I want you to forget, for a moment, that I sort-of hate Berlin. The fact is that I only “sort-of” hate anything, whether it’s a city, or a less-than-savory function of my job.
And as much as the faux artist welfare queens, 24-7 and Turkish ghettos of Berlin annoy me, there are countless things about the sprawling German capital of more than 3 million that I genuinely love.
Well, actually, there are just nine.
I might not like the way the Turks and other Muslims of Berlin behave, but I sure do love their food.
The falafel, Shawerma and other Middle Eastern delights to be found at Habibi, on Golzstraße near Nollendorfplatz U-Bahn station, more than make up for the homophobia I’ve endured in places like Kreuzberg and Neuköln.
2. Waterfront biergartens
I imagine Berlin sucks even more in the winter than it does during the summer. Reason number one? The sun-filled biergartens that line the murky river that runs through Berlin would be snow-covered and closed. I love Berlin’s biergartens, even if I usually drink weiß wein instead of weiß bier.
3. The Berlin Wall
This might seem obvious — except that it’s not. No amount of hype can diminish the fact that one of the most important structures in history still runs through Berlin, not even the abortion of an art project that’s been made out of it at the East Side Gallery, near Warschauer Straße.
Let’s continue our German lesson: See (pronounced, more often than not, “zee”) means “lake” in German. Schlactensee is a smaller version of Wansee, a large and popular lake located an hour or southwest of central Berlin. Like biergartens, it’s a very summer-in-Berlin thing, although I’ve been told it’s open for ice skating in the winter. Um, no thanks.
This one is rather specific to my Berlin experience, so I apologize if even seasoned Berlin travelers don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. Michaelkirchplatz — and, more specifically, the shaded promenade leading up to the kirch (that’s German for “church,” y’all) — was one of the primary landmarks of my Berlin experience.
6. The S-Bahn/U-Bahn
Having grown up in the most redneck parts of the United States, I love public transportation. And even though I don’t particularly like the amount of drug addicts that use Berlin’s “S-Bahn” and “U-Bahn” urban rail networks during the day, I fucking love the fact that these trains go everywhere, and run all night. (The fact that I never once got my ticket checked was an added bonus.)
Badenschiff, located a few minutes’ walk from the Schlesisches Tor of the U1 U-Bahn, is a swimming pool/sunbathing deck that juts out into Berlin’s filthy river. (You get the picture: I love water and I love summer.) It’s always crowded and filled with the faux-artist welfare queens I bitched about in the intro, but trust me: It’s worth the hassle.
Next on our list of “cliché Berlin places I love even though everyone else does” is Tiergarten, the massive park that sits just west of Berlin’s city center. Tiergarten has everything, from large swaths of urban forest, to biergartens, to gaudy gold statues, to gratuitous daytime sex cruising. It’s also caddy corner to famous Berlin attractions like the Brandenburg Gate and the Reich…um, excuse me, Bundestag, so you can totally make a day of it.
This is not exclusive to Berlin, although in my experience I have found it to be exclusive to German. “This,” of course, is sour cherry (kirsch) nectar, not to be confused with sour church (kirch) nectar. If you haven’t had it, you won’t know why I love it so much. So get thee to Berlin, buy a liter-sized carton, and walk around on the street like a drug addict drinking from it. I promise, you’ll blend in.