Berlin is a city that people visit for a weekend, a week maybe, a friend told them to come and stay a few days — ‘it’s such an interesting city, you’ve got to experience it.’ So, you feel the pull of the offer, and go.
At first, just like any city, Berlin is full of strange faces and smells, the traffic sounds like most city noise, the streets full of tempting offers, doorways that lead into dark passages and cellars, and the next corner with its posted signs suggesting that you walk this way, or that way to discover a new experience, can make you feel as if a good weekend stay is ahead of you. But when your friend, who you came to visit, takes you by the hand and leads you away from the shops, and into the real Berlin city, you may just, if lucky, begin to feel the magic of a city that holds secrets and temptations that have been the cause of some many a nomad to stop become a villager, to settle and give up wandering through the world.
A visit to the hot spots of town where you can drink, dance, and meet all sorts in one night, becomes an introduction to a city that clearly offers everything to any taste.
To see the malls and the boulevards of Berlin that connect the present with the past. The old streets that haven’t changed and the new streets that make you gawp, clubs, bars, and curious locations that grew organically into an open market, or meeting place, or both.
Even the “big sights”, those well known streets like Unter den Linden, take on a deeper meaning when you know who built them, and why they exist.
Unter den Linden in Berlin
A simple bridle path that once allowed the 16th century Elector, John George of Brandenburg, to ride into the Tiergarten and go on the hunt. Then developed into a major boulevard that has been shaped and formed to serve the needs of the people. Built by families of stone masons, brick layers, and engineers and architects, all visionary in their deeds, and finished with blistered hands and, for sure, loss of life.
Honours to and Along Unter den Linden
The history of Unter den Linden is plain to see and research. In the 1850s a statute of Frederick II of Prussia was erected in honour of all that he had achieved for the city, and Germany. Johann Strauss III wrote, “Unter den Linden, op. 30” — a waltz, what else from the master of Waltz and Polka.
To awaken the curiosity that makes city dwelling meaningful. The magic of a city only works when its residents believe in the magic. The creative forces of its residents comes into play when community exists. When the friend who you are visiting takes you by the hand and leads you through the city streets, you are being led into labyrinths that only a resident knows. Places of the heart that have magic, something human, soul imprints that were left there by the magic of human life.
At Pariser Platz, in front of Brandenburg Gate, and slightly left when looking from the west, stands the grand hotel known as “The Adlon”. Full of the type of history that creates legends, Cold War spies used this hotel as a meeting place, occasionally, but preferred the lesser know cafe Adler tucked into a side street. Nazi officers enjoying nights of booze and debauch within the walls of the Adlon during the war years.
Berlin is famous for its decadent Twenties, clubs where “everything goes!” was invented, people threw inhibition to the floor and let not only their hair down, but also shirts, blouses, and all the rest could easily be cast to the bench on a wild night out — it would cause a cheer or two, but not offence.
Infamous Entrances at Hotel Adlon, and the Exhibitionist
During the 1920s, a famous young actress had the habit of visiting the hotel Adlon; when she arrived, it was with style.
Fur coat wrapped around her, cigarette in a long black holder perched on her hand. She would stroll through the main entrance and head for the bar. Close by, the evening guests sat at tables, but at the sight of this infamous lady of Berlin, they would stop their conversations and wait for her to complete her act. The waiter and concierge knew her, and her antics, they would also wait until the correct moment came for them to take action, and end her short visit.
A saucer glass of champagne, a wink and a nod at a few of the guests, she would ensure that all eyes were on her, and when they were, she drained her champagne glass in one gulp. Her long fur coat would slip to the floor and crumple at her heeled feet. With a well practised stage turn she would face the onlookers as their darting and gleeful eyes took in the sight of her perfectly formed body, naked but for shoes and an expensive fur coat that lay at her feet.
The concierge would then pick up her coat and place it across her shoulders, escort her politely to the main doors and send her on her way, with no word of reprimand or “don’t come back.”, she would always return and thrill guests with this example of Berlin decadence.
All combined and spread through the streets of a large city, the graffitied walls, the messages left as marks and dashes across bricks and mortar are like the sigils of passing souls, their forces vibrate with the feeling of something important rising. You connect, you don’t know how, but something happened on those walks. Your guide, your friend, took you into those streets past the twisted trees with boots hanging from their branches, the garden walls where stone ornaments of small birds converse with the figures of small people. Clay formed into symbols that you read, but can not speak out loud.
A mystery forms, and you are hooked, you must begin to unravel the thoughts that pile up inside. But you can’t, not yet. It’s too much to understand in one day.
The magic city is seeping into your soul, and you are responding by delving into its secrets.
Your guide and friend takes you farther along the path. You see more, and begin to understand how to look past the lines of noisy steel, the soulless cries of maskless complainers, you feel the connections that a city creates between residents.
To be a Berliner must be a good thing, to speak those words, ich bin Berliner, is earned, if said with truth.
The truth is in the living, the searching, the understanding of all those marks, and symbols, the sigils and graffiti on the walls that each resident leaves behind for others to interpret as another part of the magic between people.