Thursday, May 15, 2014

Paris and Berlin: Two Cities That Make Me Swoon

Everyone has asked us, "Why Berlin?". That question has a complex answer, but it boils down to:

1) It was relatively easy for us to get visas because of Rahsan's career/talent

2) It is known to be an artistic city, vibrant with experimental artists

3) It is one of the major cities in the world, with easy access to many interesting destinations

But in all honesty, if you had asked me a year ago which city I would most want to move to, I would have said Paris. I'm a romantic, so old buildings with rich history and the mystique of a famously passionate city really draw me in. I visited Paris when I was 17, and ever since, the city has lived in my mind as a symbol of a bigger and brighter future, the epitome of an inspired life, the antithesis of stagnation and lethargy.

I still do want to live in Paris. But my eyes are open just a little wider since our trip to Paris last weekend. I found myself searching eagerly for the colorful graffiti that has already become common to my everyday life in Berlin. I found myself simultaneously fancied and bored with the rows and rows of wrought-iron-balcony-clad buildings. I was entranced with the beauty and yet I began to miss the many different faces of Berlin architecture. Both cities have seen war, but the damage is much more visible in one than the other.

I think that a city and its people mirror each other. So, around me in Berlin I see many fellow struggling and disheveled explorers, and perhaps if I was living in Paris I would see more of what I saw - chic, polished, confident settlers. Berlin is mismatched, messy, in progress. There are abandoned buildings, and there are five-star hotels. In Paris, things are precise, efficient, designed. Basically, Berlin is a city struggling to define its identity, and Paris is a city that is extremely well defined and knows exactly what it is.

Unless we have no choice, we go where we want to go. No matter where we are, we see what we want to see. We do what we can to become who we want to be.


Ok, now for some more observations...

Transit: In Berlin, it's 2.60 for 2 hours in one direction with unlimited transfers between U-bahn, S-bahn, tram, and bus. In Paris, it's 1.70 for 90 minutes in any direction, but you can't transfer between metro/subway/RER and bus/tram. Although there are drawbacks to both, we found the Paris transit system to be cheaper and more liberating. (Disclaimer: the rules are more complicated than this, make sure to read each system's website for yourself!)

Booze: Berlin drinks beer, and it's all of great quality, Paris drinks wine and even the cheap stuff is great.

Bread: brilliant in both cities.

Finely crafted pastries are everywhere in Paris. Again, the bread in Germany is amazing, but I had the the most decadent cheesecake de Jean-Louis and tartelette citron in Paris!

Berlin: boots. Paris: Audrey Hepburn flats.

We have an easier time eating and drinking for cheap in Berlin; Paris was more expensive, no matter where we went (except for the baguettes!).

One of my favorite things about Paris was seeing many more people of African descent than I see in Berlin.

In Paris, I saw much more symmetry in the public spaces - the bridges, the monuments, the plazas, the big boulevards. Always a lion on either side of the bridge, or a statue of a goddess on both sides of an obelisk. In Berlin, since more of the city has been rebuilt, there are more random installations and brilliant modern public art.

In short, both cities are wonderful. I'm thrilled to have visited Paris (and am dying to go back), but I'm proud to live in Berlin.

Everything's working out, man. Everything's working out.

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