Outside an icy rain was falling. Men in Bavarian-blue shirts shovelled schnitzel into their mouths as they sat on stools at the bar, thick legs dangling. I ran my hand across the counter, tracing the indentations in the wood with my palm, watching the cigarette smoke outside the window float through the air. I was twenty and fresh from a cross-country train, sharing a plate of tiramisu in that airy bar with a man I was falling in love with. I spent the rest of the weekend dancing in a 1913 ballroom in celebration of my best friend’s 21st birthday, sidestepping puddles of snow in the streets, falling in love with Berlin too. And I haven’t been back since.
But I have Berlin on the brain.
I’ve been thinking of the city’s wide boulevards and grafitti-smothered walls. The rattle of the U-Bahn, its windows emblazoned with the small insignia of the Brandenburg Gate. The Baroque splendour of the cathedral twirling up from the ground. The skeleton of a bombed-out church rising resplendent along the Kurfürstendamm. Schloss Charlottenburg in the autumn. Hot chocolates piled high with Sprühsahne. Gloved hands entwined outside Friedrichstraße.
There’s something about the German capital: something electric, something that – like a hand on a frosty window – leaves its imprint and lingers. It is a city of a thousand histories: a place where stories float through the streets like cracks in the pavements. Each era is visible in its boulevards, buildings, walls and windows. Berlin is a living, breathing, writhing behemoth; an urban sprawl like no other, streaked with stories of past and present. Here, then, there, now, when, why: all piled high on top of one another and, somehow, the madness works.
Happily, I’m visiting this weekend with two dear friends and reuniting with a handful of old companions who now call the German Hauptstadt home too. I can’t wait to take a heap of pictures, drink all the Glühwein, and reminisce. I have changed and undoubtedly Berlin has too – but that’s all part of the adventure!
Have you been to Berlin? (Feel free to leave any recommendations!)