"Berlin combines the culture of New York, the traffic system of Tokyo, the nature of Seattle, and the historical treasures of, well, Berlin" - Hiroshi Montomura
Whenever we 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, our expectations were a little too high. Our assumptions a little too optimistic. Instead of falling in love with Berlin, we felt perplexed by it.
Normally when we 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 we 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, its building's are grand and impressive and its past is harrowing. We participated in the city walking tour and learned all about Berlin's violent past, which is as fascinating as it is heartbreaking. Even before WW1, 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 and it was truly fascinating wandering the city streets so drenched in history.
Then, on the other hand, Berlin has an arty and free-spirited atmosphere. 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.
We 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 us from being able to fall in love with the city. During our 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 we interacted with in-between, you were all seriously rude. You rolled your eyes and slammed down my change. You made no reply when we smiled or said thank you. At first you made us feel uncomfortable, and then you just pissed us off.
Whenever we travel, regardless of where we go, we always try to be as respectful as possible.
We never assume everyone speaks English and we always ask first.
We always learn the basic phrases for each country.
We always make an effort to be considerate travellers,. completely aware of the fact that when we travel we represent our own country, and if we are rude to someone, we tar all Scottish people with the same brush.
Sadly, our interactions with people in Berlin completely overshadowed our visit there and we never felt welcome. For us, travel is so much more than visiting a destination and taking pretty photos. It's the people we meet which create the experience for us. We've been in some awful places and situations yet the people we've met have turned it into something great.
Maybe it was bad luck, maybe we caught the wrong people on the wrong day. Who knows.
2. There is trash EVERYWHERE.
This was another thing which we found surprising and disappointing about Berlin, there was literally rubbish everywhere.
European capital cities are usually clean and looked after, proud to be its nations representation. However, in Berlin, empty crisp packets, plastic bottles and anything else you can imagine was strewn all over parks and streets.
We went to the Sunday flea market which we absolutely loved. It's full of artists selling their latests works, antique dealers, food carts and live music. We love eating street food and sampling different cuisine's so this market was heaven for us, until we purchased some food and went to sit in the grassy area to enjoy our 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 regal in some ways, be so disregarded in others. And it wasn't just the flea market which was like this; everywhere from side streets to residential areas were overrun with rubbish.
All of this aside, there definitely were aspects of the city which interested and excited us. We loved Berlin's eclectic art scene and all its quirky bars and cafes. We loved how international the city felt, and of course, there is Berlin's history. Which is so fascinating we could spend weeks there learning about it all.
But, it just didn't win us over.
We had heard so many great things about it and wanted to love it.
But, we just didn't.
However, I do think Berlin is a city of a hundred layers and I know we barely scraped the surface. I am sure there is much more to see in Berlin, and perhaps one day we will go back but until then it remains our least favourite European city.