Central European Capitals: Berlin

On Wednesday I left Paris on the culminating adventure of my time abroad. I’ve spent the past two days in Berlin appreciating its (comparative) cleanliness and (comparatively) empty sidewalks. By far the most interesting thing I’ve done was to go on a three and a half hour walking tour which was nominally free. The struggling fiction-writer turned tour guide was from Manchester and his sense of humor must have been perfectly calibrated to my tastes because I was always the first off the starting line when it came to laughing. I jotted down some of his jokes but I won’t share them because they aren’t funny without his particular delivery. He was also a veritable fount of knowledge about this (also comparatively) young city. The first record of its existence is from the 13th century. Ladies and gentlemen, Berlin is younger than Coulommiers–way younger! This tour guide delivered his spiel with such verve and relish as to almost make one wish to become a tour guide oneself. Oh, the romanticism of it!

Another interesting thing about Berlin is that during its history it has had to be rebuilt on an enormous scale two times. The first time was during the 30 years’ war, where 60% of its buildings had been destroyed. The second was after World War II, where 90% of its buildings had been destroyed. According to Rob the tour guide, Winston Churchill thought that Berlin would be abandoned completely, (Rob led me to believe that the following quote was made by Churchill but upon Googling it I can find it nowhere, so I must attribute it to Rob himself) “as a ruinous relic of human folly.”

As a result of the necessary reconstruction, Berlin is a very architecturally diverse city, especially to me coming from Paris where, though the standard style is quite nice and atmospheric, it is generally quite homogeneous and only occasionally “marred” by untraditional buildings.

As for the hostel experience here, I can’t complain about the cleanliness, only about the stiflingly hot bar which is the only part of the place with wifi. Also, I guess I could complain, if I really were in a complaining mood (but I think honestly it would be more like marvelling bewilderedly), about the people staying in the same room as me who come back from partying at 6:30 in the morning. Wow.

Tomorrow I go to Prague; we shall see how it compares.

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