Just the other week we celebrated the four year anniversary of our getting together and we were lucky enough to spend it with friends in one of our favourite cities in the world – Berlin.
Not only that, but we were celebrating our first return to Berlin since our first ever holiday together which happened three years previously (somewhere around March of 2010) and whilst the memories of our time in the city are full of great first impressions and fun with friends we’d come to make and love to pieces, we’re both seeing something slightly different about the city this second time round.
Is It Me Or You?
Now we still love the city – unquestionably as we’ve both expressed our desire to move here – but it does feel like it’s changed a little since we were here last, and we’ve been trying to figure things out about what’s different.
“Berlin’s always changing”
People always say that Berlin is forever changing, looking to rebuild, restructure and knock it all down before they’ve finished building so they can being something even newer and more incredible, and we’ve been saying it since our first trip too, however; it seems that it’s gotten worse.
Whole segments of the street are always up and scattered around. Pavements are being re-paved, cobbled streets are all being re-cobbled. There are gaps between buildings where buildings we remember used to be.
Everywhere you turn there are cranes in the air carrying this here and that there, possibly even passing one crane to the other like ‘Pass the Parcel’. I even found myself commenting to Franca that Berlin should just change their crest from a bear to a crane and be done with it.
Before we both used to love how Berlin was constantly looking to improve its architecture in favour of uber-sexy architecture that we both really love, but I think we’re both beginning to see things differently.
“Travelling will change you, man”
After a week or so we started to figure out what had really changed about the city.
It’s not the new footpaths or the shiny new glass buildings – it’s us. We’ve changed.
Where as before we would have loved to see the brutal pre-unification Eastern Berlin square buildings all torn down and replaced with something a little more hip and trendy, we’re now keener on observing and preserving the old and mysterious buildings of the past whether they’re of historical importance or not.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve seen more of the world now and have seen for ourselves the results of mass re-building and heard the local populous voice their opinion of just how much of their history and culture has disappeared in just the past twenty years in favour of shopping centres and apartment blocks.
For example, I’m reminded of cities like Taipei and Bangkok where so much of the past has been removed from history and replaced with concrete buildings miles high and roads of six lane traffic that skirt around temples older than most governments – a subject used in this street art piece we found in Taipei earlier this year.
Some Things Never Change
Of course, there are parts of Berlin that are the same and will never change.
The city is still a huge hub for the alternative culture scene that extends all the way from street art to trendy vegan community cafes, all the way through to activism fueled by the strong sense of political belief that is held by almost every single person in the city.
On almost every street corner you’ll see the very same stickers, graffiti and high quality street art that the city has become well know for over the past two decades and it’s something we don’t ever see disappearing – thankfully.
From one neighborhood to the next there are rows of trendy cafes selling fair trade coffees, homemade mother’s recipe‘ cakes and muffins, and just recently, cafes have started to accept BitCoin as payment for goods too.
Alongside those cafes full of the hipster elite you’ll find a strong vegan and vegetarian offering from green cafes and restaurants to bio-markets with thirty different types of tofu and 15 differing types of veggie sausages that we wanted to stuff our backpacks with – music to our ears as new veggie converts
Berlin’s Changing … But So Are We
For better or worse all three of us are changing – Berlin, Franca and I`.
Where Berlin is still looking to build and change and create yet another way of life for itself, we are beginning to look for different things whilst we travel as we become more sure of ourselves and the things we’d like to see preserved and celebrated.
We both feel that this next potential year of travel will even further change the way we see life, and the way we travel.