Our Endless Berlin Days

First I saw wings.

The heavens above Berlin chimed to the flapping of angel wings, but the streets below were monochrome, awash in whispered thoughts and the swift sway of a trapeze.

Later I saw a wall.

The TV was blaring with the usual short-breathed exclamations marking a momentous occasion or a particularly gripping game of football. Noticing the sledgehammers, I hoped for the former.

Finally, I saw a kiss.

East Side Gallery Berlin

East Side Gallery

My memories of Berlin had been formed by Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, whereas the televised fall of the Berlin Wall brought a sense of urgency and unbridled optimism to a Europe shaking off its last Cold War flakes. Eventually, Dmitri Vrubel’s graffiti displaying the kiss between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker became one of the hallmarks of a reunited Berlin, seemingly ready to catch up on lost time.

By the time I finally visited, Berlin had become one of the trendiest European capitals, riding on accessible housing, myriad green spaces, high quality of life and a reputation as a haven for any derelict artist in search of a booming cultural scene.

Park days in Berlin

As befits a city of such sprawling size, Berlin has much to see. Iconic landmarks abound, from the tall Fernsehturm (TV tower) to the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), or Checkpoint Charlie to the shiny Potsdamer Platz – a fascinating fusion of distant past, convoluted history and modernistic present.

All of the above are prominently featured on most visitors’ schedules. A weekend run does not allow time for much else and, mirroring other historically rich capitals, the most renowned attractions are still very much worthy of a visit.

Berlin Cathedral and Fernsehturm Berlin

Berlin Cathedral and Fernsehturm (TV Tower)

Checkpoint Charlie Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie

As a trip to Paris would be sorely lacking without a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, so a Berlin-bound excursion would be perhaps deemed underwhelming without at least a sighting (extra points for photographic proof) of the Brandenburg Gate.

Young folk are normally attracted to the bohemian atmosphere of Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, where cool bars, fashionable shops and Turkish pizza are only a few of the many enticing features populating its busy streets. Nonetheless, as Germans and the rest of the world descend en masse over East Central Berlin, these areas are becoming increasingly gentrified, leading to a present danger of eventually losing some of their ramshackle allure.

Streets of Berlin

Unfettered by sightseeing schedules, my Berlin days and nights were governed by friendship. Happy reunions, long and winding talks, oversized beer glasses, midnight laughter – all enveloped in lasting intimacy.

Either hopping on a plane, bus or train, shuffling feet through Tegel, Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof or the new Hauptbahnhof, all journeys would lead to a friendly embrace.

Hence, and although accommodation in Berlin is remarkably affordable, particularly during off-peak season (and especially when comparing with other European capitals – I’m looking at you, Amsterdam), most of the times I’ve had the privilege of staying with friends who were kind enough to provide me with fresher memories of Berlin:

I remember the swings at Mauerpark.

I remember quiet streets suddenly leading to a perfect brunch.

Streets of Berlin

I remember rain lashing my cheeks during a summer downpour.

I remember sitting in the Lustgarten’s grass, facing the Altes Museum, and feeling an afternoon’s warmth silence the crowd’s chatter.

Elle at Lustgarten, facing the Altes Museum

Elle at Lustgarten

I remember going down somebody else’s memory lane.

I remember riding through the vast roads of Berlin while trying to maintain a conversation.

Author rides Berlin

The author rides Berlin

I remember the rubble inside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

I remember roaming through flea markets, perusing trinkets and second-hand books, listening to the multicultural sounds of a vibrant city.

Flea Market Berlin

(I once saw an old chair whose dilapidated surface looked like the profile of a man sitting on a chair)

Flea market chair Berlin

I remember pounding electronic music.

I remember whole buildings made radiant by new coats of paint.

Graffiti in Berlin

I remember cats, vikings and kebabs.

I remember a parade.

Parade in Berlin

I remember the boats of the River Spree.

I remember sensing the Fernsehturm’s lifeless gaze over a canopy, under which I wrote postcards to faraway lands while hearing the sound of a friend’s voice.

Fernsehturm Berlin

Fernsehturm (TV Tower)

I remember a 30th birthday, celebrated until the wee small hours of a voiceless day.

I remember eating ice cream and sneezing half of it away.

I remember all the stories I will never write.

I remember our endless Berlin days, when we all followed the swift red shoes and got lost in a city bustling with surprises.

Trabant in East Side Gallery Berlin

East Side Gallery

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10 Responses

  1. Ingolf says:

    Kinda disapointing view on the old warwiddow that is Berlin, ever so fresh again as a young girl that just had found out how good love and sex is. Just reading what everybody els wirites, was there nothing that really impressed you?
    And how about those constant remarks on Amsterdam, it has been home for many years is’nt time to let go, instead of mudding up over and over agin.

    • FW North says:

      Hola Ingolf, you wonderful man! You’re absolutely right, Berlin is fresh once again! I did experience the bustling, sensual side of things, courtesy of the friends I visited, but I couldn’t escape the old war widow – it’s still there, in every corner (which makes it a fascinating place for me, since I love the contrast between the old and the new), and is still in my childhood memories of the city. This post isn’t supposed to be a guide to Berlin (also because I didn’t take any photos when I was out having fun), but a small collection of memories, which are obviously personal and of small value to anyone wanting to get a real feel of such a vibrant capital. As for Amsterdam, it usually pops up as a contrast to whatever I’m rambling about – not supposed to be bad, just consequences of it being home for so long. It’s my template for everything. I’ve been meaning to write about Amsterdam, but because it’s such a gigantic part of my life I’ve been having trouble coming up with a decent way to express it. I can’t do a tourist guide, that’s for sure. I also can’t just write “I love you Amsterdam” a hundred times, which sometimes I feel like doing 🙂 I promise that whenever I write it, it will be mostly good things 🙂 Hope you are well! Much love from the two ragamuffins!

  2. NZ Muse says:

    This is so lovely. The murals are the best thing about Berlin, I reckon – pops of colour and creativity in the oddest places.

  3. Farrah says:

    I have yet to see Berlin. Your photographs capture a diversity I have to admit I didn’t think existed. Great post- here’s hoping we can make it before our time in Europe is up.

    • FW North says:

      Hola Farrah! We’ve visited Berlin a few times, but since we were mostly hanging out with friends we didn’t capture the more vibrant aspects of the city – we usually only got the cameras out when facing more touristy spots. It’s much more diverse than this post displays. Hope you make it there! Thank you for dropping by and good luck!

  4. Ann says:

    I’ve only visited Berlin once. A short visit during the Christmas holidays. It is the odd combination of being exactly what I would expect a German capitol to be like, but completely opposite of every other German city I’ve been to. When I think of Berlin, even though I’ve only been there once, I feel it’s a city that has to be experienced multiple times. The summer scene and the winter scene are so different, that (and this is not from personal knowledge) that going to Berlin in just the winter like I did means I only captured a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of Berlin. And, true, this is how it is for all places, but I think the difference is very distinct in Berlin… or maybe I just need another reason to return?

    By the way, I like this: I remember going down somebody else’s memory lane.

    • FW North says:

      Hola Ann! I agree, Berlin deserves multiple visits. It has many corners and dispositions, so one short stay will not be enough to get a fair feel of the city. There are many reasons to return to Berlin 🙂 Thank you for your kind words and good luck!

  5. Berlin is said to have been a breathtaking beautiful city of arts and culture before World War II.
    Some say it surpassed Paris and London in terms of beauty…

    • FW North says:

      It’s still beautiful today! Actually, I might prefer Berlin to London in terms of… well, everything. Paris is a whole different ballgame though 😉 Thanks for visiting and good luck!

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