A brief history lesson: seventy years ago, Berlin was partitioned into 4 separate and not-so-equal parts. The London Protocol deemed Berlin to be fair game because the city was basically destroyed. They needed a restart. The Soviets got most of East Berlin and the Allies (the US, the UK, and France) got to split the rest.
The Soviets proceeded to do what they do best and dismantle any sources of happiness and industry. They also built really huge, gray, depressing buildings. When the USSR realized that the Allies were trying to rebuild Berlin, they got mad and instituted the Berlin Blockade. Eventually, everyone got so sick of each other, the Soviets put East Berlin in a time-out and constructed the Berlin Wall in record time.
But, don’t worry, Reagan tore it down with the sheer power and might that is America. “Mr. Gorbachev! Tear down this wall!”
You can still see remnants of it, though. The East Side Galley is a must-see. It’s even nice to jog around.
Fast forward 28 years, we’re at present day Berlin.
Berlin is the epicenter of European cool. Uncomfortable looking facial piercings and neon hair is commonplace. Everyone dresses all in black and looks so nonchalantly alternative. The Berliner embraces the Beyonce philosophy of I woke up like this. It’s a natural kind of “whatever-ish.” Everyone looks like they belong in a Street Style blog.
Even though the city looks like it’s been entirely populated with twenty-somethings, there’s a very deep sense of history that’s permeated Berlin. Instead of ignoring their history, Weimar, Nazis and all, Berliners have heartily embraced it. There’s free museums all throughout the city. The Topography of Terror gives you an in-depth and horrifying look at the Nazi regime. Instead of taking selfies in front of Checkpoint Charlie, try heading towards the Allied Museum. If you’re sick of seeing swastikas, check out the Ramones Museum over by the S-Bahn stop Oranienburger. There’s even a bar.
If you’re going to have a true Berlin night, try to get into Berghain. It’s a 24-hour club that has legendarily stringent bouncers. It’s the millennial’s answer to Studio 54. Opened in 2004 in an abandoned power plant, it’s an East Berlin staple. There’s quality techno and absolute debauchery; if that’s your thing on a Monday evening. And, since you’re in Berlin, that’s okay. You’re allowed to stumble out, grab a pretzel and take the U-Bahn home with a glassy look in your eye and buzzing ear drums because you just spent way too long listening to mind-blasting EDM.
In 1889, Conrad Alberti hit it right on the head when he defined the Berliner Luft “the nervous, endlessly quivering Berlin air which works upon people like alcohol, morphine, cocaine, exciting, inspiring, relaxing, deadly.”
Berlin works on its own pace. Is Berlin a little too cool for you? Probably. Are they judging you for not being cool enough for Berlin? Nah.