge deal it was when that wall came down and why.“

Berlin, Germany

A cobblestone strip in the pavement indicates where the Berlin Wall used to be. It runs the entire course of it through the city.

It is true that not even history classes in Germany seem to pay enough attention to this part of German history (at least in my days) – possibly because they are so eager to hammer into the students the fact that the Third Reich was horrible and is never to happen again. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for teaching about that. But I am not enjoying the fact that we teach kids the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the „good“ capitalist part of the country, but not about the German Democratic Republic, the „bad“ socialist part. And don’t even get me started on the fact that in this discussion, the countries are usually opposed not on grounds of their political systems, but the economical ones. It isn’t democracy vs. dictatorship. It is capitalism vs. socialism. And since when is capitalism the best invention since sliced bread? Both countries are one today – but does that mean that the history of only one half of it should be valid?

From my experience, a lot of people in the West don’t know anything about GDR history – neither about the political dimension of it nor about the country’s cultural and social parameters. They think the same way that I thought for most of my life: „That’s all in the past, so let’s just move on.“ I don’t think it’s quite that easy anymore.

When I was 19, I started college in what used to be the GDR. Reunification had happened 13 years previously. I didn’t think the East-West-thing would be any issue whatsoever, to be honest, I didn’t even think about it as a „thing“. Only the ignorance of a Westerner could have allowed me to do that. Because as I met people my own age who were born in the GDR, I realized that in their lives things had actually become different after the political change. And that was the thing: I couldn’t relate to that. Neither in 1989 when the wall came down nor in 1990 when the countries were reunified did I notice anything different. But these new friends of mine remembered a monetary reform. They remembered their first „West toys“. They had parents lose their jobs or, very much less often, find a new, better one. They remembered being disappointed because they weren’t allowed in the socialist Youth organization, the „Free German Youth“ – because it ceased to exist. And they told me how they were nor allowed to sing certain ideologically laden children’s songs anymore and didn’t understand why at the time.

People who are culturally interested ask me sometimes if differences between the East and the West are still noticeable. I think that’s less and less the case, but it’s not as easy as just saying that there aren’t any. Especially people who lived the bigger portion of their lives in the GDR – how could they not be influenced by that? It was a specific culture, a specific system that shaped them, and in today’s Germany, very often there is no acknowledgement, no place for that. The GDR is reduced to a secret police and lack of freedom. But there was more to the country than that – such as a well-functioning social system, or a rich and colourful art scene.

There is a meaningful and symbolic piece of information when it comes to that. The constiution of the Federal Republic of Germany is called the „Basic Law“ – and not the Constitution. This is because after World War II, it was given in the hope that one day, there would be an actual constution that would be valid for a reunified Germany. But when reunification came, there was no new, no mutual constitution. Instead the GDR became subject to the existing Basic Law. This is why some people call the reunification not that, but an annex of the GDR through the Federal Republic.

I may have a specifically emotional relationship to this topic, especially for a Westerner. I would hope that our culture would allow more room for this part of its past. After all, history has made us what we are today. I don’t think it is healthy to push aside vital parts of any organism’s past. Why should it be different for a country than it is for a person?

Admiralsbrücke in Berlin, Germany

Today was one of those beautiful days in early Spring when the air is pregnant with sunshine and the smell of flowers. I took a bike tour along the canal to photograph bridges, and today I am presenting you one that I have been excited about for a long time. I have been in love with it ever since I moved to Berlin. Admiralsbrücke, Berlin, GermanyThis is Admiral’s Bridge in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. From the first time I saw it, I’ve loved its wrought-iron bannisters with the secession ornaments, or the cobblestoned street that leads across it. It has a romantic, old-fashioned feel to it inmidst the rather trendy area – altough one must admit that the people who reside here have come to be more and more settled, as have the restaurants and coffee places.

It isn’t only its architectural beauty that has taken me by storm, though. On a day like today, the bridge is packed with people relaxing in the sun. It is in a traffic-calmed area, so hardly any car ever disturbs groups sitting on the street and relaxing. It will be even more busy once summer hits. In fact there is a 10 pm curfew for parties on the bridge because it is so popular. People go to the nearest „Späti“ – little kiosk places where you can buy tobacco, alcohol and snacks – to get a beer and then just have it sitting outside, on the bridge, leaned against the bollards that calm traffic. It is lively and colourful and relaxed, and it is very much Berlin.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

My Happy Place – Tempelhof Airport

It is the week of the Berlin Tourism Fair ITB again, and just like last year, I felt like I should share some valuable information on things to see in my home of choice. A lot of travel bloggers will come to town for this, and I do hope that some of the visitors will make time to see Berlin – ideally beyond Brandenburg Gate and the (admittedly amazing) East Side Gallery.

Last year I indulged in the history that this city has to offer. The place I am bringing to you today, the airfield of the closed down Tempelhof airport, is one that I have wanted to write about for a long time. Only I never quite knew how, because it is special to me in a way that probably no other place in Berlin is.

Grass and Sky, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyWhen I was in Berlin apartment hunting just before I moved here, I got of the metro at what is now my stop, and made a turn to the left from the big street. It was February, and bitter cold had a lock on Berlin. At the end of the street I had turned on, I saw – nothing. Not a house, not a tree, it was as thought the street led right up to a hole. I had no idea what that might be and I was early for the meeting with the property manager who was supposed to show me what is now my flat. So I went down the street and to see what the great nothing was. This is approximately what I found.

View of airport building, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyWidth. Air. Freshness. A horizon that wasn’t limited by the nearest skyscarper or even just three storey building. In the distance the old airport terminals can be seen – built under the Nazis, they are impressive, functional, and of their own estranging fascist aesthetics that one is compelled to dislike, but can’t help finding impressive. I looked across the great barren field and  knew that I desperately wanted the flat that was so close to it. And I got it. The field is now basically my backyard.

View, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyWhen you walk either one of the two airstrips and you look North, you have a beautiful view that includes the old radio tower with its funny looking white ball on top, you see the TV tower in the distance, church towers, and one of my personal favourites, the two minarettes of the mosque that is close by at Columbiadamm (and that has a beautiful small cemetery worth checking out!). Maybe it is the Northern German gal inside of me that feels drawn to this place. I am just in love with being able to see that far while no mountain, not even a hill disrupts the view.

Kites, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyOn a clear summer’s day, when there is wind on the field, you can see people doing all kind of kite sports. Not just the kite skaters in this picture – there are people on windsurfing  skateboards, or just people flying stuntkites. The sky is completely bestrewn with kites of all colours, shapes and sizes, and there is wooshing noises as you walk past. I especially love the skaters with the traction kites. They make amazing stunts and fly several meters high, pulling themselves up in the air with their skates attached to their feet, only to land on the airstrip again and be drawn by windpower with amazing speed across the concrete desert.

Kite Skater, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyI love to come to the field on weekends for a walk or just to sit somewhere, in some remote corner, or even inmidst of everything, and think. It is amazing that even on a day when the field is packed with people, you will always find a way to feel as though you were the only person there, because people scatter. When there is only wind and the wide sky, my thoughts can run free and I can find peace.

View of airport building, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyOn the East Side, there is a Guerilla Gardening Project. On the North Side there is a minigolf course made out of trash and a baseball field. On the South and West Sides there is virtually nothing. The airstrips stretch out betwen the West and the East, and walking them always feels a bit like that slow motion scene in Armageddon.

The most indescribable thing is the field in winter, just before they close it for the night (because you cannot enter at night as to prevent vandalism). If you walk on there just before closing time, you will be completely alone on a 355 hectar area before long. The moon will hide behind clouds, and the air will be pregnant with humidity. It will set on your clothes like a cover. You will feel cold and damp and very alone. And alive like you have hardly ever felt before. At least that is how I experience it. I usually start singing. Loudly, desperately against the noises of the wind and the emptiness. The city is glowing at the margins of the field, and I am all by myself, fighting the demons of my thoughts, bowing to the good spirits inside of me. No picture can bring across the atmosphere of those moments.

My favourite time of the day on the field though is, without a doubt, dusk. There aren’t just the special weekend walks or the long reading sessions, not just the people watching or all the funny little interim arrangements that can be found there. The most intimate moments on the field are the ones I have every day when I come home from work from early Spring through late fall. I used to have a cigarette on the field before I went home. Now I just sit and watch the sun set. The sky is so wide, the colours so intense, and I feel so at home in this big, crazy moloch of a city.

photo 5

No, I never quite knew how to write all of this down so far. I always figured that I needed to go there just one more time to get that one special anecdote, or take that one beautiful picture. But then again there will always be another perfect moment, another extraordinary experience on the field, and yet I will never be able to describe it sufficiently in all its width, greatness and beauty.

Lichtensteinbrücke in Berlin, Germany

My bridge archive is slowly running out. No more bridges from around the world (or at least Europe). I wish I had started to actively collect them sooner, and I would have so many more. But then today I realized that there is a ton of amazing bridges right under my nose. Berlin has so much to offer, it never ceases to amaze me.  Lichtensteinbrücke, Berlin, GermanyThis is Lichtensteinbrücke, Lichtenstein Bridge, in the Tiergarten district of Berlin. It crosses the Landwehrkanal, a canal that connects different parts of the Spree river. It is solely a footbridge as it is in the middle of the biggest Berlin park, the Tiergarten – while the word „Zoo“ exists in German as well, „Tiergarten“ is the more oldfashioned, nicer expression as it literally means Garden of Animals.

I came across this today completely by chance when I cycled through Berlin to meet a friend for coffee in this area. When I saw the bridge, I stopped right away and regretted so much not to have my camera on me, and it dawned on me that I will have to take a bike tour along the canal only taking photos of all the nice bridges that cross it. I especially loved the reflection of the bridge on the even surface of the water.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

2013 in Bridges – A Review

My blog is all about bridges. If you follow me, you know that I put a picture of a bridge up on every Sunday in the category „Bridges on Sundays“. Quite a few of them have been from my archives, but there were also many I found this year – ever since I have started self-hosting, which I have just over a year now, I have been looking for bridges even more carefully than before. I will give you my favourites in a review of my year 2013. If you click on the bridge’s name above the respective picture, the link will redirect yo to the full post on the bridge.

1. Oderbrücke, Frankfurt (Oder) / Słubice, Germany / Poland

Oderbrücke, Frankfurt / Slubice, Deutschland / PolenI didn’t make it to Poland as often as I’d liked this year, but I did cross this bridge between Germany and its Eastern neighbour twice. This bridge makes me reflect history and appreciate living in a unified Europe today. And it makes me realize that I love Poland. A lot.

2. Karlshöhe in Stuttgart, Germany

Karlshöhe, Stuttgart, GermanyIn the post about this bridge I talk about my yearly meet-up with my three girls from grad school, and how we have crossed into adulthood together and on the way passed several bridges and overcome various obstacles. Friendship is such a valuable thing.

3. Bridges in Nottingham, England

Bridges, Nottingham, EnglandIn this picture, I see two bridges working together to make up a system of connections – a traditional stone bridge to the left and a modern steel one straigth across. There is not just „the“ one bridge to cross in life. There is bridge upon bridge upon bridge.

4. Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany

Abteibrücke, Berlin, GermanyThis is the bridge to the so called Isle of Youth in the Spree River. When I posted the picture, I hadn’t even crossed it yet. I have now, and I regretfully say that I haven’t become more youthful to my knowledge. But maybe I am just so youthful altogether that I didn’t realize 🙂

5. A Bridge in Spreewald, Germany

Bridge, Spreewald, GermanyI found this to be a nostalgic bridge that seemed to me to bridge gaps between different layers of time. Still now I think it is a romantic place, as is the entire Spreewald which is full of bridges spanning the small canals.

6. Bridge at South Pond, Chicago, Illinois, US

South Pond, Chicago, IL, USI keep using this picture, but I have to say I love it because I know that I was so truly and deeply happy in the moment it was taken, and I think that shows in my smile. This was on my big trip this year, to Chicago, and the pictures shows how that city connects greenery and urbanity beautifully to create a whole.

7. Bridge at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois, US

Graceland Bridge, Chicago, IL, USThe small bridge at Graceland cemetery, a large, quiet and peaceful place in Chicago, seemed to me to be magical, enchanted, spellbound even. It led onto a small island where time seemed to stand still, and conversation with the deceased seemed to be possible.

8. Ponte Luís I in Porto, Portugal

Ponte Luiz I, Porto, PortugalPonte Luiz I in Porto may have been the prettiest and most impressive bridge I came across this year. The resemblance with the Eiffel tower is not entirely coincidental, as you will be able to read in the post. It was majestic, and made me fall in love with Porto.

Which one of my Bridge discoveries from 2014 do you like best? Did you come across a beautiful bridge in 2013 that I should put on my Bucket List? So you have any plans of crossing bridges – literally or metaphorically for the up-coming year?

Thielenbrücke in Berlin, Germany

From the big wide world last Sunday, I am coming back home to Berlin with my bridge today, and to one of the golden autumn days of September.

Deutschland - Thielenbrücke (1)This is Thielenbrücke, Thielen Bridge, named after a Prussian Secretary of State for Employment in the 19th century. It crosses the Landwehr Canal between the districts of Neukölln and Kreuzberg.

I do love the canal. I love it for walks in the spring, for long nights in the summer on its banks with friends and too many beers, for the trees that line it colourfully in the fall and for its bridges that I rush over in the bitter cold of winter. Thielenbrücke is not outrageously exciting, it’s covered in graffiti, and probably most Berliners aren’t quite aware that it exists. But it’s been around for nearly a hundred years and it’s a part of the city’s history, which is always so inconspicuously strewn about here. In this photo, the juicy green grass, the yellow tree leaves and the playful light on the water make for a very typical Kreuzkölln autumn atmosphere. I know winter has only just started, but I’m already excited for the warmer seasons in Berlin to come around again.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

My Relationship with Berlin – „It’s Complicated“

Berlin – that place I have called my home for two and a half years now. That German metropolis that has no equal in this country (sorry, Hamburg, but it’s true). That explosion of history and high tech, of fashion and morbidity. That urban space in the midst of the Brandenburgian nothingness, that mixture of socialist concrete blocks and Nazi edifices, parks and lakes, Wilhelminian buildings and modern architecture. That eternal construction site. That city of bankrupt craziness. That hipster capital. Berlin.

This is my love story with her.

TV Tower, Berlin, Germany

View of the TV Tower at Alexanderplatz from Dorotheenstraße in Berlin Mitte

Berlin and I go way back. The first time I ever saw her I was ten years old. My mum had a big birthday and her gift was a trip with all of us to Berlin. Part of that trip was a visit to the theatre. I don’t remember much, just how glamorous and exciting it was for me. Today my parents still tell me that the entire performance I was hanging on the actors‘ lips, ready to practically fall onto the stage from our seats in the first row of the balcony, and I am told that upon leaving the theatre, I said: „I have never seen something this beautiful in my entire life.“ Oh, the wisdom of a ten-year-old girl.

As I grew older, Berlin was the hipster girl I admired from the distance and wanted to be friends with, but she was too cool, too popular and too stylish for me. I came to see her every now and again – on a school trip, with my family, and later, in college, to visit friends who had moved here – and I was always equally enchanted and intimidated. It was strange and vast and alien. I liked coming here, but I always felt a weird sense of relief when I could return to the respective smaller, cozier place I called home at the time.

Radar Tower Tempelhof Airport, Berlin, Germany

Radar Tower at Tempelhof Airport – the area of which today is open to the public for walking, skating, kite sports, and any kind of recreational activity

In my second year of college, I came to Berlin for a three month internship. This is when I started noticing the strange pull that she had. I lived in Mitte, right in the center of all the coolness, surrounded by a life that was so intense it tore at my very core every day. I fell onto the big street I lived on when I left the house, and immediately the city seemed to scream at me: „Look, here I am! Do something with me! Visit me! Touch me! Party me up! Create! Fulfill! Live! Live live live!“ As much as I dove into it and tried to soak it up, being there for only three months, it overstrained and exhausted me. Berlin demanded a lot of energy and attention. There was no hiding away from her. Quiet nights at home were overshadowed by the life I felt roaring, blustering outside my window. I returned to my quiet little Greifswald after an eventful summer, and I felt like I had had a passionate and crazy affair, now to return to the partner that made me feel at home. I figured that Berlin wasn’t for me, not long term. At least not yet.

German Cathedral, Berlin, Germany

The German Cathedral at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin Mitte – across from it you will find the French Cathedral which looks exactly the same

I returned to Berlin seldomly, and always just for a couple of days. Then in 2010, as fate would have it, I started my 5 month travel adventure by spending ten days in Berlin. I crashed at different friends‘ houses in Treptow, in Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Mitte, thus living myself from the East toward the center. I had coffee on top of coffee on top of coffee. I roamed the manky streets of Friedrichshain and the tidy ones of Mitte, I saw the hipster culture in Kreuzberg and the calm and settled residential areas in Treptow. I was once more ever so amazed at Berlin’s diversity, and I didn’t find her tearing me apart as much as I had felt it 5 years previously during my internship. I left Berlin, and the seed of longing had been planted in my heart.

Kaiser WIlhelm Memorial Church, Berlin, Germany

The Kaiser WIlhelm Memorial Church is left with its ruined tower to remind passers-by of the horrors of war

After my trip to Central and South Eastern Europe, I returned to Tübingen once more, but in my heart I knew I wanted to live in Berlin. That year I spent New Year’s there with one of my closest friends who had just moved there. On New Year’s Day we took a long walk at Rummelsburger Bucht, and I spoke to her about my wish to live in Berlin. Being in this city that was so full of life ignited such dreams in me, such notions of inspiration and fulfillment. I had actual dreams about coming to Berlin and living there. The city called for me on some weird, spiritual level I couldn’t possibly explain without sounding out of my mind. And here is the weirdest thing: Just after that New Year had started, I was offered a job in Berlin. Totally out of the blue. And within one single day, I knew my dream would come true. I would be moving to Berlin.

Reichstag, Berlin, Germany

Details on the Reichstag building – where the German parliament holds its sessions

I have now lived here for 2 1/2 years. And I can’t say it’s always been easy. What I feel for Berlin has never been the deep spiritual love I feel for Gdansk, or the strong blood ties that bind me to Hamburg. It has always been more of a flirt, a fascination, and a passionate affair. Berlin still tears at my soul, demanding my attention. She still acts up when I don’t give it to her, but spend a weekend in my flat not doing anything. She still exhausts me with her hustle and bustle, her rude salespeople, her impatient drivers and her endless supply of entertainment opportunities. At the same time, the longer I am here, the more I love her. None other has challenged me like this. None other has taught me so many things. None other has made me tough for life like Berlin, and at the same time allowed me to indulge in sweet hedonism. She is perfect for me now. I am but in my twenties. I might ditch her for the safe haven in the future (most likely, I will). But right now I need to grow, and I need to grow from her.

Victory Column, Berlin, Germany

The Victory Column in Berlin’s Tiergarten commemorates the wars in the 19th century that led to Germany’s unity in 1871

Berlin, you’re a witch, an enchantress, you’re a siren and a hydra. You’re about any mytholgical figure I can think of. You tear me apart and you put me back together, you take all my energy from me and you give it all back. I love you with all my heart. You are the place for me in this crazy, unstable, troublesome and beautiful phase in my life.

Have you been to Berlin? What do you love (or hate) about it? What does the city you live in mean to you?

Older posts