Last week I spent a few days exploring Berlin, a unique and amazing city. I think much of the character it exudes stems from the extreme changes it has faced during the past century. The city center was all but destroyed during World War II, then rebuilt separately by the Allies and the Axis according to two wholly distinct philosophies. After the end of the Wende reunited East and West Berlin in 1989 the city began to coalesce once again, but the personalities of the two halves remain highly evident today. East Berlin is still full of vacant lots, piles of rubble, and graffiti. There is a lot of building and rebuilding going on everywhere one looks, resulting in a level of gentrification which I suspect is unsettling to many longtime East Berliners. By contrast, West Berlin is more tame, more “westernized” and therefore quite a lot less interesting.
One of my goals for the visit was to explore the many museums on offer — there are over 70 state-owned museums in Berlin and countless private ones too. That may sound like an obscene number of museums and, in truth, it is, especially if one has only four days to tackle the challenge. I got around to just a handful of them: the Pergamonmuseum, the Altes Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, and the Gemäldegalerie. (Also in the museum-ish category is Schloss Charlottenburg, King Frederick III’s giant baroque castle, which I toured.) Unfortunately the permanent collections of the Ägyptisches Museum, Museum Berggruen and the Neue Nationalgalerie were all unavailable during my visit, or I undoubtedly would have added them all to my roster.
But Berlin is not just about museums. It’s also about the best street food ever: the döner kebab, a Turkish-inspired concoction of sliced meat bits, salad, and garlicky yogurt sauce, all stuffed into a toasted triangle of thin bread. All in all, a lovely invention. I happily ate döner almost every night, but the best one I found was at Pergamon Bistro in the Friedrichstraße train station. I also tried Currywurst (sausage with curry sauce), Apfelsaftschorle (a mixture of apple juice and soda water), and some random confectioneries. I enjoyed huge carb-laden German breakfasts every morning. And of course I couldn’t resist trying a selection of local beers such as the ultra-cheap and quite decent Berliner Pilsner, and the green variety of Berliner Weisse, which is singularly weird.
Anyway, I took some photos, which are now online, complete with pithy and uninformative descriptions. Enjoy.