well, I'm pretty excited, because this is the very first post in my new blog, in which I'll try to share my enthusiasm - sometimes mixed with bewilderment - at this wonderful city in which I live and guide. Not being one for long introductions, I'd like to start right of the bat, and tell you about the five things that - in my experience - most surprise tourist who first come to Berlin, whether they find them out on their own or hear them from a guide.
1. It doesn't really feel like a metropolis, and in some place, not like a city at all. For those who are used to the bustle of New York, London or Chicago, Berlin feels like a country town, with very little traffic, hardly any skyscrapers, and not so many people on the streets. The city's large area relative to its population make it sometimes feel like an amalgamation of a myriad of little villages, each with a culture and history of its own.
2. It's not as clean and organized as you might expect, especially if you've been to Bavaria, the Ruhr area or Switzerland. Just like New York is not America and London is not England, Berlin is definitely not Germany - it's a cosmopolitan city full of immigrants, artists and anarchists (see #4), and chaos reigns supreme.
3. Everyone's heard of Berlin's exciting nightlife, but it is not easy to find. The historical center, where many luxury hotels are, is so empty at night as to warrant quite a few raised eyebrows from lost tourists. The action takes place in the neighborhoods such as Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, but even then, you'll probably have to go indoors to find it - Berlin is not a Mediterranean city, where everything happens on the streets. Last but not least, Berlin's most famous clubs are notorious for starting the party really late, at two or three am, and going on till midday the next day.
Berlin At Night: Lots of light, not much going on
Photo: Jorge Royan/Wikimedia Commons, License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
4. Berlin is the poorest city of Germany, a fact which surprises everyone when I bring it up, because the areas where tourists go are renovated, bright-lit and glitzy. It is, however, true: Berlin has a higher percentage of unemployment and people receiving government benefits than any other city in Germany, and its deficit is over 50 billion Euros.
5. Unlike most Germans, Berliners aren't very polite, especially those who are in the service industry. Locals sometimes display pride in their cheeky reputation, nicknamed Berliner Schnauze (literally "Berlin Snout"). Luckily, things have been improving steadily, as the city seeks to preserve the stream of tourists coming in, so chances are you won't encounter any cheeky waiters on your Berlin tour.