Berlin is not your average capital city. Unlike Paris, it cannot claim to be pretty (its gritty history has made sure of that); unlike London, it doesn’t boast a famous skyline; and for a country as economically wealthy as Germany, it’s surprisingly derelict. Yet you can’t help but fall for its esoteric edge- its surreptitious charm that’s somehow stylishly unrefined. After all, this city is a relic of modern day history- the once divided symbol of a once divided Europe. A political and historical icon. Hours are easily spent wandering the capital’s many museums and memorials, locked in its grim yet fascinating history. In many ways, it will always be haunted by the ghosts of its past- but it’s also avant garde, heroically fighting to move on. You can see it in the way an abandoned spy base has become a hippie squat, an underground venue for the latest warehouse rave, an exhibition for political graffiti. A very cool set-up- proving that Berliners can, and will, write over this captivating yet brutal history. Never forgetting but constantly forging ahead. Or the East Side Gallery: a stretch of the Berlin Wall dedicated to artistic messages of freedom and hope. History’s symbolic meeting point converted into an open-air gallery- reflecting man’s ability to create, destroy and preserve. Granting the Wall a new face in a new era.
But if you think that this is a city famous simply for its past, then think again. Today, it’s a trailblazer- excelling in everything from music to art with an underground vibe. In particular, Berlin-born fashion is known for its radical and exciting designs, and the city bustles with great vintage shops. For a good rummage, check out Colours on Bergmannstrasse 102, most probably Berlin’s biggest vintage store, all obsessively organised by colour (the manager definitely looked OCD). Of course, there is a very fine line between vintage gems and second-hand crap, so this is best if you have a generous dose of time and patience. But with happy hour every Tuesday from 11 till 3 (where everything is 30% off), it’s well worth the visit for the off-chance bargain. Superficial, on Torstrasse, was also really fun- stocking print t-shirts and great jewellery pieces. And if those two aren’t enough, why not wander down Rosenthalerstrasse? Filled to the brim with unnamed concept stores, it’s an intriguing walk. Plus, you’ll end up in Hackescher Market- a pretty square surrounded by bars and cafes where you can unwind, obligatory glass of wine in hand.
Berlin proves that even something like fashion can comfortably sit side-by-side with the tragic iniquity of its history. Bright courageous ideas dazzle against the darkness of its past. I saw in New Years Eve atop a hill in the city, marvelling at the skyline that was alight with fireworks- the explosion of firecrackers echoing in the air. Restless and energetic, I realised Berlin itself is a little firecracker. It was clear to see that this is a city that knows how to have fun, defiantly accepting the burden of its past with flair and its own raffish style. Whatever your interest, there is always something happening in Berlin. It’s the ultimate city escape.