Berlin left me with an itch. A restless desire for find something that was hidden from me.
It would be foolish to think that I can even have a grasp on Berlin after a three day visit. First impressions can often be misleading. Especially when visiting a city where the typical points of interest dominate a checklist. I had no expectations beyond the outsider stereotypes that percolated in my head of a wall, concrete and graffiti. But I walked away having more questions than answers.
There is the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag building, Berlin Cathedral, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I opted out of a bike tour, as I didn’t want to be inundated with facts or given a history lesson, as I can read about it on Wikipedia. We rented bikes from our hotel for € 12 a day and decided to explore on our own. While the sights were interesting in their own right, it left a mild sense of ho-hum.
Of greater interest to me is to experience the energy of a city. I want to see the contrast between neighbourhoods, how people move, live and interact with each other. I want to discover hidden gems and things of distinction away from typical tourist attractions.
Berlin offers a perfect platform for this kind of discovery. Ranked number 12 on the 2015 Copenhagenize index list of Bicycle-Friendly-Cities, forget about tunneling underground or being restrained in a tram or car. The infrastructure was more than adequate for getting around on two wheels.
The city reminded me in many ways of my hometown of Toronto, with nondescript buildings that appeared to be a front for something interesting. The Art Spin Berlin event revealed this notion with a perfect introduction to neighbourhoods and sights off the beaten track. There was also this unusual level of calm that I haven’t felt in any city. This gave me a sense that I was perhaps missing something, that Berliners know something I don’t. After a few days of racking of up the miles, it seemed that I had only scratched the surface.
We met up with an acquaintance on our last day. After listening to what we did, she was eager to create an itinerary for when we come back. Pausing for a moment, she began to list things to do for a third trip. It now became obvious that there was a treasure cove of discovery that left the door wide open for a return visit to Berlin.