January 12, 2011

Comparing Munich and Berlin

Any time we go to another big city, we always compare it to Munich. Berlin was no exception. The two biggest cities in Germany are only 6 hours away by fast train, but feel much farther from each other in their attitudes.

To say Munich is conservative would be a major understatement. It's definitely the wealthiest city in Germany. Comparatively, Berlin had more edge, more funk, more life to the city than Munich does. It was bustling with people even on the second day of Christmas, which is a public holiday here. I’m sure if we had more time in the local neighborhoods to explore unhindered by numb feet and steamed-up glasses, I’d have more examples for you of Berlin's general coolness.

A few other differences:
  • Trash situation. Munich is super clean and I love that about the city. Yes, Berlin had trash on its sidewalks. But I should add that saying Berlin has trash on the streets when compared to Munich is like saying an OCD person has a cleaner house than someone who’s simply tidy.
  • Snow all over Berlin's sidewalks. Let’s just say the only shoes I wore all week were my snow boots. But again, Munich is obsessive about snow removal among other things. However, the snow on the sidewalks in Berlin allowed some industrious Berlin citizen to create a human-sized igloo we stumbled past one night. Any full-sized igloo in Munich wouldn't last very long against the sidewalk snow plows.
  • More graffiti on the buildings in Berlin. If this happened in Munich, it would be a detriment to the buildings. In Berlin, it added to the city’s appeal - it was better than what the buildings would have looked like without the graffiti. Imagine blank grey eight-story communist-style buildings and you’ve got the idea of what some Berlin neighborhoods would look like without the graffiti. The graffiti art in Berlin was quite very artistic and vibrant actually. Berlin does have beautiful buildings (like this one), but we saw a lot of communist era buildings, too.
  • Exotic food abounded! We found Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Turkish, Italian and even a few Mexican restaurant choices all over. I wouldn’t call Berlin the ethnic food capital of the world, but for Germany, it was top-notch.
  • Differences in mass transit. Berlin’s s-bahns were mostly outside and not as frequent or as useful as the trams or buses. Plus, they were not punctual most of the times we took them and when you’re cold, an on-time train is a lifesaver. Our favorite buses were the # 100 or 200 because their routes covered most of the sights we wanted to see. Plus, they were double-deckers so we got to see the city from above while toasty warm.
I think we both loved aspects of Berlin and wished we could bring a touch of the edginess back to Munich. But there also are parts of Munich and the way of life in Munich we love.

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