It was clear, from their very first conversation, that one of the things that drew them together was a shared desire to travel, so it was natural that within weeks of meeting, they started thinking about where they’d like to take their first trip together …
It’s a big step, travelling with someone for the first time, but, as the saying goes, when it’s right, it’s right. And it felt right from the very start. It was nevertheless important to find somewhere neither of them had been to before so everything, from the food to the language, the sights to the people – were new. In that way, the experience would be exclusively theirs, together.
Berlin ticked all those boxes.
It’s one of those cities that is always going to be a fascinating place to visit. It has no choice but to look its recent history in the eye … and try to move on, all the while reinventing itself in the eyes of the rest of the world, and its own. No mean feat, when at every turn in this extraordinary city, there are stark reminders of the atrocities of a world at war. From Checkpoint Charlie to vast stretches of the Berlin Wall still looming grey against the skyline, both with moving exhibitions about the desperate impact on the lives of Berlin’s communities, as the city was divided into East and West. The powerful grandeur of the Brandenburg Gate, standing proud and defiant, the site of one of the most iconic scenes in recent German history when thousands celebrated as the Wall fell in 1989, and representing now not so much the a divided Germany, but more a symbol of unity and freedom.
A city very much coming to terms with its past, respecfully and quietly. This struck them no more so that at the Holocaust Memorial. Over 2,500 giant block of grey concrete, set out to deliberately confuse on an undulating piece of land near the city centre. Even on a sunny day, the atmosphere was eerie and desolate with a clever play of light as the shadows played on the stones – a deeply thought provoking homage to the murdered Jews of Europe.
Berlin’s history is fascinating and tragic, and it is all too easy to spend time there feeling pulled down by the weight of it. There is no escaping the past but there is no doubt that this is a city that passionately strives to look forward. None more so that in Kreusberg, the cool suburb where they stayed, giving them snap shot into the lives of modern day Berliners – families to-ing and fro-ing on their bikes, music flowing out of the bars along the riverbank, every kind of cuisine, street art … the hip place to be.
They found a tiny ruin bar just off the river front, a building that they wouldn’t have given a second glance to without the recommendation of their host, graffiti covered, down an uninspiring side street. But what a find. Inside, the young owners had imaginatively turned this desolate building into a warm and welcoming bar, candlelit nooks and warm smiles, the younger generation celebrating their city and reinventing something old into something new and exciting. It was Berlin in a nutshell!