I was sad to see reports earlier this week that some tourists are being made to feel unwelcome in Berlin. Sad because I’ve been to Berlin many times and it’s one of my favourite cities in the world.
My first visit to Berlin was before the Wall came down – a slightly surreal experience, as we had to cross the border and remember the individual numbers we were given by the very stern guards (sechs und zwansig, once learned never forgotten), and then found ourselves in East Berlin on a Saturday afternoon with everything shut and no hope of being able to spend the East German marks we’d been forced to buy.
Since the fall of the Wall I’ve been back many times. I’ve hung out with movie stars and gone clubbing all over the city, stayed at hotels ranging from the achingly hip to the ridiculously expensive (the Adlon) and had more than anyone’s fair share of Kaffee und Kuchen. I’ve wandered the streets marvelling at the buildings – particularly the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, a symbol of peace and a reminder of the horrors of war, and been moved to tears by the White Crosses Memorial, for those who died trying to escape from East to West.
I’ve walked along the Tiergarten from the Fernsehturm to the Siegessäule more times than I can count, met up with friends in Charlottenburg, enjoyed hot grog by the Brandenburg Gate, marvelled at the Bauhaus collection and spent many a happy hour perusing the shelves of one of my favourite department stores in the world, KaDeWe. And always every resident I’ve met and spoken to has been nothing but warm and welcoming, including the old German lady who spoke very little English but went out of her way to help a friend and I find the cemetery where Marlene Dietrich is buried (I know, random, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.)
So no one’s going to put me off going back. I love Berlin. And I also like Berliners.