Travel and experiencing a mix of culture is a huge part of many people’s lives as a tool for our own personal understanding of who we are. When access to the world around us slows or ceases, it can feel stifling, but that does not mean that our appetite fades.
In uncertain times such as those we are facing, there has never been a better time to cast the mind back to a moment of inspiration and promise which altered your world view. With that in mind, this article reflects on a recent trip to Berlin which provided a mixture of great culinary experiences, brilliant sights, and new cultural discoveries for me.
The city is also built on a rich awareness of Jewish Culture that brings to light beauty but also reveals some of Germany’s darkest moments. In some cities such heavy historic marring might trouble their cultural displays but in Berlin something quite different was, and remains, apparent.
The way a curated sense of history is recorded and preserved in Berlin felt unique and seems to be powerfully engaged with by its citizens, giving a perspective and voice to an awful moment in time in a respectful way.
In this account, I take a look back at some of the most enjoyable, surprising and interesting moments of this trip to hopefully inspire your future adventures. Let’s get away to Berlin…
Beginning with transport, the city offers easily accessible and affordable fares – a single trip costs around 3.60 euros and is valid for 2 hours. Or, for even better value, a 7 euro ticket will provide travellers with access to transport for a full day – handy, if like me, you decide you want to switch between galleries, parks and coffee spots at a moment’s notice.
Codes, colour and careful curation are the fabrics of culture that pattern the city of Berlin, threaded together by a dense population of different districts. Each part of the city has its own unique senses, sights and eclectic qualities. The city is alive with reflections and possessions of the past, but it is somehow progressively enlivened by the prospect of the future.
A visit to the Deutsche Oper located in the Charlottenburg district revealed this to me most distinctly. The contemporary dance company, Staatsballett’s production of The Second Detail/Half life provided three hours of diverse, timely and humorously decadent acts. A highlight of the second act was the incredible full hair pieces that covered the performer’s heads and bodies creating a wholly dynamic visual and a much valued texture to the performance.
However, Berlin is also a place that, despite all the fun, is carefully and conscientiously designed to address some of its darker historical moments, particularly in the display of Jewish Culture and Memorial.
I was really moved by the functionality of light and space in Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum which seemed to capture the precision of German architectural design. The angular quadrants of the building directed streams of light down white walled corridors and illuminated key parts of the memorial and historic artefacts to represent those who had been lost. It was unmistakably poignant but even in the cold light of winter there was still a tangible sense of hopefulness. I became particularly aware of this in the building’s atrium which was lively with provoking conversations over coffee and pastry.
A special mention with regards to food has to be House of Small Wonder which can be found just west of Mitte on Johannisstrasse. The little hideaway is cosy with soft wood furnishings but most importantly, the delicious array of food is beautifully presented and varied in flavour. From small plates to full sized dishes it is a place to be completely spoilt for choice. I would like to thank Sara Wilson for this brilliant recommendation as it really made the trip and if nothing else it satisfied my search for caffeine with its extensive coffee list.
In an entirely different direction Eden Restaurant in Rosenstrabe serves up a healthy helping of Vietnamese cuisine with fresh vegetables, noodles, jasmine tea and what can only be described as a hazardously addictive chilli and lemongrass sauce – a sensational selection in yet another sumptuous setting.
Berlin is a cultural centre for the contemporary, the creative and curious looking to explore its historic roots. The emotive power of Berlin’s efforts to remember the past are testament to their progressive understanding. Through time this feeling of connection and union appears to only grow stronger and is actively, tangibly European – for me, its a display of free expression at its finest and most vital.