Far from being haunted by its tumultuous modern history, Berlin has recast itself as one of Europe’s most exciting destinations. This edgy, energetic metropolis might be Germany’s capital, but in many ways it is the antithesis to the rest of the country. A creative hub of international repute, Berlin is a ragtag city with a multicultural population and a thriving underground scene. Its hedonistic nightlife is probably the best in Europe and undoubtedly the most liberal – there are no taboos left in some of the city’s clubs.
Of course, Berlin’s history is inescapable; the scars of war are still visible on some of the most iconic monuments, while sections of the Wall, which divided the city for nearly three decades, still stand today. There are also plenty of world-class museumsoffering a glimpse into life under the Nazis and then the Soviets.
Yet despite its rich culture and wealth of attractions, Berlin is chronically poor. The city is living in the shadows of a gargantuan debt mountain, which has resulted in severe cuts to services, a rise in unemployment and a general feeling of disillusionment amongst some of the youth. Consequently, visitors can be surprised by the amount of litter, graffiti and people drinking on the streets.
Happily, there are some silver linings to Berlin’s economic woes. A combination of cheap rents, vacant buildings and liberal attitudes has helped a generation of home-grown, creativetypes flourish. The mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, summed it up when he coined the phrase ‘poor but sexy’ to describe his city.
However, it could well be that this crop of sexy talent helps Berlin get back on its feet; the city’s street art has become an attraction in itself, while the thriving music industry is now Berlin’s third biggest economic force, employing nearly 15,000 people. This should come as no surprise. The German capital has long been a source of inspiration for international artists; Lou Reed, David Bowie, Nick Cave and Iggy Pop have all spent time living and writing in Berlin.
Like these international artists, tourists are also lured to the city by its inexpensive living costs; eating, drinking and sleeping can all be enjoyed on pretty meagre budgets. The dining experience probably offers the best value for money and you’re just as likely to eat Vietnamese, Turkish or Japanese food as you are German. Modern Berlin is a melting pot of cultures and its large Turkish community has earned it the nickname ‘Little Istanbul’.Legend has it the kebab was born here, which is quite believable when you see how many takeaways are dedicated to this Berlin speciality.
With its global gastronomy, fascinating history and vivacious subculture, not to mention racy nightlife, it’s easy to see how this ‘poor but sexy’ city seduces so many travellers. Unrivalled in its ability to thrill, the only question is; why aren’t you at Europe’s biggest party?