Berlin is one of those mythic cities whose grand reputations precede them, keeping good company with the likes of London, New York and Paris. I’m ever so happy to report that it was everything I had been warned about. A delightfully harsh mistress, I am somewhat enamoured – or enlusted – with this charming city and all the decadence and debauchery that it contains Truly a place where one can be oneself without fear of shame and recriminations, unless that’s what you’re into of course, all the while giving a brand new interpretation to East meets West.
Don’t get me wrong, there are more than enough cultural pursuits on offer to balance out the less seemly ones. Not to mention exploring the difference of the formerly separated city halves. The first thing that I saw when crossing over to the east was a Starbucks, nothing says forward momentum quite like American capitalism. In general, the east seeming to be funkier and more progressive, although I tend to think that it is all meshing rather nicely.
Now a visit to Berlin is never complete without an excursion to the Berghain. An old electric substation located in East Berlin, still retaining its former industrial soviet chic, with lots of darks corners, no mirrors and free licence to get up to all sorts of mischief – basically my dream club! Ah the stories I could tell…and that’s just the tomfoolery I remember doing.
As marvellous as Berlin is there are of course times when it is even more of a gay Mecca. The first of these occasions being the most wonderful CSD – the annual gay pride parade. At 10km the route gives one ample time to take in the festive atmosphere and all the very enthusiastically proud boys and girls. I suggest watching from the end area at the Tiergarten, as you can simply have the parade come to you, as you float along in a delightful alcoholic haze. Which reminds me, one of the things I absolutely adore about Berlin is the extremely generous serving of alcohol that comes from their free pouring technique – would you like a drop of mixer with your glass full of spirits? Normally I can be considered to be quite a cheap drunk, but I’m well on my way to tipsy after just the first few sips.
Another eye opening experience is the festive chaos that is New Year’s Eve. Honestly, at times I thought that I’d inadvertently stumbled through a wormhole and somehow ended up in April 1945. Every man and his schnauzer seemed to be out and hurling rockets in every direction. Their total lack of restrictions of fireworks sale and usage is certainly a refreshing change from the strictly controlled regulation I’ve been exposed to in Australia. Although, quite frankly, after experiencing Berlin in this state, I can well understand why giving a bunch of inebriated revellers unfettered access to easily portable explosives may not seem the best of ideas. That being said it was all rather lively and very, very pretty.
I heartily recommend a visit to this most historic of locales and don’t forget to take advantage of the extremely high level of friendliness of the natives to help strengthen international relations.