The Grit of Berlin
I like Berlin. I admire its understated confidence, its calm demeanor, the orderliness of day-to-day life. If you ignore the occasional curmudgeon, the people are unfailingly pleasant and polite. For the depths of winter, they are remarkably happy. New Yorkers whine about the cold and the snow and the dark. Berliners are strikingly stoic by comparison.
I don’ t think this happened by accident. So much of the city’s fabric is drenched in atrocity and oppression. Visiting the museums and monuments, seeing the death and dismemberment of so many people is sobering and unreal. I’ve never lived through an age of oppression, never seen 55 million people killed in a war, never hidden myself in an attic or informed on my neighbor. I don’t know what it’s like to be tortured or persecuted. My days have a reliable structure that’s never been broken. And so it’s difficult to relate to a people who’s days were filled with desperation. Of course, that era has passed, but you can still feel it lingering in the air, permeating the concrete and soil of the city.
It’s a sobering reminder - World War Two, a holocaust, twenty-eight years of the Berlin Wall. Of course Berliners are stoic. They’ve developed grit through decades of tribulation. A mettle most other cities will never acquire. And it’s just one of the many things I admire about Berlin, along with its grand architecture and clockwork efficiency.