Do you like standing close, really really close to smelly people? Do you like overcrowded, slow and late public transport? Do you like unfriendly, almost rude people on the streets? If so, then welcome to Berlin, a modern cosmopolitan city.


Do you like polite and kind people? Do you like a quiet and peaceful place, perfect to just hang out for a few hours and relax, maybe with fellow stressed-out 'Berliner' colleagues or just by yourself? If so, then welcome to Berlin as well. This is how I see my home city.


History has defined Berlin's character like nothing else. Berlin has been and still is made up of two different parts – two different worlds. It's not so much East v West anymore, but the Berlin you see at first sight, the tourist's Berlin versus Berlin the hometown, an oasis of relaxation, secret hideaways and fun hangouts.


Berlin has thoroughly been marked by its traumatic past. Tourists make a pilgrimage to the East Side Gallery, where parts of the fmous Berlin Wall have been painted with amazing comics and sketches. Everyone is dying to take pictures in front of a symbol that still stands for 28 years of East and West division - it has almost become a stylish, ultra-hip thing to do.


Not only tourists seem to newly define Berlin's historical parts. Inhabitants of Berlin revive run-down areas like Prenzlauer Berg – a district of the city that only 20 years ago was home to the socially deprived. They lived in houses with walls still covered in gun machine holes, fearing every minute to be spied on by the neighbour who might be a member of the Stasi, the German Democratic Republic's secret police. Now the 'cool kids', originally from the western part of town, flood these old East streets and houses.


The city is a huge boiling pot full of “Berliner” and tourists, Germans and foreigners, young and old ones. It's impossible to say Berlin is just a cultural delight, or a fashion haven, an architectural miracle or historical treasure – it's all in one. Seems perfect, doesn't it? Not quite. Nothing is flawless, especially not Berlin.


Rivalries between left and right-wing groups are still on the daily agenda, not even mentioning the recurring conflicts between foreigners and right-wing extremists. The current public transport chaos, where only a third of the suburban railways are actually operating, leaves thousands of commuters miserable and annoyed and the Berlin senate has dropped off many Christmas-Card lists in and around Berlin.  


Numerous people in the German capital seem to have become jaded, not appreciating what wonderful city they live. They have turned into arrogant and ignorant city slickers. Complaining is a common characteristic trait for Germans and people in Berlin aren’t shy when it comes to speaking their mind.


Berlin will show you it's best and worst sides, it will be brutally honest and straight into your face.

And before you're leaving again, it will have you say “Ish bin ein Bearleener” and you'll realise you actually really would like to be one.

Berlin: city of contrasts

By Victoria J Fode

JMU Journalism travel articles

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Brandenburger Tor is one of many iconic landmarks in Berlin (picture by lumofix, flickr)

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