A great City

June 16, 2010

Berlin… How can I begin to describe you? I understand that this blog should discuss issues related to memory. That is the memory of the holocaust and the GDR. But I must first discuss what Berlin means to me now. Berlin is free. Berlin is beautiful. Berlin is different. Berlin moves to a different beat, it speaks to a different person, and speaks poetically to my soul. Yes, it is profound, but this city touched me. So let me begin my ode to Berlin.

Berlin view from top of Church Steeple

I had some interesting notions of what exactly Berlin would be like. Most likely these were the typical visions of a city where Hitler once resided. They were dark, ugly, and intimidating. Berlin to me was always about a wall. As the trip began, I was not sure entirely what to expect from this city, but i now know that when ones expectations are low, or are uncertain, one can be most surprised and pleasantly. What struck me first about Berlin was its overall urban grittiness. I imagine in my mind that this is what New York City must have felt like in a time when neo-liberal policies had not destroyed the cultural integrity of a once great city. Oh Berlin how you surprised me. Graffiti everywhere, and to many that may seem like a blight on the urban landscape, but to me it is oh so beautiful. In so many ways the art on the walls of every building is the ultimate form of artistic resistance.

Graffiti in Kreuzeberg

The images have meaning, political statements, cultural influences, global understanding, and references to cultures that reside in the very distinct neighborhoods. In the neighborhood of Kreuzeberg, a neighborhood some of us adopted as a temporary home for two weeks, signs of the vast Turkish community were everywhere. Kreuzeberg in my opinion represented what is great about cities, and also represents the frontier lines of change to come. It is has a diverse group of Arabs, Turks, Germans (of course), Africans, and a mix of Europeans from Spain to Russia. The shops are political, the graffiti has meaning, and the residents stand up for each other. This could not be more evident then the random protest we came upon one day, where the residents of the neighborhood were passionately rejecting the capitalist expansion of the Spree River, which runs along Kreuzeberg. The Slogan Unsere häuser, unser fluss, unsere stadt! (Our houses, our river, our city), was being displayed by thousands as they marched the streets in defiance of the ever intimidating Polizei.

At the Protest against development on the Spree

Protests, graffiti, good food, a river, great night life, and oh such good beer, makes Berlin one of my favorite places. Such a beautiful city with and even more gorgeous soul. Oh and of course the Kebabs.

Waiting for my Donör Kebab!



  1. I feel that this is just the beginning of a great ode to joy, ahem, Berlin. Tell us more.

    • Your right, I may not have written enough. But I made a video, I think that was a better “ode” to berlin

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