The biggest lesson I learnt in Berlin was that you don’t always have time to fully ‘get’ a city and that’s okay.
Travelling for so long, you have to prepare for ‘low points’ in your energy levels. Berlin, the city after a whirlwind 4 Baltic countries in 2 weeks with Noora, caught the brunt of that come-down. I was tired, on my own and only had two days to explore - worse, I wasn’t in the mood to socialise, photograph and honestly didn’t even want to walk around.
Berlin didn’t do much to draw me out of that mood, not because it didn’t seem interesting but because it also felt like an introvert of a city: a city you needed to be introduced to, marked by its history, the presence of so many waves of people passing through, apparent in the graffiti and street art; layers upon layers of messages, a little chaotic, a little guarded, a little protective.
That wasn’t the city’s fault at all, but what I ended up doing to deal with this was…just to give in and let myself feel that negative emotion. To take it easy, let myself sleep in a bit longer, to skip most of the museums in favour of just walking around. When you travel long-term, you also have to give yourself a break.
It meant I ended up photographing things I may otherwise not have in a more ‘overt’ city: shadows playing on buildings, objects I saw, interesting shapes and lines…but none of the typical stuff you might expect from travel photos. I was surprised by how much I like a lot of these shots.
What felt hidden from me - in true introvert style - was the beating heart of the city. I caught glimpses, sure - locals laughing in line for kebabs, groups of people laughing while walking along the Berlin wall, people standing and watching the football by the currywurst stand, girls talking by the fountain - but there was a difference between seeing and being part of it. Do, however, get yourself a kebab from Tadim. Best kebab I’ve tasted in my life.
I’m not usually one for the chaos of large crowds, but Berlin felt like the sort of place that doesn’t allow you to just hover detachedly: hands dirty, or off, so to speak.
That’s why I’m hoping it won’t be the last time I’m there — and next time, I’m not going to hover.
As I only had a day, I decided to leave most of Berlin’s museums in favour of just walking around. Don’t forget to register in advance to visit the Reichstag Dome (it’s free but you must book!) like I didn’t…
I don’t know if the Stasi Museum was worth travelling especially to its remote location - I was determined to go because I heard it was the set for one of my favourite films of all time: The Lives of Others. Truthfully, you couldn’t really identify any parts used for the movie and the museum itself is interesting but not particularly dynamic. The intense 1970/80s vibe of the place is undeniable though, and out of a different world.