People say Berlin is more a part of the world than a city. A truly cosmopolitan place, you can easily hear citizens speaking English, Spanish or Italian as much you hear them speak German. It’s a combination of international village and tangible history, the latter staring at you with every turn. Additionally, it has fantastic food, cutting-edge architecture, and a lively nightlife. Rituparna Sengupta, an award-winning actress known for her work in Hindi and Bengali cinema, visited Berlin recently. She loves travelling, mostly within India, but fell in love with the city’s culture and history.
Speaking of history, people like Bismarck, Marx, Einstein, Hitler and Kennedy have shaped the history of Berlin. The Nazis headquartered there; it was bombed to bits, divided and finally reunited. With a walk along the erstwhile Berlin Wall or the splendid Prussian palace, Berlin becomes an endless voyage where the past is very much present.
Locals follow the doctrine of ‘live and let live’. They put greater emphasis on personal freedom and creative lifestyles. Rituparna felt that the city was calm and at peace. “It’s a tranquil city. I fell in love with the oceanic weather. It’s kind of quiet, and you’ll not find anyone in hurry. People there enjoy their lives and love peace. The best thing about the city is its ambience,” she said, adding that she also met some of the friendliest people in the global city.
“Though I love travelling in India more than going abroad, being in Berlin and experiencing European culture, food and history just touched my heart. The best thing about the city is that people on the street greet you, even if you are a stranger, which is rare in India, where people greet you only if you know them. But in Berlin, everyone talks to everyone,” she added.
The city has international vibes. Cafés are busy at all hours, drinking is customary, and clubs keep playing music until sunrise. In terms of size, it’s a pretty huge one. It would take a lot of time to get from one end to the other, but some of the key areas are wonderfully compact, and can be reached on foot, by bike or via public transportation.
Rituparna also felt that the city is one of the most romantic places in the world. She visited places like the Fernsehturm, also known as the TV Tower. It’s the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in Europe, the others being Moscow’s Ostankino Tower, the Kiev TV Tower, and the Riga Radio & TV Tower. Situated at Alexanderplatz in Mitte, the Berlin TV Tower is the best place to be if you want to discover the city from 360°.
From 203 and 207 metres high, you can look out over the entire city and see Reichstag (parliament building), Brandenburg Gate, and the key railway station. Olympic Stadium (Olympiastadion), Museum Island (Museumsinsel), and Potsdam Square (Potsdamer Platz) are also visible from here. Rituparna also had a chance to see Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest palace in Berlin.
Shopping in Berlin is a diverse experience. It has no distinctive retail centre, and the best thing to do is just walk. Some of its riches can be found in the least expected places. When I asked Rituparna about her shopping and food experience, she said, “I checked out a few malls, but they had the same stuff that we usually get in India. Then I went for some street shopping, and there I found some fashionable things. Though I did not do much, I liked the street shopping.”
She also went to famous galleries and museums like the Jewish Museum at Babylon Pregamon Museum, and apart from Museum Island, she visited painting galleries like Neue Nationalgalerie and Gemaldegalerie. Museum Island is a magnificent work of art, involving five world-renowned museums gathered in an extraordinary ensemble. “There is so much to see and do there. You can spend days sightseeing and taking in the attraction.”
Rituparna was also mesmerised by the extensive green landscapes within the city. Volkspark Friedrichshain is one of the oldest public parks, and provides relief from urban structures. “The lush green landscapes were simply breathtaking. It was so peaceful that you would simply feel like staying there. It was picture perfect,” said Rituparna. Berliners will be happy to know that their city has made an impression halfway around the world. ..... Rahul