There is a presence that sits like a romantic figure. Not romantic like Paris, it doesn't punch Japanese tourists into a delusional state, it is alone, misunderstood, sturm und drang, untamed and utterly charming. It's pull is like the subtle gravity of another planet, slight, and so essential to life, or at least my life. It pulsates as if it were Europe's heart, sort of central but to the left. And what could I do but succumb? I wrapped it's lasso around my waist and gave in to its force, slightly apprehensive of what I was to find, but full of lust, and revealed to find, at the other end of this rope, a lover - Berlin.
I fell in love with Berlin.
Not quite as I had imagined. Influences of post war dereliction, Kraftwerk, Metropolis, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, division and being told how it is quite a modern city, I had expected something shiny and metallic crossed with something half built and seedy. Take the U-Bahn for example, I expected a smooth phallic steel train shafting an equally smooth steel tube. Not quite. London's underground system is probably more similar to this x-rated vision than any other, (particularly the Westminster stop). Berlin's underground system is nothing so grandiose it is just another underground system. So my delusions of a futuristic city fed mostly by an electronic soundtrack/soundscape (Kraftwerk/Neu!) were lost - however maybe I'll just displace them unto Munich. (Just google imaged Munich - DAMN IT!)
All the time admiring it's rugged, wayward, good looks. Caressing the streets surface and digging at it, finding it a tear deep through it's center. It has healed though the scars are still visible, bullet holes occasionally visible, else subtly covered in fresh cement. Berlin played the center stage throughout so much of the last centuries political turmoil. You walk around on a grave yard, but oh what buds of beauty and character has rose from it's grounds. It is only through learning Berlins past that I was able to appreciate and admire its present. Of all cities I have witnessed, I have never found a place with such rich character. Not yet ruined by the gentrification that is brought about through money and consumerism, Although the side-effects of Capitalism starts to show and you hope that there is enough resistance left in the Berliners to fight, so that the face of Berlin will remain bristly and wise instead of clean shaven. "Poor but Sexy", not rich and banal.
Language barriers rose then crashed down on us as we snuck into the holes of the city, not too far from that well trodden tourist path. Attempting inconspicuous behind a Lonely Planet Guide, behind a city map and behind a U-bahn map, stopping occasionally at street corners for reference. Had we polished up on our Deustche we would have been braver, ventured further from the path and touched some more of it's far out sweet spots. As it stood, we embraced as sheepishly as acquaintances, when I have learned some of the linguo we shall converse like long friends, and embrace like lovers.
Although I loved Berlin I fear it is unrequited. Naive British un-assertive tourists. Culture occasionally collided. Misunderstandings. "Fuck off". And the biggest train ticket mistake I've ever made resulting in the most expensive two minute train journey I have ever had to pay for. A fine - Forty Euros each, just under two weeks left to pay it and absolutely no idea of how to pay. And so I left on bad terms, our first argument. Berlin I love you but you're bringing me down.
"Can we at least keep our train tickets as a souvenir?"
"Oh please, we have paid (40+25=65) €65 each for them."
"We're not going to use them again, we are going to the airport, look (pointing to the suitcase). We're clearly tourists."
"Well thank you very much for ruining our holiday!"
This is my only souvenir:
Berlin just say the word and I will take you back! We still have a long way to go before our love affair can end. There is still so much I have to learn about you. Oh yes Berlin I will take you back! In time.