‘Alive and kicking’ (as well as sounding incredibly cliché) is the perfect expression to describe the beautiful city that is Berlin. The German capital, formerly divided by a 3.6 metre high concrete wall, oozes with culture during the daytime, whilst offering nightlife activity in abundance.
I was lucky enough to visit the city with my girlfriend during the first weekend of October this year, meaning I was there to witness the 25th anniversary celebrations of the reunification of Germany! For anyone who is not clued up on German history, the country was first unified under Otto von Bismarck in 1871, following the Franco-Prussian War. Reunification was accomplished when the Federal Republic of Germany joined the Soviet occupied German Democratic Republic in 1990, forming one unified nation.
The 25th anniversary of German Unity Day was celebrated in style, with a three day festival, entirely free of charge for everyone to enjoy. Live music and other forms of entertainment were accompanied by a wide variety of German food stalls and beer gardens; providing its guests with the full German experience! The venue chosen for this incredible spectacle was the area surrounding the stunning 18th Century Brandenburg Gate, in earshot of the Reichstag; the meeting place of the German parliament, infamously damaged by fire in 1933. Being able to enjoy such a momentous occasion in front of two of the city’s most famous landmarks is something that has provided me with a lifetime worth of memories. The locals were friendly, the beer was good and the bratwurst was every bit as tasty as I imagined. It was an honour to be a part of such a fantastic event and overall the city delivered on this alone. Of course, Berlin had far more to offer and it was a race against time to see as much as possible before returning to Portswood, the crème de la crème of Hampshire.
As you travel east through the centre of city, crossing the mitte district, there is a whole host of famous landmarks to enjoy. Checkpoint Charlie, the renowned army crossing point used during the Cold War, is a must-see for anyone who wishes observe the remnants of Berlin’s 20th Century history. There was a particularly good vibe around this part of town, with plenty of singing and festivities to enjoy, as the German Unity celebrations continued throughout the city. Of course, like many major cities, Berlin has its fair share of more sobering sights. A short walk from Checkpoint Charlie into Potsdamer Platz and you will find yourself standing before a preserved section of the Berlin Wall, which split the city in two from August 1961 to November 1989. The chilling words etched on the concrete bricks, much of which is still readable to this day, is a sharp reminder of the dismal divide that existed in late 20th Century Berlin. I cannot finish this article without also giving mention to “The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”. A mind-blowingly innovative design, consisting of 2,711 concrete slabs stationed on a sloped field, is a fitting way to commemorate such a grave cause and the image of it will forever remain in my mind.
Last but certainly not least, the excellent nightlife on offer – famous for its techno music scene in the East side of the city – makes Berlin that bit better. In areas such as Warschauer Street and Alexanderplatz the partying rarely stops from Friday night through to Monday morning and, assuming you can crack the somewhat tricky door policies, you will have the time of your life. The drinks were affordable, as was the city in general; I struggle to think of one example of being ripped off during my four day stay in the capital. To be able to enjoy the Unity Day festivities as well as all these other aspects of the wonderful city, was a priceless experience for me. A top place with top people, I will definitely be back.