It was the early hours of the morning. We had journeyed across the Netherlands at night, cramped into sliding compartments which doubled up as our sleeping quarters. When I stepped off the train onto the Berlin pavement, I was shoeless, it was around 5am in the morning, and as I turned around to see the train pull away, two of my travelling companions were leaving with it. Berlin had welcomed us, and not very kindly.
Despite all my feelings of exhaustion, my cold and dirty feet (the shock of two friends failing to get off at out stop had apparently left me with the inability to clothe myself), and the worrisome hours' wait at the station for my friends, I felt a wave of excitement. Even though I was exhausted, I couldn't wait to go out (shoed of course) and explore a city I'd always longed to visit.
Trekking across Berlin at 6am, now with a complete set of travellers, I couldn't help but stare at a bustling city that was just waking up. The buildings on our way to the hostel may not have been the most architecturally spectacular, but they were part of the city's history. That is the main reason I love Berlin; it's a European city that has been through so much, and has a tangled and fascinating past. Berlin is a city of two halves, a city full of history, of troubles and triumphs, and a modern city, a city of the present, of combined cultures, of art, and jazz.
I loved spending my days exploring the Jewish Museum, its sharp edges and lofty vaults generating fear and wonder at the same time. Walking over the hundreds of metal faces, handcrafted by an artist to represent those who had suffered, everything silent bar the clatter of feet upon metal. The contrast of the eery lofty vaults inside the museum with the beautiful modern spaces crafted outside resonates the contrast of the city itself. A city that is not connected and bustling, but yet you can still walk past parts of the wall that split the city in two. Then there's the art, the art that livens up the city, but not only that, represents the fight and will of its people. The famous images of two men kissing, of the Israel and the German flags interlaid, and many other powerful slogans.
Then there are the people themselves, friendly and vibrant and full of life. Being there for the World Cup Final was truly an eye opener. It wasn't just a football match. People around you willingly talked to you, gave you directions and cheered along with you. They also had a great sense of humour. The stereotype of Germans as serious, rule loving people couldn't have been more wrong. We had Germans crack jokes with us, laugh with us, and even pick us up and twirl us round upon winning the World Cup. The sounds of horns honking down the entire street, hundreds of people clapping and cheering, and fireworks going off left right and centre showed me the exuberance of the people. Even for someone like me, a small, anxious and crowd fearing girl, I couldn't help but smile, and feel warm and happy and comforted by the vitality of the people around me. The city at night just came alive, and it made me feel alive too. Meeting a fellow traveller at 12 in the morning, an Irish man cloaked in a Welsh flag and asking what day it was cemented Berlin's other half, its exuberant and fun loving side.
Berlin is a huge and sprawling city, steeped in history, yet modern and fun, and full of so many cultures. From the Jewish Museum, to the World Cup Final, The Berlin Wall and Currywurst, I loved every part of Berlin I experienced. I would love one day to live in Berlin, to experience all the things it has to offer that I am yet to try, but for now, I will just have to settle for reading about it, and reminiscing.
Until next time, Berlin.
*This post was written as an entry to the #ileftmyheartin competition with Get Your Guide, which fellow bloggers can enter here. All views are my own, and I was in no way compensated for this post.