Good for me. 😉
Peter Schneider’s 2014 survey of Berlin life, translated by Sophie Schlondorff, is a perfect read for anyone who is interested in Berlin or anyone who already loves the place.
C.J. and I have been there twice; we’re big fans.
Mr. Schneider starts his book with the question of why Berlin has become one of the most popular cities in the world. It’s not a particularly beautiful city, many would argue that it’s kind of ugly. The people who live there are not famous for being friendly. It doesn’t have the immediate, more romantic appeal many European cities have nor is it one of those historical sites everyone longs to see. There’s no Eiffel Tower, no London Bridge, no leaning tower. But Berlin has an energy that no other city I’ve ever been to has, a kind of creative, let’s get building sensibility that I associate only with Berlin. In spite of not really having anything to offer at first glance, it’s a wonderful, exciting city.
Mr. Schneider’s book includes chapters on night clubs, the construction at Potsdamer Platz, love and sex in the city, what happened to the wall itself, the Stasi legacy…all of the usual suspects. But there are also unexpected things like a chapter on Vietnamese Berlin, Turkish Berlin, Berlin’s monuments and cemeteries, and just how Nefertiti came find a home in Berlin.
It’s all a very entertaining, very breezy read. While Mr. Schneider is certainly opinionated and may not cover the exact topics you’d like to have covered, there is no chapter on gay life in Berlin for example, he is a knowledgeable tour guide, someone who has spent his adult life in Berlin and knows what he is talking about. He’s a bit like your slightly cool great uncle who can get you into certain places you’ve always heard about but never been able to visit.
Reading his book has made me think about visiting Berlin again. Turns out, there’s still more Berlin to experience.