Berlin has grown up fast. Capital of a reunited Germany only since 1999, it has already earned its international spurs and no longer has to settle for being simply German. If you plan a Berlin travel, you should know that visitors can leave Berlin without having experienced Germany: American musicals, Babylonian mosaics, French bakeries and Norman Foster creations are comfortably integrated into the buildings of Schinkel and the operas of Wagner. The city that needed a long period in rehab for some serious occupation therapy is now confident enough to woo British architects, Italian designers and Polish restorers to join the burgeoning multinational community.
But though reunified Berlin has undergone a level of transformation rivaled only by post-Mao Tse Tung Shanghai, it has stuck to its principles. Although never a conventionally beautiful city, Berlin has much fine architecture, as well as an extraordinary spread of museums which collectively rank among the very richest on the planet. It also has a wide range of bars and restaurants, a vibrant nightlife and strong traditions in the performing arts. Because it occupies a vast geographical area, one interrupted by a plethora of parks, forests and lakes, Berlin is not a place that is appreciated easily or quickly. In short a Berlin travel will be an unforgettable event.
Berlin is the greenest of cities - visually and politically. The Grune- wald (Green Wood) is an enormous park to the southwest of the city, propping it up like the neck stem of the country's brain. The Green Party is in the ruling coalition, protecting the proud statistic that Berlin has more trees than shops, if not yet more bicycles than cars. Its buildings have more glass than concrete and solar energy powers them. Berliners are avid recyclers with drinkers returning bottles to shops and train users sorting rubbish into bins on plat- forms. But recycling is just one of many trends that starts as radical, spreads elsewhere and then almost becomes conservative. Gays came out in the 1920s and so did cyclists and nudists. By the time art causes a stir in London or New York it is conventional in Berlin. Take a look at the future here and see if you think it works.
Berlin is a fascinating city year-round, although most visitors arrive between May and September when the weather is the most reliable. Things are busier in high season, but despite the crowds, summer is a lovely time to be here because much of life moves outdoors. Rain is, however, possible in any month. From November to early March, skies tend to be gloomy and the mercury often drops below freezing. On the plus side, there are fewer visitors and shorter queues. Avoid major holidays like Easter, Christmas and New Year and special events such as Loveparade - unless, of course, that's what brings you here in the first place. So plan your Berlin travel well in advance to come prepared.
In Berlin you will find a festival to celebrate everything. From the Berlin International Film Festival, which is the largest in the world, second only to Cannes, to the St Christopher Street Day Parade, a gay pride parade commemorating the New York Stonewall riots.
There are plenty of musical festivals, such as the Fete de la Music and the Berlin JazzFest. And, of course, nobody can ignore the outrageous Love Parade. More political alternatives are the Fuck Parade and there is also scope for more young, up and coming festivals like the Karneval der Kulturen. As you can see your Berlin travel can be both exciting and educative.
The festivals in Germany are dispersed throughout the year and it is a good idea to try and catch one of them during your Berlin or Munich travel as they all show the country in an even more accommodating and friendly light, not to mention the fact they bring in an exciting and international crowd.