In Fall of 2007, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Berlin to study Graphic Design, so I went. I saw it more as an opportunity to get a change of scenery, and I didn't have any expectations, because I honestly had no clue what Berlin had to offer. Plus, all I could think about was the things we learned about Germany from WWI and WWII, so, I was really intrigued to see what modern day Germany, and specifically, Berlin was like.
After living there for three months, I fell in love. Actually, I was in love the second we drove onto Warschauer Straße (Friedrichain) from Tegel airport, it was so different than I had imagined, but at the same time, there was something really inviting, and sort of familiar about it. The part of the city we lived in was super artsy, and bohemian. One of my first memories of Berlin is walking out of our hostile for the first time to go grab food down, we walked down the street, and everything was covered in stickers, and graffiti. Not just random tags, but, full out art pieces. It was crazy to see, because, in America, we see all forms of graffiti as "vandalism" to public property, and in Berlin, you can tell that they embrace it (at least in certain areas, anyway). I'm not sure it's entirely legal there, but, there's just so much of it, that cleaning it would just be a waste of time and money. Plus, it adds to the charm!
I think being surrounded, literally, by art is the part of the city that made me feel instantly connected. Beyond the street art, there are sculptures, and street exhibits, and museums, and architecture galore; if you can't be inspired to create something here, then there is no hope.
Surprisingly, there wasn't too much of a language barrier there, we still were taught basic German, but a lot of Berliners speak English quite well, and are more than happy to engage in conversation in English. That being said, I still think it's worth learning to speak and read the language, because you just never know when you'll need to find your way around, or ask someone for something. And, I think it shows people that you really want to be immersed in their culture when you at least attempt to speak their language.
Berlin is a very walkable city, with an awesome public transportation system. I felt totally independent there, all I had to do was hop on the train (S-Bahn or U-Bahn), and then I was wherever I wanted to be. For a then twenty year old, in a foreign place, it was the best feeling in the world, to not need a car, and still be able to explore and get around as I wanted. We explored everyday we were there, and found all kinds of cool stuff,
For a city I didn't think much of prior to visiting, it has skyrocketed to the top of my must-travel list. I would even live there, because, on top of all it has to offer, it's actually quite affordable. I will finally be back in Berlin in May, and I can't wait! I'm already researching more places to check out, and things to do while I'm there. If anyone has any suggestions for things to do, please let me know! Like I said, the last time I went, it was 2007, I know things have changed since then!
Images from Google, AirBnB, and Pinterest (No copyright infringement intended)