Welcome to Berlin
Some cities offer instant gratification- the flirtatious, tart's boudoir of Paris, say, or the white heat and architectural dazzle of Rome. But in Berlin, a little effort may be required to unpeel the layers of culture, politics and parties that stretch back for centuries before Sally Bowles ever knocked on the door of the Kit Kat club. Like a polite but impenetrable host, the city may not charm immediately- but it rewards time, curiosity and patience in uncovering its most intimate spaces and enticing places.
Alongside the familiar visual weight of its most obvious history- the Reichstag, or the Holocaust memorial- is a restless, daring sense of change and motion, where art, fashion and music pulse underground, just beneath the staid surface. No wonder David Bowie spent three years here recording his Berlin trilogy, or that 110 years ago, Mark Twain remarked, "Berlin is the newest city I have come across. Even Chicago would appear old and grey in comparison."
Berlin still feels new, and ready to be discovered. It is a huge, sprawling canvas of a place- there are few neat strolls between landmarks, or broad, majestic vistas. Berlin is a door concealing a wild party where everyone is welcome and anything can happen. You only need to open it.
Parlamento Degli Angeli
The Ellington Hotel
Goodbye to Berlin- Christopher Isherwood
Berlin- The Downfall 1945 Anthony Beevor
Alone In Berlin- Hans Fallada
The Moment- Douglas Kennedy
The Lives Of Others
Wings Of Desire
Run Lola, Run
Low- David Bowie
Marlene Dietrich Sings Berlin- Marlene Dietrich
Paris Days Berlin Nights- Ute Lemper & Vogler Quartet
Avoid Checkpoint CharlieThe greatest symbol of the Cold War is now one of Berlin's most depressing experiences for entirely different reasons. Seething with tourists, and commercial tat, it's a grim monument to the Western values it originally existed to segregate.
Although ATMs are frequently available, it's still worth taking cash if you're eating out. Many smaller restaurants still don't have a card machine, and you'll save yourself a tiresome trek round an unfamiliar neighbourhood looking for a bank, while your partner smiles glassily at the waiters.
Getting AroundYou can drive in Berlin, but public transport is fast and frequent by both bus and U-bahn. However, the maps can resemble multicoloured linguine, so work out the route you need beforehand to avoid dashing between platforms as the right train pulls away.
Berlin is a wonderful city for bike-riding, with careful, polite drivers and bike lanes alongside almost every main street. There are plenty of bicycle hire shops. Pedestrians need to take care, though, as often the only warning of an incipient running-over is a violently rung bell.