Berlin to me was a strange city, a city that is trying to hide its past so dutifully that at times it’s a little too apparent. The graffiti that covers the city, on almost every building, is welcomed by everyone as a sign of freedom. The nonchalant attitude of the Berliners coupled with the amazing freedom that everyone enjoys is definitely something to look forward to. However, no matter what you do, you can never rid yourself of that nagging feeling that everything is a little too mechanical, too well timed, too precise. Is there a thing as too much freedom? or is that a facade that is being put on? my 4 days in the city can definitely not reveal much.
The city in itself is beautiful, with its large open parks, amazing architecture and history, outrageous clubs (Yes Berghain I am talking about you) and its extremely diverse population. Berlin over the last decade has created a name for itself across the world as being at the heart of design and the hipster movement and this is all too apparent. Walk down any road and you are sure to find some piece of art that will grab your eye. This could be in multiple forms though, architecture, graffiti, street fashion, advertising, public spaces, tattoos, the list goes on.
I reached Berlin on a short flight from Cologne, after a long and grueling set of conferences, I was really looking forward to my short vacation and was not disappointed.
The first night ended up being a haze of beer, dimly lit bars modelled as homes with various room, drinking on the streets (something I am not used to doing in India) and guessing the preferences of the Bouncers at Berghain (why do some people get rejected and others don’t?). This was a perfect introduction to the Berlin, and as I took the last(was actually the first morning train) train back to my room I was quite happy with how the night had panned out.
The next couple of days were reserved for taking in the city, getting away from work and hopefully getting some good pictures.
I spent a majority of my time in Berlin, chilling in parks around the city with a beer and a Doner, which turned out to be my staple for this trip.
On the 2nd day after a long walk across Tiergarten, we came across the Berliner Dom and I was completely taken aback by the structure. I knew that I would be coming back the next day to capture it in the sunlight and sunset. The Fountain in front of the Dom was a perfect foreground subject, that breaks away from the hard lines of the architecture.
As decided, the next day was spent exploring other parts of the city. I decided to walk to the Berlin wall and check out all the murals there. It’s a short walk from the Berlin Warschauer Straße station or Ostbahnhof. The last remanents of the wall are curated into an art exhibit called the East Side Gallery which is approximately 1.3 Kms long and covered with great street art.
Couple of things to remember at the East Side Gallery
- Do not be a douche and try to leave your own mark
- The famous murals are all cordoned off with fences and therefore these might interfere with the photos you are trying to take
- Do not get fooled by the vendors trying to sell you “Genuine” pieces of the wall. What are you going to do with it?
- A wall has 2 sides, check the other side too
- Grab a drink or even stay at the uber cool hostel on a boat that’s anchored next to the wall
Ok, so by now I’ve seen the important landmarks. I’ve tried the local food, which isn’t the best, and I’ve made up my mind to come back to the city to explore it even more. But I’m not leaving till I get a good capture of the Berliner Dom.
I found a great location right next to Hackescher Markt that would work for this pic. Time to grab some beers, set up my tripod and wait. The vibe at Monbijou park, which overlooks the canals and the Dom is relaxed and the crowd starts coming in to enjoy the sunset after their day of work. I would have loved to get a great front-facing image of the Dom, but I think this angle worked better. The sunlight hit it just slightly and lit up the sky behind it as it set.
My Top 10 things to do in Berlin
- Grab a beer, anywhere! At the train station, in the park, on the street. Just get one.
- Try a Doner kebab and hear from 10 people devouring it why they despise it
- Stand in line for hours at Berghain and try to determine the criteria to get it. If you figure it out, you my friend are gonna be a millionaire.
- Get a day pass for the subway, it will save you tons of Euros
- Walk around Tiergarten and the tons of other parks. Take a stroll. Have a nap. But don’t forget the beer.
- Try to figure the differences between the cultural east and the modern West
- Get excited by the super low costs — Yes, the city is actually really cheap!
- Awe at the architecture — Berliner Dom, Brandenburg gate, the Konzerthaus, the random pretty, though oddly Russian looking buildings littered across the city, etc
- See the graffiti. This could be a complete trip in itself. I hear there are Graffiti tours organized by a lot of the hostels in Berlin.
- DO NOT get into the usual tourist traps of Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Wall, buying random DDR souvenirs that you will never use. There is a lot more to the city and you will regret missing out on what makes this city a truly Bewildering but awesomely global and modern city.
More images from this trip can be found on my Instagram.