BERLIN BY DAY, BERLIN BY NIGHT

ON A CUL­TURAL TRIP TO BERLIN NIGEL ROBIN­SON FOUND OUT THAT HE COULDN’T ES­CAPE THE PAST. HE COULDN’T ES­CAPE THE CITY’S EX­CIT­ING AND DI­VERSE GAY SCENE EI­THER…

Pride Life Magazine - - SPONSORED FEATURE -

You can’t es­cape the past in Berlin. Maybe you shouldn’t. Over the years it’s been the cap­i­tal of a mil­i­taris­tic Prus­sian em­pire, a hotspot of “divine deca­dence” dur­ing the roar­ing 1920s, the cap­i­tal of the Third Re­ich, a Cold War flash­point and di­vided city, and a by­word for all kind of ex­cess, gay, straight and ev­ery­thing in­be­tween. As some­one once said, the city is con­stantly chang­ing, con­demned al­ways to be­com­ing and never to be­ing. To­day, it’s the hip­ster cap­i­tal of Ger­many, with young en­trepreneurs and cre­atives drawn here by the low rents and laid­back life­style, as well as ar­guably the best club scene in Europe and one of the most di­verse gay scenes in the world.

Just as you can’t es­cape the past, so you can’t es­cape the Berlin Wall ei­ther. Ex­cept that you can. Most of the Wall has been bull­dozed away, leav­ing hardly any trace of the 166 kilo­me­tres of con­crete, barbed wire and anti-per­son­nel mines, which once tore the city in two. But what Ber­lin­ers call the “Wall in the Head” still re­mains, and there’s a marked dif­fer­ence be­tween the more staid and self-sat­is­fied western dis­tricts of Berlin, and the edgier dis­tricts of what used to be the old east, like Friedrichshain and Mitte.

You’ll find one of the big­gest re­main­ing pieces of the Wall at the East Side Gallery (Müh­len­strasse, east­side­gallery-berlin.de) on the banks of the Spree River. It’s a bit of a cheat in a way, as all the orig­i­nal graf­fiti which used to adorn the wall on the west side has long since been re­moved and re­placed with street art from artists from all over the world, but as one of the big­gest open-air art gal­leries you’ll see, it’s well worth a visit. For a bet­ter feel of what the Wall was really like, check out the Wall Me­mo­rial at Ber­nauer­strasse (ber­liner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de/en).

To get an idea of what life was like in the days of the Wall, head on down to the Check­point Char­lie Mu­seum (Friedrich­strasse 43-45, mauer­mu­seum.de) whose per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion charts some of the way peo­ple tried to es­cape from East Berlin and into the West, from se­cret com­part­ments in cars to hot-air bal­loons and even mini-sub­marines. You can buy of­fi­cial­lyc­er­ti­fied mini-pieces of the Berlin Wall to take home with you. The orig­i­nal Check­point Char­lie cross­ing point has long since gone, but, if you like, you can join the other tourists pos­ing to have their pic­tures taken with rest­ing ac­tors dressed as Amer­i­can or Rus­sian sol­diers.

Just down the road, and much less tacky, is the Jewish Mu­seum (Lin­den­strasse 9-14, jm­ber­lin.de) one of the city’s most pop­u­lar mu­se­ums, housed in a fu­tur­is­tic zig-zag zinc struc­ture, built around three axes and which takes you through two mil­len­nia of Jewish history and cul­ture in Ger­many. Among the per­ma­nent in­stal­la­tions are Fallen Leaves, or the Mem­ory Void, where you walk over 10,000 faces punched out of metal sheets rep­re­sent­ing all the vic­tims of war. At one end of the mu­seum is the Holo­caust Tower, a tall and cold tower, in dark­ness apart from tiny shafts of nat­u­ral light com­ing from an aper­ture high in the roof. En­ter­ing the tower with the door be­ing clanged shut be­hind you is a chilling ex­pe­ri­ence of con­fine­ment.

Head­ing north from the Jewish Mu­seum and Check­point Char­lie takes you to chic Friedrich­strasse, one of the city’s main shop­ping boule­vards and home to the lux­ury depart­ment store Gal­leries LaFayette (Friedrich­strasse 76- 78, ga­leries­lafayette.de) as well as branches of some of the higher end in­ter­na­tional brands, lux­ury car show­rooms and five-star ho­tels.

You’ll have no prob­lems, nor lack of op­por­tu­nity, in flex­ing that plas­tic on Friedrich­strasse, or its main ri­val the

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.