As I continued making the rounds in Germany with my travel weary soul, I never in a million years would have suspected that I was about to set foot in a city that would turn my world upside down. Truth be told, despite all the rave reviews, I had yet to find a city in Europe that I felt an instant connection with. The moment I took my first step in Berlin, that all changed as the love affair began at first sight. It was gritty, vibrant, and all-encompassing while being entrenched in history at every turn that left me wanting more. As quickly as I expressed my fondness of Berlin, I had someone tell me that I only liked it because I had an appreciation of street art and they themselves disliked the city because it was dirty and ugly since graffiti was everywhere.
Turns out beauty is really in the eye of the beholder as one of my favourite daytime activities during this trip was a street art tour. The tour that I’m talking about is a free tour given by Alternative Berlin Tour. After a little difficulty locating the meeting spot (truth be told, an issue with the 3 people looking for the meeting spot and had very little to do with the location itself), we soon discovered there were 2 guides and an army of people looking to go on the tour. With a bigger group than usual, the 2 guides divided the group up at random and me and my buddies wound up in David’s group. He’s a street artist from Berlin who had taught himself how to speak English (rather well I might add) and was now our fearless leader. Before long, we were off at lightning pace to see what he enjoyed the most about the city and being a Berliner. It was here that I was introduced to Alice and El Bocho’s Little Lucy. As we walked up and down streets, it was easy to get absorbed by the art that was all around us and then David would point out something small that would remind us of the WWII legacy that is ever-present in Berlin.
We ducked in and out of alleyways and took quick peaks into galleries before hitting the streets again. We jumped onto the U-Bahn/S-Bahn to cover more ground and be able to hit some of the cultural neighbourhoods and artist squats that were a must on this tour as well as being able to see some of the murals done on buildings out the windows. At an alarming pace, we worked our way around the city and managed to see places like the Bethanien House and YAAM beach despite it not really not being fake beach weather in the middle of winter. As we moved from place to place, David shared stories and legends that existed in each of these places as he pointed out his favourite parts and pieces of work throughout the city. As the sun began to set, we continued winding around the city to just that one last location. After spending all day pounding the pavement, my body was starting to feel the toll of the wear and tear but yet, I couldn’t resist soldiering on and following him every step of the way as my camera battery slowly died from overuse.
After about 4 hours, it was time to bid adieu to our large group and I stood there with the 2 buddies that I had begun the day with when we abandoned the rest of the group at Checkpoint Charlie to make our way to the TV Tower for this tour. Despite the exhaustion that was setting in and the big evening ahead of all of us, there were no regrets. This was amazing and was just the icing on the cake to a city that was already completely fabulous. What I do know for sure is that the next time I’m in Berlin (plans are even being tossed around as I write this), I will retrace some of these exact steps so I can keep exploring the raw art and culture in the detail it deserves and then continue on to see parts of the city that I never made it around to during this visit. Until then I can just dream of the next time I’ll be able to wrap my arms around Berlin again.