Europe

Emerging Destinations: Berlin, Germany

Given our natural curiosity, our ease with different cultures, and a willingness to trust, Canadians have been known to venture off-the-beaten-track in search of the most authentic travel experiences.

Such adventures, say vacation pundits, are readily found in “emerging destinations”, a reference to the undiscovered up-and-coming places now emerging into the global spotlight. It is, in places like these, where authenticity is found in simple happenstance:

Happenstance: One fine evening, for example, a visitor to Berlin was admiring a sculpture at the canopied entrance to the Four Seasons Hotel. The sculpture was a pair of adorable life-size bears standing on their heads. A city mascot, the bear is likely to pop up here and there in many artful ways, although it can be overshadowed, like tonight:

From around the corner on this quiet sidewalk in East Berlin there came skipping three noisy characters in full makeup and costume. It was Andy Warhol with Marilyn Monro, and Untidy Peter, called Struwwelpeter, a legendary cartoon with the longest hair and fingernails. All three delighted in shaking my hand and then they were off, reminding me that I really must go and see the city’s Andy Warhol Exhibition. But try to picture the same scene just a couple of decades ago: an outrageously campy Andy Warhol with America’s most recognizable sex symbol plus Germany’s freaky storybook hero; all of them hand-in-hand, skipping merrily along Unter den Linden, the communist’s most button-downed boulevard. Can you imagine?

At all times of the day and night, Berliners walk, cycle, drive, skate and jo, back and forth through the Brandenburg Gate where the Berlin Wall used to be. Indeed, residents and visitors are now totally unfazed when crossing the old, 30-metre-wide “no man’s land” where, if you had done the same thing years ago, you would have been shot.

Today, visitors are still curious about the ghosts of guard towers, watchdogs and firearms, but you’ll soon see that to Berliners, that was yesterday’s news.

Berlin today has been rebuilt, restored or rejuvenated and there is some wonderful architecture, both old and new, standing side by side. Berlin tourism is rapidly growing and it is currently the third most visited city in Europe. Millions of tourists from around the world head to this beautiful city every year.

The events of the past have left their mark on the future. As a noted historian has remarked “Berlin is always in the process of becoming, and this is one of the traits that makes it one of Europe’s most vibrant, exciting and colourful European capitals.

Visitors to Berlin don’t tend to spend much time in their hotel rooms. Not with more than 9,000 restaurants, some 100 theatres, countless cabarets, 3 opera houses, 175 museums and more sites to see than one can count.

Did you know …

In 1806, Napoleon took the Quadriga on top of the Brandenburg Gate back to France as a symbol of his victory. (Ironically, the Quadriga is the statue consisting of the Goddess of Peace, driving a four-horse triumphal chariot.) The Quadriga was returned to the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin’s most famous landmark, in 1814 after the European allies defeated Napoleon. Since then it has also been commonly called “Retourkutsche” or “Tit-for-Tat”. Contrary to some rumours, the Quadriga has always been positioned facing east – the way into the city in Old Berlin.

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