After spending a few months in Berlin, not much comes as a surprise anymore. In a place where it is completely normal to see full blown punks and their dogs involved in brawls on the street, and people dressed in Lycra morph suits standing in the U-bahn train stations with no explanation, it is hard to imagine that Berlin has had such a recent turbulent past.
This year marks 25 years since the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany. Following years of oppression and grueling discontent; the weight was finally lifted and Berliners were granted freedom of movement. For many, this not only meant being able to leave their respective side, but also to be reunited with the family and friends they had physically been separated from. Today, you can still see part of the wall along the East Side Gallery, 1.3km of the wall stands as an international memorial for freedom and has been graffitied by various people and artists with quotes and, in most cases, pretty trippy art. To celebrate the anniversary, the city enjoyed various cultural events and recreated the border with white balloons which were released to commemorate the fall. This was shortly followed by Paul Kalkbrenner transforming the central area around Brandenburg Gate into a techno haven for his biggest fans.
Of course Germany´s history is not one that is seldom heard about or ignored and, interestingly, Germans are the first to inform you about it. In my first few weeks I went to a light show at the Reichstag which gave a quick summary of the past 100 years and was really quite moving until a 30+ booze cruise passed on the canal blasting Pitbull, Mr. Worldwide himself, accompanied by a group of middle aged party people howling the wrong lyrics…
Luckily for everyone, Pitbull is not often played in Berlin clubs and has played no part in gaining its reputation as one of the best cities in the world to go out in. What threw me the most is that nothing ever seems to close. You can literally stay out listening to all strains of techno that the world has to offer from Thursday morning until Monday afternoon if you are so inclined. Even when you choose to leave, there´s a constant flood of people wandering nearby and asking where is good to go at 11am. And if you´ve passed the weird door policy, which makes absolutely no sense and grants the bouncers unmatched power in the city, the sights you see inside are alone enough to keep you entertained for the night. Head to toe black seems to be the preferred attire, but that hasn´t stopped the middle aged men from rocking up in white leather bumless trousers or full fetish uniforms to come and two step the night away. I was also surprised at how young we seemed there; the general idea is that they like you to either be 21 or look 21, but the age range inside is huge. Generally it’s an older crowd and it seems that their 27 is our 21.
This is the same for university. It´s a completely different system which means that you can complete modules when you want to and there is no pressure to start uni at a certain age or finish it in a certain amount of years so people tend to graduate much later than we do. I was at Freie Universität which although is a ´Berlin University´ is actually about 45 minutes away in a village called Dahlem Dorf and has a library shaped like a human brain. The ´German efficiency´ seems to have bypassed this place and no one seems to appreciate the usefulness of email but the classes are interesting and come in big blocks so you only have to go in two or three times a week. Another bizarre thing is that you can´t hold onto any of your possessions and have to use lockers which are dotted around the university to put your coat and bag into while you work.
So although a little bit weird, Berlin is truly wonderful. I enjoyed pretty much every part of my experience there and would recommend it to anyone looking to go to a unique city with a vivid history.