Berlin with a Capital B.
Yep, I’m in Berlin with a Capital B. I remember when Bonn was the capital of Germany and we were visiting friends there who had a lovely contemporary house on the River Rhine. Everything was so…contemporary. Then exactly nine years ago almost to the day, the capital city was moved to Berlin.
No one talked much about Berlin until then, but within the last few years, it’s the city on everyone’s lips. “You must go to Berlin,” they said. “It’s amazing! The architecture is magnificent! The art scene is exploding! It’s a must-visit!”
So, here we are. Mu daughter, Erica said, “It called to me. I had to go check it out.”
And so she did, for a few weeks on a mere pittance because it could be Europe’s biggest bargain.
She’s been exploring the city and its environs relentlessly, without knowing anything in advance, discovering its profound history for all its good and bad. As a mother I am grateful for that — as she could not be getting a better education about the history of World War II and the horrific crimes against humanity that took place on this soil.
Berlin is, of course, not the same Berlin of the Third Reich. In fact, that’s one of the fascinating things about Berlin — it may have had more different ‘faces’ and ‘personalities’ over the course of its history than any other city in the world.
I’ve only been in the city less than 24 hours, but have already explored some of its most important sights. The architecture at Potsdamer Platz is drop-dead stunning. The Holocaust Memorial will make your skin crawl, as it intends and the Wiener Schnitzel and fresh white asparagus at “Lutter & Wegner” is every bit as delicious as they say (we dined at the new one at Potsdamer Platz). The Ritz Carlton was hosting a dignitary when we scooted past the doormen and military guards, but the doorman at the Adlon Hotel at Pariser Platz (Paris Place) wouldn’t let us past the front door seeing Erica’s big camera strung around her neck.
The underground is efficient as one might expect and is run entirely on the honor system — no turnstiles or guards to ensure you pay for and validate your tickets (although undercover “controlleurs” are everywhere). The avenues are wide and spaces are wide-open, making you feel insignificant, and small, like a few ants on a vast landscape. There are no queues anywhere, to anything — strange! Where is everyone?
For convenience I booked a simple and inexpensive hotel near my daughter’s apartment in the district known as the “Friedrichshain.” It’s the hardest bed this old body has ever known and the one feather pillow made for aches from head to toe, but it’s clean and classic, for 59 euros per night. Next time, I’ll know better, and splurge for at least a softer mattress.
Today we have plans to visit the Jewish Museum first, which has been at the top of our list, then to cram as much into our day as possible. There is so much to see and the city is not as compact as Paris. We wouldn’t make too hasty a judgment, but we both agreed…Berlin is Berlin with a Capital B., but it isn’t Paris.
No city in the world is like Paris. Funny, but already I miss it.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.P.S. With a photographer in tow, there’s no need for my trusty Sony Cyber-Shot, so if you’d like to see more of Erica’s view on Berlin, visit http://flickr.com/photos/ericasimone/