With a background rich in German family history, I’m lucky to have such a beautiful country to refer to as “the motherland”. I’m most familiar with the rolling hills, deep forests and quiet biergartens of the southern province of Bavaria, with many childhood memories of exploring the streets and footpaths on which my mom grew up. When I visited my grandparents in the small town of Kreutzwertheim a few weeks ago, their house and backyard garden still looked the same as I remembered it – despite the village’s inevitable growth over the years, the feeling of a second home remains the same every time I return.
Although I’ve been to Germany many times, it wasn’t until this summer that I had the opportunity to visit the capital of Berlin in the north. Visiting the same part of a country multiple times can make it easy to be ignorant of the beautifully different traits that other parts of the country hold; everything from culture to architecture to people’s attitudes can vary drastically within the span of a few hundred kilometres.
Berlin is a shining example of all of the beautiful aspects of German culture that I had overlooked in my previous visits to the south. Despite all of the negative historical connotation Germany undertook over the past century (or more likely because of it), modern-day Berlin opened my eyes to the power of the people in overcoming a dark past and bridging the way into a brighter, artistic and culturally diverse future. A radiantly juxtaposed mixture of old and new, my eyes and mind were captured by the city’s ability to not only rebuild on the ashes of decades past, but also to inspire a new generation of creativity.
This was perhaps the most visually inspiring stop of my recent trip to Europe from a design standpoint, so naturally I was on an iPhone photo free-for-all pretty much the whole time. From neon signs to street art to tattoos, here’s a quick recap of my first taste of Berlin.
Buchstaben MuseumThe apartment I stayed in while visiting Berlin was located near Alexanderplatz, a part of the city that had been largely rebuilt in a more modern fashion after the Berlin bombings in World War II. Consequently, many of the surrounding buildings lacked the historical character of some of the older parts of the city, but that didn’t make it any less interesting. A day before our arrival, my friend who I was travelling with stumbled across an article about Berlin’s Buchstaben Museum that immediately perked my interest. The Museum of Letters is entirely dedicated to preserving old signage from folded businesses, and plays host to hundreds of vintage neon signs and other forms of lettering. Typography has always been one of my favourite aspects of design, and my heart flip-flopped a little upon uncovering this gem. And the icing on the cake? The museum was literally next door to our apartment.
East Side Gallery and Berlin’s Street ArtIn a modern society where street art has become commonplace and admired on a mass scale through popular artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, it’s really cool to see a thriving street art scene that isn’t just centred around obnoxious self-serving graffiti tags. Areas like the East Side Gallery at the former Berlin Wall have created an artistic breeding ground for political and social messages in visual formats. A walk through districts such as Mitte and Kreutzberg uncovers countless examples of the ever-changing landscape of painted and pasted art alike – there is never a shortage of unexpected eye candy in Berlin.
Lowbrow Tattoo ParlourHad to include this one in my blog about the beauty of Berlin. To be honest, one of the first things that drew me to the German capital was the presence of one of my longtime favourite tattoo artists, Annie Frenzel. I’ve been a huge fan of her work for years, and always dreamed of one day being tattooed by her. Definitely one of the highlights of my trip, it was amazing to not only get a permanent piece of her beautiful artwork, but also to experience the welcoming atmosphere and generous hospitality of the Lowbrow Tattoo Parlour.
Until we meet again, Berlin – I will most certainly see you again one day.