For the passed week I’ve been in my favorite city in the world, Berlin. I lived in the city between the ages 13 and 16, and recognize its impact on my life. It’s been great to see how it changes but always remains energetic. Berlin is magical. There are a few things that make it so special, its Neighborhoods, the food, public transit and of course the people.
The most interesting part of any city are its neighborhoods. Where do people live and why? Most cities have distinct districts where particular things are located, for example a business section, an area with more restaurants, and maybe a neighborhood with more nightlife. What is interesting about Berlin is that each neighborhood feels like its own self contained city; each has its own grocery stores, a park, various types of restaurants, a few businesses and some bars. Because of this, you can live your entire life in the city in just one area of the city. This creates an abundance of cultures within the city, every part of town has a unique feel to it. However, it does make the city feel endless. It is quite a massive city, and since each part of town is its own community most residents end up staying in one part of the city.
Berlin is an amazing city if you’re a hungry person. Because it is so spread out and diverse there is a lot of redundancy; instead of having a Thai restaurant that everyone goes to there is one in each neighborhood. This allows the food scene to thrive, every time I visit my friends take me to some amazing restaurant that I couldn’t have ever found on my own. Each person has a collection of spots that they hide for themselves and reveal only when the time is right. For the most part restaurants take cash, which I assume is mainly for money laundering purposes (for no reason other than that it’s what I want to believe.) Restaurants in the city are well known for keeping their prices relatively low considering the quality of the food. Meals are generally about half the price they are in other major cities.
One of my favorite parts of the city is the accessibility, you can always get to around. For instance, right now I am staying in a part of town on the fringes of the city, but within 30 minutes I can be standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate. This is only possible because of the public transportation system, and while it’s not perfect, it works unbelievably well even in the winter. In 2019 the BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe) supported 1,125,000,000 riders on their trips throughout the city.
Public transportation is magic, it moves that many people around an enormous city and manages to be relatively punctual. Some of my most distinct memories living in Berlin were taking train rides across the city. I got to observe all the parts of the city and even better all the weird unique people that make their way here.
I think the most fascinating part of any city are the people who live there. What I’ve noticed here is that while people don’t smile as much, everyone seems to have something going on. When you walk into a friends apartment they always have two or three projects up. To me it’s incredible that everyone seems to be working on something.
What impresses me more is the presence. Everyone knows they are in a city that asks them to be themselves and understand that others are doing that too. Someone who looks conventional in Berlin would look out of place in nearly any other city. The city adapts itself to you, you don’t have to change much of who you are to find a place here. It should be noted that in my interview with Bem Joiner we spoke about how Atlanta does this, but to a far lesser extent. Everyone feels comfortable here,
What it whispers
Every city has its own feeling. Paul Graham wrote about this in an article called Cities and Ambition; to him different cities whisper different truths. I think Berlin has mastered the art of welcoming and screaming “You should be yourself.”