[updated July 2019]
Some say Berlin is depressing. Some say Berlin is ugly. Is this true? I always loved Berlin every time I visited. But is Berlin overrated?
Now that I lived here for a few cold, bleak months, I’ve started to rethink my love for Berlin. Here’s why:
I hate to say this, but I feel I must be honest. I think I’ve outgrown you.
During my ‘round the world tour, Berlin was hands down one of my favorite cities. It was in the top two for sure – so much so that I returned there in 2008 to possibly look for work and live. I only stayed for a few weeks and then I caved to the pull of being on the road and still wanted to explore more places while I could.
I recently returned again for an entire month to live, work, and hang out. I got to live with my friend Sherry Ott in a cool apartment and get to know the city more. While I know one month barely scratches the surface, I did learn…I’m kind of over Berlin. Is Berlin overrated? Possibly. Is Berlin depressing? It definitely can be especially when it’s cold and gray for long stretches of time.
Say it ain’t so!
How a person feels about a place is entirely subjective, so be gentle on me here before get all up in my grill about how awesome Berlin is. I totally agree, to an extent, and, well, then…I don’t.
What I like about Berlin
There is an undeniable, palpable energy to the city of Berlin. At times, it’s comparable to that of New York City. It’s young. It’s growing fast. There’s a feeling in the air – a growing, progressive, a do-anything-we-want buzz.
Berlin is Cheap
Berlin is still one of the cheapest cities in Europe. Prices have been going up a bit, but rents and eating out are so cheap compared to Chicago, New York, Paris and London. You can eat a döner kebab for three Euros. You can eat a simple, yet good dinner out for 10 Euros and beer is just €2-3. It’s wonderful.
And goes hand in hand with the energy here. It’s because of the low prices that so many artists and young people CAN come to Berlin. And you can rent affordable furnished apartments with places like Go with Oh or HouseTrip. Because it’s so affordable, it gives many the time and chance to try to create something and fail or succeed.
The Food of Berlin
As you can see in my Berlin restaurants and food post, the grub here is great. Varied, international, cheap and abundant, I would never grow weary of the food in this city.
Everything from falafel, bratwurst, and Thai curry to Turkish kebabs, Mexican tacos, and great breads and bakeries, is available and cheap. This may be the thing that keeps me hanging on to you, Berlin.
What I Don’t Like about Berlin
Berlin is Ugly
Gasp! No she didn’t. Yes, I did.
There ARE some cool, pretty parts; I love some of the surviving architecture of some side streets of Prenzlauer Berg or Kreuzberg and I even like some of the modern (sometimes controversial) architecture of Potsdamer Platz, the dome on the Reichstag, and some of the government buildings.
I love the green band in Tiergarten, the so-close forest of Grünewald, and other parks sprinkled throughout the city. But overall, I find the city stark, ‘blocky’, scruffy-looking (thanks to all the graffiti), and dismal. I know, graffiti can be art and some of it is, but it’s everywhere and on nearly every building. I just find this messy and distracting. I personally wouldn’t want to live in a building that’s been tagged with a bunch of scrawls on the front. It’s just too much for me. Fine, call me a square or conservative. Maybe I’m not hip or cool anymore or I’m getting old, but aesthetics of where I live are important to me and what I see in my neighborhood does shape my mood.
Berlin is Depressing
There are also the rows and rows of utterly depressing Soviet concrete block apartment buildings. Not to mention the stark, hugeness of Karl Marx Allee. Yes, some of the buildings are cool, but so big and vast that to me they are just cold.
It Doesn’t Feel Like Europe
Poor Berlin. It’s been bombed and bulldozed beyond recognition. The old-world, medieval, cobblestone charm that I love so much about Europe, is lacking. I found a few pockets that gave me this feel, but overall I couldn’t find it. It sucks and it’s not Berlin’s fault that this happened, but it did.
I was here in March and it seemed to be grey and snowing nearly every single, freaking day so I am sure this had an affect on my outlook of my once-favorite city. It snowed this winter in Berlin more than it had in decades. This made it quite tough for me to stroll and wander like I envisioned or hop on my bike to explore different streets and neighborhoods all day long.
The gray skies, wind whipping in my face, and cold temps just made me want to take refuge indoors at our cozy and warm apartment.
Maybe we can get back together…someday
But, okay, I still kinda like you. I’m torn really. I am sure, I must return once again and give Berlin a fourth chance, because in this case, the third time was not a charm. But Berlin is fickle and changes so fast, who knows how I will feel in a couple years? She may just pull me back in.
Do you agree or disagree? Tell me why I’m wrong and a big jerk. Let me hear it in the comments below!
Disclosure: During my entire time in Berlin, I was a guest of Go with Oh and Oh-Berlin. As always, my writing and opinions are my own.