Each month in Home from Home we ask someone to compare Dublin with another city in which they have lived. Sometimes they are Irish who have lived (or are still living) abroad, sometimes they are expatriates in Dublin. This month, Clare tells us about the young spirited and carefree Berlin she fell in love with, and why the city has become such a coveted destination amongst Dubliners. The answer: it would seem that it’s pretty much perfect. But Clare also shares with us the one thing that Dublin does better than Berlin – beware, it’s a grim revelation.
Berlin is an up-and-coming city that has completely reinvented itself in the past few years. How do you think it has dealt with its difficult past?
Really very well. Berlin really faces up to its fairly traumatic past – none of the “don’t mention the war” goes on! What really struck a cord with me on my first visit to the Holocaust Memorial is the core message – “It happened before, therefore it can happen again”. And Berliners live with that idea. The entire path of the wall is marked on the streets of Berlin, and the longest remaining stretch of the wall is now one of the largest open air galleries, the East Side Gallery. The wall has become a celebration of the creativity and individuality which the East German regime were so eager to quash, and people were willing to risk their lives to escape for. Berlin is now is an incredibly open minded and tolerant city.
Many young Irish go to Berlin and come back fascinated by the clubbing scene, the art, and the exceptionally low living costs. What else do you think Dublin could learn from Berlin?
Every weekend in Berlin there are open air events, and so many flea markets, which I love. The transport system in Berlin is unreal – free travel for students! Berliners also know how to enjoy the sun – any time it comes out, even if the temperature is hitting zero, cafés put out their outdoor heaters and Ikea blankets – it’s so cosy. For such a big city, Berlin manages to be seriously relaxed. Going out in Berlin is like a different world to Dublin – having fun is way more important than looking well! No cameras allowed and no mirrors in clubs, and appropriate footwear means no heels allowed… the dream!
Conversely, there must be something we do better than them…
Chicken fillet rolls?
There’s hope! Lastly: which city is better for… a Sunday brunch?
Definitely Berlin! Lots of shops and supermarkets are closed on Sundays so it’s definetly the day to hang out with friends and nurse a hangover with brilliant food. The choice in Berlin is amazing and the very restorative. All-you-can-eat brunch is something that Dublin really needs to catch on to.
An evening at the theatre?
A toughie. Dublin is great for theatre, but Berlin may have the upper hand on variety and prices – you can go to the Berliner Philarmonie for free and opera and theatre tickets can be as little as a tenner.
Chats with complete strangers?
Definitely Dublin! Berliners don’t understand small talk.
At least that!
Words: Laura Gozzi / Photo: Caitríona Gallagher