Berlin: history, culture, and cool (and snow)

For a city that was—according to our walking tour guide—a small fishing village until the late 19th century, Berlin has been witness to a huge number of significant historical events. Yet at the same time it has the feel of a fresh, modern city, actually trying to downplay its role in the past and emphasise the future, rather than marketing itself as a city-sized historical theme park. This is refreshing.

The museums, built during its Prussian Imperial hey-day and recently updated, are excellent and contain superlative artefacts such as an exquisite and refined bust of Queen Nefertiti of Egypt; the Pergamon Altar;1 and the Ishtar Gate, the ceremonial entrance to the ancient city of Babylon.

Modern Berlin’s low cost of living is also attracting a thriving modern art and party scene. It was a cold weekend when we visited, despite being the beginning of April, and we enjoyed several hip but friendly cafés and restaurants serving delicious unusual food and excellent coffee (the most important factor in how much I like any city!). The zoo also proved an entertaining diversion when our brains needed a break from the history and partying.

  1. The display was clearly intended to rival the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum. I later heard that the altar had originally been built to demonstrate the city of Pergamon’s ability to compete with Athens. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. [back]