By Andreas Schulte-Peevers
Lonely Planet – £14.99
Bismark and Marx, Einstein and Hitler, JFK and Bowie, they’ve all shaped – and been shaped by – Berlin, whose richly textured history stares you in the face at every turn. This is a city that staged a revolution, was headquartered by Nazis, bombed to bits, divided in two and finally reunited – and that was just in the 20th Century!
‘Welcome to Berlin’
There you go: simple, succinct and severely to the point, which, depending on how you like your literary explanation(s) delivered, is just as it should be. And if said opening gambit doesn’t entice you to either visit Berlin or continue reading, then I don’t know what will.
As is per norm with Lonely Planet Guides, Berlin really is a tour-de-force when it comes to both detailed description and colorful display. Replete with a pull-out map, each of its 320 pages bequeaths the traveller with everything they will fundamentally need to know with regards this most durable and wonderful of cities.
From The Berlin Wall (”It’s more than a tad ironic that Berlin’s most popular tourist attraction is one that no longer exists. For 28 years, the Berlin Wall, the most potent symbol of The Cold War, divided not only a city but the world”), to the Berlin Art Scene (”Art afficiendos will find their compass on perpetual spin in Berlin. Home to 440 galleries, scores of world-class collections and some 33,000 international artists, it has assumed a pole position on the artistic circuit. Adolescent energy, restlessness and experimental spirit combined and infused with an undercurrent of grit are what give this ‘eteranlly unfinsihed’ city its street cred”), this travel guide does indeed wield a mighty potent punch.
To be sure, it’s hard knowing just where to start, as one can readily dip into any section of this rather fast-paced book, and be idiosyncratically enlightened and informed nigh immediately. Whether it’s ‘High on History,’ ‘Party Paradise,’ ‘Museumsinsel & Alexanderplatz,’ ‘The Reichstag,’ ‘Laidback Lifestyle’ or ‘Cultural Trendsetter’ you’re after; Lonely Planet’s Berlin absolutely won’t disappoint. Simply because the photos are fab and everything is explained in an easy going and most convivial manner.
For instance, ‘Literature & Film’ on page 259 opens with: ”Since it’s beginnings, Berlin’s literary scene has reflected a peculiar blend of provincialism and worldliness, but the city’s pioneering role in movie history is undeniable: in 1895 Max Skladanowsky screened early films on a bioscope, in 1912 one of the world’s first film studios was established in Potsdam and since 1951 Berlin has hosted a leading international film festival.” The section then continues in more depth on such subjects as: Literature, Modernism & Modernity, New Berlin Novel, Film, Marlene Dietrich, After 1945 before finally concluding with Today.
So in all, this colourfully compact travel guide really does cater for everyone: from yer all round curious back-packer to yer everyday culture vulture.
There again, we are talking about Berlin; upon which the authoress, Andreas Schulte-Peevers also writes: ”To me, this city is nothing short of addictive. It embraces me, inspires me, accepts me and makes me feel good about myself, the world and other people. I enjoy its iconic sights, its vast swathes of green, its sky bars and chic restaurants, but I love its gritty sides more.”