Best Of: Berlin
This list is highly subjective and in no way definitive.
Best Walking: East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain, across the bridge, and around the Kreuzberg neighborhood.
You can follow the sidewalk along the entirety of East Side Gallery taking in the art renderings on remains of the Berlin Wall or you can cut away from the wall and traipse along the river with both granting spectacular views and insights into what was once a divided city. Once you reach the end you can cross Oberbaum Bridge into Kreuzberg where you are greeted by more street art on the buildings as well as sculptures that appear to be a part of grounds. The neighborhood’s vibe was decidedly young and eclectic, a stark alternative to the more historically kempt neighborhoods we had left on the other side of the river. If I were to live in Berlin, this would be the neighborhood – it recalled my fondest memories of San Francisco, only the public transportation was cleaner and the locals were more likely to acknowledge you with a smile.
The walk between and around these neighborhoods was charged with history, charged with new beginnings, charged with vibrant colors and equally vibrant people yet somehow entirely at peace with what was to come. Kreuzberg seemed to welcome everything and everyone with a sort of laidback charm that stood at odds with the frenetic energy of Berlin as a whole.
Also, this route has the distinction of including the previously-mentioned Burgermeister, which really, makes the walk worth it by itself. (more…)
Where to Go: Berlin
Brick walls and limestone facades, bridges sculpted in concrete and wrought-iron, lions and angels chiseled into railings, ceilings and awnings. Berlin’s architecture traversed the line between old world and new modern seamlessly from cathedrals and museums to daycare centers and office buildings. Cranes and scaffolding dotted the skyline, alight with orange-vested men constructing the new and restoring the old; their screeching saws and jackhammers collided with the booming voices of street opera singers and the soft, soothing melodies of string instruments. The city hummed, bustling in an endless rhythm.
The bridges that crossed into Museumsinsel, the columned walkways that connected each of the five museums, and the structures themselves were works of art in their own right. I photographed dozens (more likely hundreds) of sand-colored Corinthian columns, rows and rows of limestone archways, and grand marble stairways. (more…)
:: an excerpt written on the train between Berlin and Prague ::
And then it was over. She boarded her train, staring through the window, through me, as it pulled away from the station. I stood there. I stood there waiting for my train in the opposite direction, thumbing her flamingo lipstick from the corner crease of my mouth.
Her little dancing box of flashing neon and scant apparel closed soon after, I suppose, shutting up its past and hiding behind sagging boards and primary-colored graffiti. Its neighbors would point to it in moments of remember when and used to be before enough time passed and they too forgot its inhabitants until one day a newcomer, perhaps someone like my former self, bought that Pandora’s box for a penance and turned it into a mini-mart, a cheap purveyor of hydrogenated oils and sugar syrups dressed to kill in vibrant, come-hither packaging. Or, maybe, a young couple would furnish it into a quaint, over-priced restaurant that touted romance and intimacy in an ideal sort of mockery.
I gnawed on my bottom lip, pinching it between my teeth.
That grey-tinged box of a building would forge both more and less than those three pink months of lipstick and cherry blossoms and I wouldn’t – couldn’t – be there to see it.
-M. Ray Hall