Posted by: Paul G.
Berlin: The Beauty Beneath
Berlin has deep roots. It has been a crucial hub in that area of the world for the past 700 years. Many empire states have used it as their capital city, including the Prussian Empire and current-day Germany. The city has also been home to some of the most influential political moments of the 20th century.
This storied history, combined with the diverse population and centuries of architectural progress, has made it a destination for tourists and photographers alike. Most people come for the main tourist attractions, like the Berlin Wall, East Side Gallery, Reichstag building and more, but there is much more to be seen and experienced.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
A long history doesn't always result in a beautiful city. Berlin, in my view, even with all of its ties to the past and the architectural diversity, has become somewhat of an eyesore. The ugliness beneath the beauty is seen most clearly in the graffiti that seems to cover everything.
Many people consider graffiti art, and in some cases, they are right. There are many amazing artists that can use a spray can and a wall instead of a brush and canvas to create masterpieces. However, most of the graffiti in the city cannot be labelled as a “masterpiece”. They are an eyesore. This is made worse by the typically overcast weather, which can create a gloomy atmosphere.
Capturing the Chaos
One major benefit that comes from this mess of structures and “art” is the potential for amazing photography. While I personally prefer to be able to appreciate the architecture without having to stare through the distracting mess of graffiti, street art makes for some amazing photographs. Especially in the lesser-known areas of the city, away from the tourist destinations.
Berlin is a city that never sleeps. 24 hours a day you can find the bustling streets filled with people going to work, going out to meet friends, running errands and living life. Its history has left architectural gems littered throughout Berlin, remnants of a time long past, assimilated and swallowed by this 21st-century city.
Hubs such as bus stations, trams and u-bahn (the underground and metro hubs) have a wonderful mix of every type of person imaginable. Hippies live alongside punks, business people ride next to hipsters and kids sit with elders, all part of this living metropolis.
Instead of 4 full seasons, Berlin has two seasons the hot and sunny summer season and the rainy and bleak “winter”. Even without the full 4 seasons, it can be captured in the full range of Mother Nature’s glory. Winter can make for sometimes bleak but stunning photographs and the summer brings the vibrancy you would expect of a bustling European hub.
Challenges in the Pursuit of Art
While there are many spots to be photographed and many more to be discovered, the city can be a challenge to navigate at times. As a capital city, tourists, politicians, business people and many others from around the world are travelling to Berlin every year. This traffic can make getting good shots difficult but it can also add to the raw feel of your photos if you can capture it. The graffiti is also a creative roadblock that you need to navigate around. Some amazing shots, or potentially amazing shots, are completely ruined by the presence of this graffiti. Photography is an amazing art form and even with these limitations or challenges, a photographer can capture moving and beautiful images if they try hard enough. It takes dedication and perseverance but for the true artist, Berlin can be a place of beauty, hiding just below the surface.
One Berlin, Still Divided
Berlin has been untied for over 30 years but divisions run deep. Even though culturally Berlin is one city, the architectural and design differences are noticeable. The East and West are still separate parts of one city. West Berlin is filled with preserved architecture, speaking to photographers about the past and the memories and people they represent. Small, narrow streets and café’s abound in this part of the city, making it easy to grab a nice lunch or one of the “best doner’s” in the city. East Berlin is full of wise streets and residential areas where families live out their lives in peace. Once separated by more than just a wall, the past few decades have brought the city and its people together, even if you can still see the remains of the divide that once existed.
A Place for Everyone
European countries are known for having striking and interesting capital cities, such as Budapest, Paris and Amsterdam. Berlin can easily take both of those titles as well. Filled with diverse and interesting collections of people from around the world, architecture dating back centuries and the potential for photographic masterpieces, Berlin is a city that beckons to anyone who has a taste of adventure in their soul. Should you visit Berlin? Absolutely!