Whenever I talk to people about where to go in Europe, most will rave about Berlin. It's a "must see" destination on every European bucket list.
Perhaps due to this, my expectations were a little too high. My assumptions a little too optimistic. Instead of falling in love with Berlin, I felt perplexed by it.
Normally when I go somewhere I know almost instantly whether I love it or hate it. On the rare occasion a place will grow on me, but usually my gut feeling is always right. Berlin, however, falls into neither category.
It just left me baffled.
I feel like I need to go back to Berlin and spend longer there to really form a solid opinion on this city which seems to wear so many coats. On the one hand, the capital is rich in history. It's building's are grand and impressive and it's past is harrowing. I participated in the city walking tour and learned all about Berlin's violent past, which is as fascinating as it is heartbreaking. Even before world war one, right up until the collapse of the Berlin wall, Berlin has seen more than it's fair share of violence and oppression. Throughout the city there are constant reminders of it's past.
Then, on the other hand, Berlin has this arty scene. Every corner is filled with street art and buskers. It's vibrant and quirky, it's where the eclectic gather for a creative outlet. This makes it the perfect place for budding artists and musicians and their influence is apparent throughout the city. Their presence brings Berlin to life and gives it soul.
I saw two completely contrasting sides of Berlin and I am still trying to figure them both out. But these two contrasting aspects weren't the things which stopped me from being able to fall in love with the city. During my time there, two things became apparent quite quickly.
1. The people were rude.
From the ticket inspector on the train from the airport, to the man who served me in the local shop and the waitress in the cafe with the delicious German pastries. And the majority of people I interacted with in-between, you were all seriously rude. You rolled your eyes and slammed down my change. You made no reply when I smiled or said thank you. At first you made me feel uncomfortable, and then you just pissed me off.
Whenever I travel I try to do so respectively. I never assume everyone speaks English and I always ask first. I always learn the basic phrases for each country. I always make an effort. I try to be a considerate traveller, completely aware of the fact that when I travel I represent my own country, and if I am rude to someone, I tar Scottish people with the same brush.
Sadly, my interactions with people in Berlin completely overshadowed my visit there and I never felt welcome. For me, travel is so much more than visiting a destination and taking pretty photos. It's the people that I meet which create the experience for me. I've been in some awful places and situations yet the people I've been with have turned it into something great.
Maybe it was bad luck, maybe I caught the wrong people on the wrong day. Who knows.
2. There is trash EVERYWHERE.
This was another thing which I found surprising and disappointing about Berlin, there was literally rubbish everywhere. Capital cities are usually clean and looked after, proud to be it's nations representation. However, in Berlin, empty crisp packets, plastic bottles and everything else you can imagine was strewn all over parks and streets.
I went to the Sunday flea market which I absolutely loved. It's full of artists selling their latests works, antique dealers, food carts and live music. I love eating street food and sampling different cuisine's so this market was heaven for me, until I purchased some food and went to sit in the grassy area to enjoy my lunch.
Trash. Literally. Everywhere.
It was seriously disgusting and incredibly disappointing.
One thing I did notice was, in the majority of cases, people had attempted to put their rubbish in the bin. But the bins were mostly overflowing, therefore instead had left it next to bin and gradually the piles of waste got larger and larger.
It was very strange to see such a beautiful city like Berlin, so elegant and beautiful in some ways, be so disregarded in others.
All of this aside, there definitely were aspects of the city which interested and excited me. I loved it's eclectic art scene, I loved all the quirky bars and cafes and restaurants. It was refreshing to see so many cyclists. I adored how international it felt and the history of Berlin is riveting.
But, it just didn't win me over.
I had heard so many great things about it and I wanted to love it.
But, I just didn't.
I do think Berlin is a city of a hundred layers and I know I barely scraped the surface.
I am sure there is much more to see in Berlin, and perhaps one day I will go back but until then it remains as my least favourite European city.