Previously I mentioned some of my pet peeves
in Berlin, so now it is time to list some of the things I love about Berlin – a much longer list!
1) The lakes.
I did not know before I moved here that Berlin contains, and is surrounded by, so many lakes. One of summer’s greatest pleasures is going for a refreshing swim in a lake on a hot, humid day. Apart from swimming you can also go stand-up paddling, kayaking pedal-boating or sailing in some of the lakes.
2) The parks
There are many parks in Berlin, some big and some small. Some of them are just little, nicely landscaped oases of green in the various suburbs, sometimes with ponds, while others are so huge that you can go for a nice bike ride or run through them. Some are like giant playgrounds, with table tennis tables, chess or checkers tables, mini-golf, tennis courts, bouldering areas, BMX tracks, inline skating tracks and much more. People also bring their own games like badminton, footballs and slack-lines, or portable grills to have a BBQ. There is even an old airport, Tempelhof, that is now a huge park, perfect for skating, running and other outdoor activities.
3) The markets
Whether you prefer a fleamarket (flohmarkt), a food market or a general market selling all sorts of goods, Berlin has them all. Usually they are held in cobblestone squares, and the atmosphere is great. You can shop for interesting antiques or secondhand goods, browse for fresh fruit and vegetables or try various foods from Germany and afar. And then in December are the wonderful Christmas markets
. There are also a few indoor markets, which is nice for bad weather.
4) The biking culture
When it comes to Berlin you could say the bike
is the new car (although no doubt they were around long before the cars). Many people use them to get to and from work or around the city, because it’s a free mode of transport, good exercise, and sometimes it’s even quicker than the public transport, depending on the connection. Cars are generally aware of bikes because there’s so many of them, and there are many cycle lanes. In the weekends people can use their bikes to go for long rides in the countryside as there are some great cycle trails around.
5) Berlin summer
I arrived in Berlin at the beginning of winter, and people kept telling me that Berlin is a completely different city in summer, that summer is amazing in Berlin. It’s true. Although it is relatively short, summer in Berlin is great. Everyone comes out of hibernation and sits outside at street cafes, in parks or at the lakes, and there numerous outdoor events such as open-air cinema, open-air dancing, beach volleyball and skating, as well as the many festivals of summer.
6) The sweet things
Dotted all over the city and at most train stations are bakeries around selling pastries and cakes, with some German specialties like Mandelhörnchen (a horseshoe shaped cake/biscuit hybrid containing marzipan, its ends dipped in chocolate), Mohnküchen (a dense cake made of poppy seeds, with a slightly almond-like flavour), Pfannkuchen/Berliners (a jam doughnut coated in fine sugar or powdered sugar), Pflaumenstreusel (plum streusel), Apfeltasche (a pastry containing apple) and many more. And that is not even mentioning that Germany is the home of Ritter Sport chocolates and Milka. Coffee and cake is also a popular German outing, either inside a cosy cafe in winter or outside in the sun in summer. And Germans also love ice-cream and frozen yoghurt, which you can get all year round.
7) The relaxed atmosphere
Berlin is definitely not a business or banking city, and when you walk around most people are dressed casually, not in suits. Startups and IT are big in Berlin, and there are also lots of artists and freelancers. Working hours, depending on the profession, seem to be quite flexible, so there are people around on the streets at all times of the day.
Although people like to make fun of Brandenberg (the region surrounding Berlin) as being deserted / the back of beyond (listen to the song by Rainald Griebe on Youtube), it’s actually lovely countryside and nice for cycling or walking, plus home to numerous beautiful lakes and forests, and it’s an easy ride away on the regional train.
9) The festivals
At all times of the year, but especially in the warmer months, are many festivals to enjoy, such as Karneval der Kulturen
, Fete de la musique, Berlinale, Festival of Lights, Bergmannstrassenfest, Myfest, the Berlin Beer festival and others. Neighbouring towns like Potsdam and Werder an der Havel also have festivals, like the Baumblütenfest
10) It’s cosmopolitan
Sit on a tram and you’ll hear people talking in many different languages, and they’re not just tourists. There is a large Turkish community in Berlin, as well as a large Vietnamese community, and also many people from other countries in Europe, Asia and South America working and living in Berlin either temporarily or permanently. Because of this there’s also restaurants with cuisines from all over the world.
11) The public transport
U-bahn, S-bahn, trams, buses and regional bahns – you can get pretty much anywhere with the public transport here. On Friday and Saturday the trains run all night.
12) The public swimming pools
A nice discovery in Berlin was the many public swimming pools
, both indoor and outdoor, well-equipped with changing rooms, toilets, showers and hairdryers. Often they have special prices for a short visit or if you go there after 8pm. A particular gem is Neukölln Schwimmbad, which looks like an ancient Roman bath, with beautiful columns and decor.
Neukoelln swimming pool: Image from Berliner Baeder (http://www.berlinerbaeder.de/)
13) The Spree
One of the greatest pleasures in Berlin is simply sitting by the river Spree or one of its canals, watching the boats and ducks go by. Some people also stroll or jog along the river, and taking a boat ride is a good way to get a different view of the city.
14) Experiencing the 4 seasons
Snowy winters with Christmas markets
and frozen lakes (some winters), blossoming trees everywhere in spring, long, light evenings and excursions to the lake in summer, and the beautiful reds, golds, oranges and pinks of changing leaves in autumn
. The changes are much more dramatic for those of us from countries with more temperate climates.
15) There’s always something new to discover
Berlin has so many different neighbourhoods that there’s always something new to discover. I’ve lived here over two years and only recently found out about Neu Venedig (New Venice), a beautiful neighbourhood on the canals which you can row through in a kayak. Two weekends ago we unexpectedly came across a huge hill in a park near Wittenau, as well as another lovely park with good cycling lanes and ponds. In Berlin, there is always something new to discover.
There’s many more things, I will have to mention others another time! What do you love most about Berlin?