I’ve recently been obsessing over this new movie, Posthumous, where an American journalist uncovers a story about an artist in Berlin. The first time I saw it, I knew it would be one of those movies that would stick with me for a long time, not because of it’s remarkable cinematography, or even it’s riveting plotline. It was simply a great movie about art and self discovery that was a little edgy but mostly happy. This to me is Berlin in a nutshell.
Over my summer European Whirlwind trip, Berlin was simply unmissable since it would be a place I was returning to after a four year hiatus. Senior year of high school I participated in a short exchange program where I hosted a German student in the US for two and a half weeks, and they hosted me for three and a half later in the spring. Although I was not planning on going to Germany by any means, the second my host sister showed up in America, she and I became best friends. She then secretively went to our school’s German teacher, begging him to let me go on the trip (even though I wasn’t in German language class), telling him that she couldn’t imagine hosting anyone else but me. So, off to Germany I went, with about fifteen other high schoolers and zero language exposure at the ripe age of 18.
Berlin, and broader Germany, hit me over the head with unexpected adoration. I before the trip had never really thought much about traveling to Germany and had never heard much about it in mainstream culture. But, the second I got there I was captivated by the unique spirit of the place. Germany, as so many know, doesn’t have the cleanest past. Much of that past has left landmarks on both the cities and the people, making it hard to move forward from. Germans are stuck in an identity crisis, not wanting to “forget” the past by any means, but also not wanting it to define them any more than it needs to. The younger generation of Germans have already done incredible things, branching out and essentially rebelling against the stereotypes of being stiff and angry. The Berlin I found in 2014 was one of adventure, education, and a little bit of mystery. The best way I think I can describe it is textured. The art, the style, the music, the parties. Berlin has formed a culture all it’s own that could have only come out of a history like theirs. Like a new shoot growing through the cracks, Berliners are tough, but are seeking a brighter future. Over the period of rebirth, a huge opportunity for artists and creators has emerged, making Berlin one of the new cultural centers of the world. They have a booming economy, a sound political structure, free education and health care, and a diverse population. What’s not to love?
I’ve been putting off writing this blog post because it’s been so hard for me to narrow down my top things for you to do. It’s so packed with goodness!! I know that this is no help, but I just suggest you wing it. Go to Berlin and see where it takes you. Let it speak for itself, and you’ll find incredible hidden gems and unforgettable experiences. For greater Germany, my best recommendation to you would be Munich. Opposite of Berlin, Munich fulfills all of your fairy-tale, lederhosen dreams with beautiful architecture, incredible food, and an overflowing amount of beer. Bike tours are easy and ample here, which I highly suggest, and the English Gardens are something you can’t miss.
If you have the extra time and resources, Zugspitze was one of the best days of my life. Nestled in the very southern edge of the country, Zugspitze is a peak of a Swiss Alp that is so beautiful it will take your breath away. High above the cloud line, when I was up there I felt like I was on the top of the world. After coming down from the mountain, our group hiked this trail along a freshwater creek that was so old it had carved out the rock bed like Antelope Canyon, with walls of stone rising high above and over your head. We ended the day by swimming in a spring-fed lake that was this icy-glacial blue, and I remember ending the day with a hearty dinner and some rich ice cream. That day was the first of many days where I couldn’t believe what my life had become. It solidified all the longing I had to leave, and pushed me to seek new adventures like that. The world is such a beautiful place full of opportunity, but only if you’re brave enough to take it.
Now, let me tell you. Over the course of my life, I have had so many things point me in the direction of Germany its kinda spooky. It can be little things during my day, or some small sign here and there. But now as time has passed, I not only have one or two close friends living in Germany, but EIGHT. Yes, eight, and one on the way. I also have quite a common theme of attracting German speakers, or people who have spent many years in Germany, into my life, the first of which being my seventh grade best friend. The people just keep coming! The signs continue! And who would have known that Germany of all places would be one of three places in the world I consider a home. It was the first country I traveled to and the one I’ll always return to. It has this perfect balance of comfort and mystery, like I would never get bored there. It’s innovative, exciting and just flat out cool.
Germany will always hold a near and dear place in my heart. More so than I think I could ever explain on here.
So my unconventional advice to you is, just go. See for yourself why Germany is one of the best places on Earth.