The exam is over, it’s all been graded, and folks, I gave Berlin an A+ (even despite the fact that I went to Germany and did not see a single castle).
The city is warm and inviting, open for exploration, full of history, food, and beer. I didn’t see nearly close to all of it, but I saw a good part of Mitte, MuseumInsel, and Alexanderplatz, which was enough to tell me that this is an exciting city with tons of character. I even walked from my hotel in Mitte to the Judaisches Museum and over to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche by way of Potsdamer Platz (FANTASTIC Musical Instrument Museum) and then along Tiergarten where I saw NUDE male sunbathers! Talk about culture shock!
I’m still not used to the sight of people walking home with an open beer bottle in hand, nor do I think I’ll ever “get used to” the permanent odor of cigarette smoke that clouds the air, but all in all, this is a great European city.
Now I want to talk a little about Museum Island. In reality, the entire city of Berlin is like a giant museum. Its streets are dotted with statues, shrines and memorials honoring its own (sometimes infamous) history. There are sections of the Berlin Wall still standing with plaques illustrating its history and destruction. But museums of all sorts (modern art, photography, interactive, ancient, specific people, communication, etc.) are to be found in every neighborhood, and many are free the last 4 hours on Thursdays (and on Thursdays they are usually open late, some as late as 10pm!).
My second day there I got a 3-day Museum Pass to all Stadt Museums which only cost 19 euros — this quite a deal, considering the Pergamon Museum alone costs about 12 euros! I spent the first 2 days of that Pass just on Museum Island! It is quite literally an island in the middle of the river, in the very center of town (well, technically it’s in what was once East Berlin), and it is filled with some of the world’s best museums. The Berlin Dom is also there. I can’t properly express just how excited I was to grace the halls of the Altes Museum and see the Berlin Painter’s name-sake vase,
to walk through the Pergamon Museum overcome with awe at the Ishtar Gates of Babylon,
and admire the architecture of the Neues Museum just to come across the room that holds the painted bust of Nefertiti.
These are simply highlights. I took hundreds of pictures on this island and I still didn’t manage to capture all that amazed me. It’s no wonder I felt I could easily spend the entire week in these museums alone and never see the rest of Berlin — but I’m glad I ended up exploring further afield.
So, do I like Berlin more than I like Paris? I’d say that’s an unfair question. Both European capitals are charming and fantastic in their own rights, and I, for one, will not take sides.
There’s just something so enticing about a living history that comes with a city — something you find everywhere in Europe (especially in Rome! Oh Roma, ti amo); it just never gets old (hehe).