One of the world's most vibrant and enigmatic places, Berlin is an unmatchable cultural experience that continues to lure people from around the globe. Germany's capital city, which bears the mark of past individuals such as Marx, Hitler, Einstein, Stalin, Gropius, Bismarck, and Bowie, has regularly played host to many who for better or for worse challenged the realms of normality. Today, many of those praising Berlin will still refer to its resistance to the mainstream, due in part to its myriad of alternative eateries, buildings, galleries and museums.
But while some might be concerned about it being a hipster's playground overrun with murky nightclubs, there is much to suggest the city is for anyone curious enough to explore its rich and expansive avenues. Just being in Berlin is an experience in itself.
Browse handmade goods at one of the city's many Christmas markets, absorbed throughout by the irresistible temptation provoked by the unmistakable scent of a grilled bratwurst. Take in the unique sight of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, its war-damaged ruins standing proudly next to their more-recent incarnation. Take a turn off Kurfürstendamm, Berlin's bustling central boulevard of big-name stores, and 100m later find yourself in Savignyplatz, a bookworm's paradise comprising homely cafés and boutiques that have been open since the late 1800s. While you're there, treat yourself to an enormous pizza cooked to perfection for less than €10 in Berlin's oldest wood-fire stone oven at 12 Apostel.
Along the River Spree at Alexanderplatz, immerse yourself in recent history at the interactive DDR Museum, look over the city from the 1200ft TV Tower, or simply enjoy a freshly-poured Berliner Kindl in one of the many cosy pubs which line the cobbled backstreets.
See, touch, and be dwarfed by the striking remains of the Berlin Wall at the busy Potsdamer Platz before making the short trip along its former foundations to the Brandenburg Gate. Of course, only in Berlin would you on your way unknowingly pass Voßstraße, a street that more chillingly than any other holds the ghosts of the city's past. There lies Berlin's sole surviving pre-war building, and perhaps more eerily, an unassuming Chinese restaurant on the site of Adolf Hitler's former bunker.
In 1800, writer Jean Paul called Berlin "rather a part of the world than a city." Over 200 years later, his observation could not be more accurate. With a perfectly-balanced atmosphere fostering influences and traditions from all over the world, Berlin doesn't shy away from the sobering reminders of its own colourful history either, instead encouraging visitors to learn and discover.
Berlin is where the newly-constructed stands alongside the derelict, the young bleeds into the old, and the mainstream overlaps with the underground. The city which changed hands through numerous wars, occupations, and revolutions still resiliently stands, and proudly so. What is more, it not only stands literally, but as a bold symbol of cultural, political, and ideological collaboration. It is quite remarkable that a city tormented for so long by aggression, tension and division, today shines through as a beacon of diversity and multiculturalism.
You needn't come to here to do anything specific. Just set foot on the streets, follow your nose, let it all unfold in front of you and see where the journey takes you. Be surrounded by the history, amazed by the modernity, and fixated by the charm and individuality of the locals. And remember, a cold beer or the perfect coffee is never more than a few-hundred yards away.
Harbouring such a slate of influences, and forever adapting, this majestic city is always ready to be moulded into whatever its visitors, and its citizens, most wish it to be. That's how it's always been in Berlin, that's how it will continue to be, and there is nowhere quite like it in the world.
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