Nothing speaks to Berlin’s persistent cultural division more than the words intoned by my guide: “She is so East Berlin,” complains Andre Sommerfeld, responding to the stern woman who had barked at us for running a red light on bicycles. There was no traffic to hinder us, no cars to run us down, but that didn’t matter. She barked.
East Berliners grew up learning to follow the rules, Andre tells me, and even though things have changed dramatically in the past two decades, many Ossis (as the East Germans are colloquially called) still have an inherent sense to always obey authority. They wait at crosswalks, they stand patiently in lines. Many of them, Andre says, still have the “Mauer im Kopf” or “the wall in the head.”
This week, I am back in Berlin. I was here four years ago when I went on a bicycle tour with Andre, my capable guide. I’m rediscovering Berlin during an eight-day stay here, and I am finding once again that Berlin is a great destination for travelers: It’s relatively inexpensive (even for luxury travelers, thanks to competition among the more than two dozen luxury hotel brands here, including the new Waldorf Astoria, which opened two weeks ago). There’s abundant history, inspiring architecture, wonderful restaurants, efficient public transport (the cost from the airport to the city center by public transport is less than US$3) — really everything a traveler could ask for.
I’ll be writing more about Berlin this week. For now, take a look back at how you might spend Two Perfect Days In Berlin. You may also want to check out a new hotel that I discovered: the luxury hotel Brandenburger Hof. And if you like good stories and fun restaurants, be sure to read Dinner At Berlin’s Diener Tattersall & A Chance Encounter That Connected Two Cities & Three Writers.