I had one of the most wonderful trip last week, ending to Berlin with my dear Mr. Nokturnal : it would be presumptuous to feel like a city could have been made for you, so let's say that we seem to be the perfect type to live in Berlin.
Working a lot before leaving, this trip has been more than unprepared : we only booked a cheap rent for a flat in Pankow (north suburb of Berlin) a few months ago, and then forgot about the trip. The vacations came, and it was already time for living ! I read a few lines before leaving, just to catch up with a few food addresses (my all-the-time obsession), and places for concert/ having a drink. Because it is the sort of things you can't know by just walking in the city for a few days. For the visiting part, I thought we would do by feeling.
What we discovered is a gigantic city, full of different atmospheres, poetic in its hectic way. I love the fact that, next to Paris, no place is totally overcrowded, and you have the constant feeling that everything is moving, building new perspectives. I let some people described me Berlin as a city of tenderly lost people, before living, and somewhere, it has to be true (more over since the friend in question lived there for a year), but it was not preeminent for us at first see. Let's say it is because we are a bit lost too, or at least, we love to get lost a little...
It is difficult for me to write in English: as you can see (with all the mistakes I make), it is not my mother tongue, and for me it doesn't always have the same nuances than French. I will try to use both, but I am sorry if each part is not an exact translation of the other! But you won't loose anything, anyway. I will just try to share my impressions and good adresses. So much things to say that I feel obliged to split these travel notes into notes by district of the city.
As you will see, I did not really visited the whole Berlin city: it is too big, so you can't in one travel! Pour les français, Berlin représente 9 fois Paris intra-muros: ça en fait, des zones d'exploration!
And we did not stayed long into the western part of the city: most of the time, we headed East! As you may all know, as a result of the WWII and Cold War, the city has been cut into two parts by the building of the Wall from 1961 and 1989. Let's say it gave a particular atmosphere, even today, to the quarter that were into the DDR districts.
If West has beautiful historic places, East has some touching remembrances of the past Communist regime and in a lot of case, the districts has turned really working-class areas, or turkish districts. Anyway, those districts are definitely the living heart of Berlin, since Youngs and Artists turned them really alternative. And now you understand more why we felt so much at ease in Berlin!
Friederishchain, Neukölln, Kreutzberg … mainly those three districts are constituted of concrete residential buildings from the 60's/70's era, fading more or less a bit...But in some sectors, walls are covered by street art, tags, graffitis, and more over by Greeneries. Berliners just love Nature, and put some plants everywhere they can! So those quarters are definitely not sad at all (at least it must be a bit more gloomy in winter), but on the contrary: they are full of colours, tatooed guyz and mysterious girls with piercings, head covered with beanies and denim scratched shorts... The parks are full of people enjoying the present day, with a really artistic atmosphere, and a lot of buildings are some sorts of squats, in which you can find alternatively an art gallery, a vegan restaurant, a bar, a club or an little cinema.
Dissidence is everywhere on this side of the city, where people developed a really autonomous way of living, and gave a life back to buildings that where simply abandoned after the fall of the Wall: with the falling of the Communist state, a lot of industries have left abandoned some huge and impressive sites, all built in deep red bricks. Those empty zones are now full of new ideas, like a new project of society, full of liberty and far from capitalism and communism. Like if you were a bit visiting a living utopia community, as you read about in books before.