I Hope NYC Doesn’t See This…
…because I have a new metropolitan love affair. Berlin is amazing. It’s hip, vibrant, easy to get around, and just drop-dead gorgeous. I had last night and all day today free, and I really made the most of it. Spent last night seeing the remnants of the wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Wall museum, then walked through old East Berlin, which reminded me of the East Village in NY. Awesome little shops, cafes, bars, bakeries. There’s even a bookstore that ONLY sells science fiction and fantasy. My heart fluttered.
At night, the city absolutely glows. And while you can disappear underground in the U-Bahn, it’s the S-Bahn that makes this a city like no other. For much of its stretch, these aboveground trains glide through the city a few meters above the streets. The stations are huge glass domes, so even when you stop “inside” you are still “outside.” Museums fly by just a few paces away. Old buildings and new buildings. Snowy streets. Rivers. Berlin is extremely spread out, which makes it feel uncrowded, and yet it’s a cinch to get around.
The best part is the German people. Berliners, especially. Yes, they run from me and my camera, but it’s hard to blame them. What’s incredible about this place is how most people play by the rules, which means the rules are set up to reward the law-abiding rather than treat everyone like criminals. When you get on and off the train, there are no turnstiles to swipe your ticket through (which it doesn’t read, and then you bang into the bar and bruise your thigh, and the person behind you gets all annoyed, and someone else is waiting to exit from the other side). You simply buy your ticket yourself, stamp it yourself, and then walk on and off trains, subways, trolleys, and buses for the rest of the day.
Theoretically, someone could ask to see your ticket. (“Papers,” I imagine them saying). But I haven’t seen it happen. What I see are people who stand on a street corner with no traffic in sight — boulevards empty for blocks in either direction — waiting for the walk signal to turn green. Only then do they cross.
Taxis drive you around at a sane pace. There is hardly any traffic to speak of. The food is amazing, the museums world-class. I barely got a taste of what this city has to offer, but a love affair has begun. Thanks for having me, Berlin. Now I have to make sure I pick up something for New York while I’m on my way through the airport tomorrow — so she forgives me.