This is a story about Berlin and the way I’ve felt when I was living there.
I moved to Berlin in 2004. Nine years ago. Even back then, it was the same as today: People either loved or hated the city. In my case, it started with a deep love but ended with a painful struggle.
In the fall of 2008 I left Berlin, I just couldn’t live there anymore. I was a lost soul that needed a break from the city. All I needed was peace and a beach. So I left in November and I didn’t come back for a long time, which actually turned out as one of the best times of my life. I was in love with traveling and had spent most of my time exploring the other side of the world or living abroad.
2011 I came back to Berlin for a short layover. I had lived a few months in another place for work. I came to Berlin for only one night before I was heading to Japan. That day, I posted something on my Facebook wall which got more attention than any other post in a while. I wrote:
My heart is in Berlin. Well, that’s what I thought. Now, another 2 years later since I wrote this, I’m not so sure about it anymore. I have been to so many different places in the meantime that it feels like my heart forgot where it belongs.
I cant live in Berlin for a longer time, but I keep returning every now and then, at least once a year I come back, try to stay a bit and see if we can make it together. But every time, we fail. I’m sitting right now in Berlin while writing this and I kinda feel lost. Counting the days to my next flight out of town.
What has happened? When did I fell out of love? Why did this city makes me sometimes sad or even depressed? I had no other choice than to sit down and write about all the things I felt about Berlin while living here and why my relationship with this wonderful city failed terribly.
Dear Berliners, please, I know you are sensitive against critics about your beloved city, and this is not a pure ranting post, I promise. There are a lot of things I use to love about Berlin, too. So I will write about it all.
Let’s start with the good things:
I can understand that tourists are always fascinated by the city, all this diversity of people and places. Foreigners are in love with the street art here. And of course everybody is sooo creative. When you ask people what they’re doing, they’re either artists or DJ’s or photographers. Or unemployed. Which is kinda the same as being an artist in Berlin. No other city has so many creative people than here and making money from art is very very difficult in Berlin.
Anyone can be anything in Berlin, that’s a thing to love. It’s so easy to be a character here. Unfortunately many people who come to Berlin choose to be a hipster. But that’s a whole other story…
Hate is a strong word, maybe dislike would fit better here. They always say Berliners are so honest and straight forward, but well… I would also say they’re rude and often not able to admit a mistake. For example I’d order a drink in a bar and the waitress would bring me the wrong one, she would insist that I ordered it, even if I know I would never order that. Quite too many people in Berlin have a hell of an attitude.
After living in several places around the globe, I can confirm that people here are less friendly than anywhere else. But that’s just my experience.
It’s very rare that you’ll meet some original Berliners and many of them are just fed up with all the foreigners who are taking over Berlin. Actually the word foreigner in German is “Ausländer”. I’m ashamed to say that, but the word “Ausländer” has a very negative touch in the German language. Sorry, but we clearly need to invent a new word that sounds more friendly. There is nothing bad about being a foreigner. We’re all foreigners. Somehow.
People in Berlin judge you by the area where you come from or living in. Every district in Berlin has its image, so if you’re from a not so cool neighborhood of the city, people will always make fun of you. If you are from even more far away, like Stuttgart, never mention that. People in Berlin seem to not like people from Stuttgart.
Berlin is full of all kinds of different people, a lot of socially dysfunctional people. People want to be anonymous. Almost nobody wants a commitment or any kind of relationship. That sounds maybe like fun, party and freedom for you, but I know many people in Berlin are lonely and depressive.
I’ve been to Tokyo, New York, Mexico City and now Istanbul. But from all these cities, hands down, Berlin has the best public transportation. It is fast, it’s 24 hours, and we don’t have these annoying gates as in most cities where you need a ticket to enter. Get in and get off or continue riding as long as your ticket is valid. As far as I know, we don’t have these gates for safety reasons. In case of a fire, people could escape faster.
I love the transportation in Berlin. Wherever you want to go, there are plenty of different ways you can choose from. The night buses are reliable and safe. It has been said as well that the public transportation isn’t very cheap in Berlin. A single ticket cost €2.40 at the time of writing (August 2013).
Berlin is not pretty. Ugliness is everywhere. Some other might call it edgy or whatever, but Berlin is dominant grey all over. The city is always under construction. It’s a never ending story.
Sadly, too many people treat this city like a dump. Almost everywhere you see dog poop. You wonder why nobody outside is looking at you? Because everybody is scanning the pavements while walking.
Last weekend I walked home, around 2 AM in the morning. It was a short walk from Schlesisches Tor to Warschauer Strasse, approximately 1 kilometer. I saw at least 4 guys peeing on my way home, 2 of them standing on the bridge peeing right into the river. When I arrived home, another girl had just barfed in front of my entrance. Everywhere is broken glass. It seems like a cool thing here to throw beer bottles to the ground. Dislike.
These are the very rare moments where I almost fall in love again with Berlin. When it’s warm in the city, there is so much to do. Swimming in the lakes, drinking a beer next to the river, hanging out at some of the plentiful beach bars or just chilling in one of the beautiful parks. We used to hang out on the roof of our house, but unfortunately more and more house owners are locking the access to our beloved roofs.
No doubt, Berlin in summer is a delight. I wish these times would last longer than a few weeks. When it’s warm in Berlin, you might actually spot some smiling and happy faces. It’s amazing how much the weather affects the mood of the people.
Winter in Berlin: It starts in late August and ends in June. OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit. But not much. People who live there, will confirm that the weather in Berlin sucks most of time. The summer is short and the winter seems endless. On top of that, we barely get to see the sun in winter. Getting dark at 4:30 PM is really depressing. One of the main reasons I’m not living there any longer.
Berlin is cold. And I’m not only talking about the weather here. Also emotionally. People are cold.
This is by far probably the thing I love the most about Berlin. The food. The variety is endless. And delicious! You can get almost everything in Berlin. Whenever I come back here, I just eat eat eat. I love the Vietnamese soups, Thai green curries, Sushi and Ramen, Schawarma, Samosas, Burritos, Pizza, Falafel, Döner… Oh speaking of Döner, I’m sorry to say this but Döner Kebab is so much better in Berlin than in Istanbul.
And what about the German Food? Actually typical German Restaurants are rarely seen (and mostly more pricey, unless you go for fast food like burgers and sausages).
OK, I think I understand now why I return every year to Berlin. It’s not the weather. It’s not the attitude of some people. It’s the food. The diversity. Watching people. Drinking German beer on a rooftop.
And my friends of course who I miss truly.
See you soon, Berlin. We might not worked well together, but I still love to spend some days and nights with you from time to time. I’ll be back in a few weeks. Because you are amazing.
Kisses & hugs.
PS: Are you planning a trip to Berlin?
Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet provides extensive information about what to see and where to go in Berlin. If you need help in finding accommodation in Berlin, check out Agoda, I highly recommend them!
Looking for budget accommodation? Check out Michael’s post on best hostels in Berlin!
Thanks to Dagmar Jedrisko for contributing all these wonderful images. She’s a dear friend of mine, plus a very talented photographer. Check out her photos on her Facebook Page and follow her on Flickr.
Have you been to Berlin? Tell me about your experiences! What did you love and what not?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabrina Iovino is the founder of JustOneWayTicket.com. She’s half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she’ll switch now. Phew…much better! Let’s restart:
Hi, I’m Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.
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