Modern Berlin is vibrant. Its streets are always busy, though never uncomfortably crowded. Its people are a multicultural mix who speak a variety of languages, with German predominating, of course. The population is pretty stylish. That it’s a pretty open, liberal society is apparent in various ways, from the casual beer drinking by people on subways cars on the street (not drunks; just people enjoying a beer); the many sex shops and clubs; even the sweet, candy-cotton waft of e-cigarette smoke.
And it certainly seems economically healthy, with all the construction projects foiling Jean’s photography attempts, the many high-end designer shops available, the architecturally beautiful new malls like Bikini Berlin, and the relative scarcity of homeless people—far fewer than you see in large Canadian cities.
Berliners are well-supported in their desire to move around. Admittedly, the new airport is stuck is some sort of construction limbo, and the current one seems a bit dated. (It’s convenient that you go through security right at your gate, and disembark from the plane right where your luggage is, but there’s a notable lack of airport services.) But the transit system… amazing! It took us a few days to figure out it—the light rail (M trains), the surface trains (S-Bahn), the subway (U-Bahn), the regional train, the buses. But then—sometimes with help of Google Maps—it got us everywhere we wanted to go.
We did notice some police presence—always around the Jewish synagogue, often at the main train station: one day we emerge to a whole lineup of police officers at the ready with riot gear. But it seemed clear this was about protecting, not repressing the population.
I think that’s why all the memorials to The Berlin Wall struck me so profoundly. The contrast with the present was so stark.Continue reading