30/04/2015 05:59 BST | Updated 29/06/2015 06:59 BST

A Tale of Two Cities: Amsterdam and Berlin


If being around really tall people is your kind of thing, go to Holland. The average man is 6'3". And that's without clogs on. As well as clogs, several other C-words can be ascribed to the Netherlands' capital city: canals, coffee shops and culture, for instance; all of which Amsterdam has in abundance. Go Dutch and rent a bike so that you can cycle alongside one of the lengthy canals, admiring the seventeenth century architecture as you explore the Venice of the North. The buildings are rather smart: tall, narrow townhouses; they're reminiscent of London's Mayfair, but with more charm and less glamour. A trip to the newly re-opened Rijksmuseum will give you your cultural hit, obvious a choice though it is. I was lucky to catch the tail end of the Rembrandt exhibition: what better to evoke the city's prosperous history and the human lives it once held? When you're back on the streets, explore the '9 Streets' area filled with quaint bookstores and boutiques: ideal for pottering around. And for those health-conscious folk out there, listen up, because Amsterdam has juice bars and health food shops galore; and good value too. So much for the traditional method that Holland is famous for: we got high off wheatgrass shots all weekend.




A curious place is Berlin. It's just over twenty years since the Berlin wall came down, and though the legacy of oppression came down with it, not all traces of the macabre have been wiped out. In fact, the prevalent youth culture with its mix of artistic creativity and wanton hedonism seems bound up with a darker side that is repellent and attractive in equal measure. If you're into your music, especially the "nosebleed techno" variety, as my friend calls it, then Berlin is the place for you. The city takes its music scene very seriously. As a result, all other clubs the world over suddenly seem like a crèche for amateurs. However, if you forget to wear plain black clothes, are physically offensive in any way, or you have an American accent, you can forget it; you won't get in. This elitist attitude definitely contrasts with the welcoming nature of the Dutch; but then it depends what you want - schuper-relaxed, or über-cool?

Berlin is not a beautiful city, but there are various spots where the gritty industrial architecture combines nicely with the cheap and cheerful restaurants, and the buzzing street-life. West Berlin is much grander, but also more boring. Stick to Kreuzberg, Fridrichschain and Neuköelln to explore the multifarious bars and food-markets.



All photos blogger's own