Berlin Notes



So far I like Berlin a lot. I can't really put my finger on why? Maybe the other cities seemed too clean? Not like there is such a thing as too clean but I guess by that I mean I felt like people had to conform more in Stockholm and Belgium? That probably makes no sense to the people that live there.

Berlin is 3−4x larger than those cities though. And Berlin is arguably not as scenic. It feels less kept up. Part of that I'm sure is from x East Berlin but even much of the West feels like it's time for renewal. And maybe it is being renewed. One of the iconic images of Berlin is the construction crane. They're everywhere.

Photos of Berlin Cranes

At the same time lots of the city is completely covered in graffiti and street art. Graffiti in my mind being when people write their name or just a word and street art when they draw a picture (of something other than a penis or boobs).

Actually I've noticed that throughout most of Europe. Paris, Brussels, Antwerp, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, have all had lots of graffiti. I'm curious where it comes from as in who's doing it and why. It's so pervasive it just seems like part of the culture. In the USA it's associated with poverty to some degree. Same here? I have no idea but Berlin in particular takes it to a whole other level. Certain parts of the city are just covered in it. There's also the East Side Gallery which is a part of the Berlin wall that they offered for artists to paint, I guess a little more professionally? I'm not sure what to call that. Sanctioned instead of un−sanctioned.

I like the street art. I'm less into the graffiti and tagging.

Photos of Berlin Street Art

Maybe another is there seems to be more overweight Berliners than the other places. Not just fat people but women with a little extra etc... My point being people are less worried about looks? Of course maybe if I lived here I'd think differently.

On the minus so far the food is not nearly as good as the other cities. It reminds me of American food. Quantity over Quality. The most interesting food thing for me was these 1 man hotdog stands. Basically there are guys carrying a hotdog grill strapped to their body. They've got hot dogs, buns, ketchup, mustard, the grill and an umbrella all strapped to them. I gotta wonder if carrying this heavy thing for hours is hurting their body.

One Man Hot Dog Stand

Nightlife in Berlin looks awesome. The trains run all night Friday and Saturday nights and on reasonable schedules. Every 15 or 20 minutes. It makes it very easy to stay out late. I took a train from my hotel to Kreuzberg at around 2am. The train filled up with people drinking beers. All of them unloaded in Kreuzberg.

Transportation is amazing. There's subways, trains, trams, and busses. It seems you never have to walk more than 5 minutes to get to a trains station. It's not nearly as crowded as Tokyo either although I haven't ridden at rush hour. It is relatively expensive. $2.60 euros for a single trip. There are various passes which bring the price down though.

Berlin gets bonus points for introducing me to Club−Mate which is pronounced nothing like it looks in English. The "u" in "club" sounds like the "oo" in "took" and "mate" is "mah−tay". It's a German made soft drink made from Yerba mate. It might not sound appetizing to describe it this way but I'd describe it as tea flavored soda. It's much less sweet that cola but it's not as bitter as beer. It's got less than half the calories of Coke and about 2.5 times the caffeine (which is about half of what's in coffee). I enjoyed it. It's nice to have something new to drink that's not too sweet.

I want this in the USA!

I visited the Reichstag building where Germany's parliament meets. It's got this cool dome on top that from inside looks like something out of the Jetson's or a 60s/70s sci−fi movie. From the dome you can also look down on the parliament chamber and observe your representatives. Note: If you go it requires reservations. You can get them on the spot but it's likely you'll get one for a few hours later. You can also get reservations online. They're free either way. You just need to know otherwise you'll schedule to go at say 2pm only to find you need a reservation and the one you get is not until 5pm.

Photos of Reichstag Dom

Another interesting thing is there are brightly color pipes above ground that go for blocks here and there. They look like something out of a Terry Gilliam movie. I was curious what they are for so I looked it up. Apparently "Berlin" means "Swamp land". Whenever there is construction they need pipes to suck all the water out of the construction site as they build.

Photos of Pipes in Berlin

I visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It's an interesting memorial. A huge collection of rectangular obelisks in a grid. You'll have to interpret it yourself.

Photos of the Monument to the Murder of the Jews

There's also the Berlin Wall itself. I ended up there the first day I went out purely by accident. I looked up things to do on a Sunday and found the Mauerpark Flea Market. I walked around that which was pretty cool and also walked around Mauerpark and afterwards decided to just wander down the street as I could see on the map it wasn't too far to the next station. Just a short walk away I saw this manicured grass and these rusting rods sticking up. I thought maybe it was an art project. Then I saw some info kiosks on the grass. Turns out I was near the Berlin Wall Memorial. For several blocks the grass continues with various info kiosks, pictures, plaques embedded in the ground showing the routes of escape tunnels. There's one section of the all left intact with a tower you can climb to see it from above as though you were in East Berlin looking over to the west.

I'm sure there's many other things I'm forgetting...

Brugge Notes
Copenhagen Notes