Fiona Travels from Asia

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

8 things you’ll miss when leaving Berlin

I have never talked to anyone who declares that they dislike Berlin. Having spent 5 months in Berlin in 2013 working in the city’s center while living in one of its most complex neighborhoods, I have gathered these 8 things that I miss the most (and I think you do, too) upon leaving Berlin. Check this list to see if we’re of the same minds. If you have not visited Berlin, bear in mind all these experiences so that you won’t regret upon actually being there.

1. Street music performances

During my 5 months of living in Berlin, I had spent an incredible amount of more than 50 euros on street music performers. As I never paid more than 1 euro for a single performance, I reckon I must have bumped into at least 60 street performances within 5 months. Not all of them was great, of course. Yet there were always elements of joy, passion and freedom being transmitted through the music that they played on the street.

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In Berlin, street artists can be found anywhere. There are single performers like this guy here who play under the S-Bahn rail with his voice rising far above the noisy sound of trains coming and leaving. I took the S-Bahn every day. Saw him only some days. Yet after all, he was the memory that remained as I said goodbye to Berlin, rather than any train ride.

There are also groups of artists performing open-air concerts with different types of instruments. The money they received might not make up for their time and efforts, but not a single moment throughout their performance did I feel their enthusiasm and passion dropping. Every time they finished a musical piece, they gave the audience the most satisfying smile without even glancing at the money box.

If you’re lucky, you might also bump into these guys. They’re the funniest band I’ve met on all my train rides!

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2. The Reichstag Building

This stunning architectural work is the second most visited attraction in Germany after the Cathedral of Cologne. From the glass dome on top of the Reichstag Building, you can have a 360o view of Berlin city. You can also look into the parliament’s main hall below the glass dome, obliquely indicating the parliament’s openness in its operations.

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3. Currywurst

Currywurst (sausage with curry sauce) is quite popular in Berlin. No matter how strong your craving for currywurst might be, remember NOT to visit any Currywurst Express fast food chain. Trust me, both their sausage and curry sauce will certainly not live up to your expectations.

The most popular currywurst stall in Berlin is Curry 36 on Mehringdamm in Kreuzberg District. However, there’s a secret currywurst stall right in the city center that tastes even better I think. This stall is run by a man from Thuringia and sells the BEST curry sauce I have ever tasted in Germany.  Back in 2013, a set of one sausage with curry sauce and 2 small breads cost only 2 euro. No doubt I was a regular customer there!

4. One of the best summer carnivals in Europe

Berlin’s annual Carnival of Cultures is an event you surely don’t want to miss if you are planning for a summer trip here. The Carnival features a colorful street parade in which Berlin residents of different ethnic cultures showcase their best performances.

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Berlin Carnival of Cultures 2013

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Berlin Carnival of Cultures 2013

I had the opportunity to watch this parade in the summer 2013 and was most impressed with the Korean group, who dressed as PSY and gave a stunning performance of Gangnam Style on the street.

Gangnam style in Berlin today

Gangnam style in Berlin today

5. Jonny K.

You might bump into Jonny’s story upon walking on Rathausstrasse. I noticed a small camp set up on the sidewalk on my first working day in Berlin. It stood opposite to our office’s building, making sure that I’d see it at least twice every single work day. The camp turned out to be a memorial, to someone named Jonny K.

In the night of October 14th, 2012, Jonny K. – a boy of immigrant background – was beaten to death after his group of friends had a quarrel with another group of young men. I took these photos on October 14th, 2013 – exactly one year after Jonny’s death. That was also the last time I had seen this memorial. I left Berlin the next day.

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6. Street corners like these

Berlin always surprises me with street corners like these. I guess I need not say more.

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7. Reminders of the past

There are historical landmarks galore in Berlin. What I like most about the city’s (and Germany’s) approach to its history is the openness and truthfulness that they express. Stories about the East-West separation are openly discussed. Images of Jewish victims are exhibited on the main streets. An open reading space is built right at the very place where Hitler’s government burned books. And so on.

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Once a book-burning place under Hitler’s regime, this square has now turned into a comfortable public reading space.

The Holocaust Memorial is the best reminder of the past in my opinion. It’s a large open space where cubic stones are placed at different positions. As you walk through these lines of stones, the path leads you up and down. The greatest thing about this Memorial is that although there is no word or image displayed, its effects on visitors’ feelings are truly impressive.

The Memorial evokes different feelings in each person. While I felt like walking among the different life stories of the murdered Jews, my companion that day felt as if the up-and-down paths leading around the Memorial had been paths connecting all of us through the past, present and the future.

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What was your feeling upon visiting this Holocaust Memorial?

8. Alexanderplatz

If I had to choose one place to define Berlin, I’d definitely pick Alexanderplatz (or simply “Alex” as called by locals). Conveniently located in the heart of the heart (in the center of Mitte – the central district of Berlin), Alexanderplatz is the most vibrant public square in Berlin where amazing street performances take place, where you can dream about other destinations you still need to conquer by looking at the World clock, where strangers are willing to answer your random questions in a friendly way and where you can feel the strongest atmosphere of internationality. This place is exactly what Berlin is all about: quintessentially German and utterly international at the same time.

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The World clock at Alexanderplatz

Have you been to Berlin before? Did you miss the same things when leaving Berlin? Feel free to share your experiences by commenting below, so that future travelers have a better idea of how awesome the city is.

PS. What do I do when I miss Berlin? I watch this 😀

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