Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Berlin Ist Nicht Berlin

Translation: Berlin is not Berlin.

I spent a couple of days in Berlin.  My second visit (the last was about a decade ago).

There are likely five versions of Berlin.  Version one is the Berlin of 1750s to 1913.  Marble buildings were continually going up.  Old style houses were everywhere.  Fancy hotels were obvious.  And city parks were ranked at the same level as Paris or London.

Version two was the Berlin of the 1930s, where construction boomed, but it was not really the type of buildings or such that you'd brag about.  The Olympic Stadium might have been the bright spot, but there's little to say.

Version three was the Berlin of 1945, where the city lay in ruins.  No one would have said much to a recovery or how the city would ever rebuild itself.

Version four was this rebuilt German city of the 1970s and 1980s....surrounded by a wall.  Excitement brewed everywhere.  Bars were open around the clock.  Folks felt the city like no other.

Well....we've come to version five, and it's not the Berlin of the other four versions.  Construction is booming all over the city.  Most locals who grew up in Berlin would say that ten percent of the city.....are foreigners, and another thirty percent are non-Berliners who moved in and set up shop.  It's not the old-style Berlin that most are used to.

Just in a decade, even from my last trip.....I'd have to admit that it's a totally different city now.  Bike paths are everywhere.  The trains and subways are ultra modern.  The new train station is like nothing else in Europe.  There are hundreds of construction projects going on, and I seriously doubt that any real completion will be noted until 2025.

Walking around?  I think a guy could get off a bus in the middle of town, and find himself in a state of marvel at the look, style, and feel of the city.  You'd need at least two weeks of walking to get that feeling out of your system.

Food?  You could taste just about every style known to mankind.  Even American-style donuts are in town.

But somewhere in the heart of this rediscovery of just feel like it's not old Berlin.  Something is slipping, and it's just not the same.  You find yourself looking at modern buildings, and just not putting them in the same category as the buildings of mid-1800s.  Maybe it's the lack or marble....or just a loss of style.  I don't know.

So if you have a week or on your calender.....and some cash, you just might want to come to Berlin and stand there in the midst of a dramatic change.  In a decade, I doubt if it resembles anything left from the 1970s.  And maybe that's a bigger story than anything else.

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