I thought Berlin would be like Vienna, Milan, or Madrid, with a sprinkling of Cambodia. I have never been to any of those places. Sometimes I pretend that my favourite David Bowie album is Low. It isn’t.
- In Berlin, you can smoke pretty much anywhere, although most Berliners chose not to bother.
- Berlin spent a lot of money on some of its street lights, so there are very few of them.
- There’s no millennial culture. Themed bars and quirky cafés are everywhere, but they’re just that, and aren’t treated like there’s something magical or smart about them. They’re just nice.
- You have to stamp your train tickets yourself, put them in your pocket, never show them to anyone, then throw them away when you get home.
- There are tattoo parlours everywhere, but hardly anyone has a visible tattoo.
- The people of Berlin have an effortlessness sense of not-fashion. They walk around like the best versions of themselves, without conforming to any sweeping trend or mania.
- Gentrification is happening at random, not in any obvious fixed pattern.
- Even the homeless people are polite.
- The Berlin Wall isn’t as a big a deal as everyone thinks. Don’t get me wrong, visiting it at dusk was a powerful experience, drenched in history and reverence. It was truly surreal to cross from former West Germany to former East Germany and back again, after having submerged ourselves in the history of how problematic that was. But I expected Wall themed stores, Wall-painted taxis, Wall chocolates, Wall-themed jugglers, Wall hats, Wall ponchos, build-your-own-Wall playsets… instead, the Wall is treated to the just the right kind of non-floodlit fanfare, and a quiet and organised respect.
- German people don’t understand friendly muted sarcasm and never will.
- Berlin is drowning in art, both political and pointless. There is so much that none of it is treated preciously. An etching on a bookshop wall, an old master in a gallery, the miles and miles of street art… it all sits in a single, nebulous bubble of art, appreciated for what it is and what it says, not for how smart or cutting edge it is.
- Traffic signals in Berlin are a suggestion, and should be ignored rather than observed.
Well, there it is. I’d ask what I got right and what I got wrong, but all I know for sure is that I loved just being in Berlin, and haven’t felt such a sense of fresh belonging and comfort on streets and behind doors since I first moved to Manchester.
Wohin Sie auch gehen, Sie sind.