This summer I was blessed with the opportunity to sing with the Berlin Opera Academy in their production of Suor Angelica. In the midst of being crazy busy with long rehearsals, I’ve gotten to steal some time to explore the city and experience the vibe of the German capital.
I’ll be completely honest. I didn’t immediately fall in love with Berlin like I have with other European cities. The city doesn’t have an immediate romance or charm in the way that Paris or Naples does. At first glance, Berlin felt metropolitan, but it also had a certain edginess that took some time for me to grasp.
The first thing I hugely appreciated about Berlin is the seamless transportation system. Most trains around the city center come every 3 minutes! Gone are the days of waiting forever to get from one place to the next. Timeliness is a very VERY important German value. As a result, the system supports ease of travel. For about €5 a day ( or €81 a month) you can easily get around the whole city. This day pass can be used for the bus or the train interchangeably. There’s also a metro app you can download on your phone that works like a gem!!!! I’d be lost without it.
Additionally, the city is sooooo bike friendly. On most streets and sidewalks there are paths specifically for bikers. I definitely didn’t realize this and ended up almost getting run over on the first few days while walking…Oops. Most bikes have little bells them that bikers are not at all afraid to use to communicate with padestrians. If you like biking, there are also many spots around the city where one can rent a bike for the whole day for €12.
I also noticed that Germans stress the importance of sustainability, reusing facilities and making old things new. There’s constant maintenance being done on government buildings and old architecture around the city to keep things looking pristine. This is also true about the roads in Germany. The Parliament building in particular was extremely impressive to me! It’s a hybrid between both clean modern lines and older more stately architecture. Germans care about the environment in a noticeable way. For example, bags at the grocery store aren’t free so everyone carries reusable bags to shop. Another great example is Tempelhofer Feld which at one point functioned as an airport, but has now been turned into a public park! Who wouldn’t want to walk or bike down a plane runway?
In contrast, Berlin also has a prevalent graffiti culture that’s especially embraced on the East side. I found this ironic because I expected German culture to be so “by the book”. Even though rules and structure are important in Germany, I feel like a youthful creative “anti” culture is also widely accepted. The arts as a whole are very important here and the array of shows, museums and concerts to attend are plentiful.
Berlin really started growing on me once I ventured outside of the touristy areas. There’re many smaller neighborhoods outside of the city center that are cool to explore such as, Kreuzberg (which has some amazing restaurants), Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain. With time and familiarity, I’ve grown to really really love Berlin and appreciate the complexities of the city. I can’t wait to explore more and share in the coming days.
I’m still checking some of these off of my to-do-list, but there are many really amazing things to explore in Berlin. Check them out!!!
- Brandenburger Tor
- Museum Island
- East Side Gallery (separate blog post about this coming to you soon!)
- Alexanderplatz or Potsdamer Platz/Sony Center for shopping!
- Reichstag Building and dome tour (dome tour is free!!! but government tour book far in advance!) Schedule a tour here!
- Charlottenburg Palace
- Berlin Botanical Garden
- Tempelhofes Feld (airport turned into a recreational area for the public)
- Bearpit Karaoke (Outdoor karaoke for the whole city)