It’s early evening in Berlin. The cafe tables fill with drinks and the streets come alive with the sounds of the after-work crowd. As I walk down Alte Schonhauser Strasse, I’m lured in by hip bookstores and boutiques and I already know I’m going to like this neighborhood. I have 24 hours in Berlin, and this is where I’m going to spend them.
Sunrise is an amazing time to see Berlin. The whole city is asleep and it’s so quiet I can hardly believe I’m in a place known for its perennial construction. When I arrive at the Brandenburg Gate, the huge square in front of it is empty. I’ve never had a major monument all to myself before, and I savor the moment and its solitude.
My uncle once asked me what I thought was the most underrated country in Europe. I didn’t hesitate to say Germany. Despite the country being the economic powerhouse of the continent, it somehow gets overlooked as a travel destination. It’s a shame, too, because Germany has amazing cities, countryside, castles, and festivals. As such, when a friend that was staying with relatives in Bavaria invited me to visit her the other weekend, I readily accepted.
When my flight landed at Dusseldorf airport the border agent asked me why I was visiting Germany. “The Christmas markets in Cologne,” I told him. “Ugh. Why do all you foreigners like them so much?” he asked. I was nervous. The seven Christmas markets in Cologne were famous all over the world, and yet the first person I met when I arrived suggested they were overrated. Was it true? Had I flown all the way to Germany to be disappointed?