Berlin Winter Season

Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt

Winter has arrived in Berlin and, with it, the fun Christmas markets. Here are some highlights of the opening of the season…

Brandenburger Tor / Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburger Tor / Brandenburg Gate
US Embassy with Brandenburg Gate in the background
The US Embassy with Brandenburg Gate in the background
Jewish Memorial Monument
The Jewish Memorial Monument
Berliner Dom
Berliner Dom
Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt
Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt
Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmarkt
Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmarkt

Home: found.

Berlin T-shirts

As the train leaves Berlin behind, I am struck by the fact that I’m leaving home.

It’s been less than two months since I came in to check if there was any chance left for Germany in me. London was calling at a distance. I felt at home nowhere and everywhere, glomad-style. All that changed in a few days, as I experienced Berlin from a more local perspective.

East Side Gallery - Wall painting
Photos of the East Side Gallery wall paintings from 3 years ago suddenly became more valuable, as these have been vandalized with signatures probably from tourists (surely from idiots)

I knew that I couldn’t judge Berlin until I found myself there without a return ticket. Last year, living in Taiwan, I learned that real travel isn’t about sightseeing, but about losing yourself in another culture. Enough to take it in. It takes time to know the local rhythms. Weekend escapes aren’t travel, they’re really just sightseeing. Yet places are very similar everywhere… more so than cultures. Places may look quite different at first, but they can feel the same. Not much changes from a beach in Portugal to a beach in Taiwan. Yet everything changes when you slowly walk the streets of cities from such distant countries.

The difference is culture.

You could expect, then, that truly knowing Berlin would take a few months. But I’d seen the sights before, and all I was missing was how it felt like when I became a part of it. That was made easy by having friends here. I thought that was the reason for feeling at home almost on arrival, or maybe the fact that I remember lots of spots from my past two visits. Yet, as the dust settles, I recall the times I’ve been back in Lisbon or in Dublin or in London. Even Lisbon rarely felt like home, though it was always a place to cherish.

Berlin T-shirts

It’s not hard to understand though – how quickly Berlin felt like home. I usually get bored easily, or I would… if I didn’t constantly switch things around. In Berlin you’ve never seen all of everything. I’m also probably a bit quirky (considering that a renowned personality test places mine in a group that only 1% of people share). Still I’m surely under average in Berlin standards for weirdness. Berlin attracts people who don’t fit in other places and are not afraid to be who they want to be. Whenever I see something over-the-top, I’m reminded of why quirkiness can thrive in the city: its culture is open minded.

It feels good to know you can be yourself, without necessarily being the strangest character in town. I guess that’s what it should feel like to be home.

Feel Like Boarding the Concorde?

Concorde & Tupolev TU-144 at Sinheim Auto & Technik Museum

I’ve been to a few automobile and airplane exhibitions. Pearl Harbor, Taoyuan airport (Taiwan), Museo dell’Automobile (Turin)… fascinating collections. I thought I couldn’t be surprised by another one. Turns out the Germans really do it better.

In the southwestern german state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg lies Sinsheim’s Auto & Technik Museum, the largest privately owned museum in Europe. It features cars, motorcycles, airplanes, trains, tanks – you name it.

Concorde & Tupolev TU-144 at Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum
photo by flickr user mroach

The outstanding thing about the Sinsheim collection, besides feeling more like a fun park than a museum, is that it features two supersonic airplanes – which you can board! Both the french Concorde and the soviet Tupolev Tu-144 are accessible through spiraling stairs, and you can walk your way up, through their narrow corridors into their intimidating cockpits, past the tiniest toilet rooms ever.

I didn’t have a camera with me that day, but it didn’t really matter. All those shots on Flickr still can’t make it justice. Boarding these classic supersonic airplanes is an actual experience. I loved their Caddilacs too. If you’re ever around Baden-W├╝rttemberg, don’t miss it.