Sunday, May 30, 2010

Walk - Don't Walk

Berlin, Germany

There was no city more central in the geopolitical drama of the 20th Century than Berlin. But with the wall now down for a generation, the city has relaxed somewhat from those hyper tense days. The emotion of the cold war friction still simmers below the surface and contrasts with 21st Century expression. Here arts and architecture are bravely bold, the streets still smell of wurst and pretzels and you can easily get around on foot where only decades ago, armed tanks feared treading.

The way you travel around Germany really offers an insight to this country’s character. The famous autobahn grants speed demons a freedom, but even at 200 km/h German order rules over chaos. This regimented philosophy is most obvious on the train. Unlike elsewhere in Europe, in Germany arrival times are not suggestions; they are prophecy. Walking around Berlin you feel the same thing.

Berlin is a very walkable city. On foot you can weave your way from Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie down the Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, Reichstag and to the Hauptbahnhof- Berlin's main train station. The walking is easy, the sites are of world importance- but obedience is the key. Different from just about every other large city in the world, here no one crosses against the light. Everyone lines up patiently no matter what the traffic dictates. In Berlin, even after all it has been through, pedestrians only proceed when given a green light.

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