In 2006, Germany’s capital of cool and confusion was polishing off the last of its major reunifying construction projects in time for the FIFA World Cup. It was a resounding success, thanks to Berlin's friendly face. And the city continues to smile at visitors today.
Something fresh is in the air, a quality alien to most of this schizoid city’s recent selves – confidence. It’s with a calm but wholly novel mood of self-assurance that Berlin, now one of Europe’s most-visited cities, greets an ever-rising tide of tourists. Once a geographical and cultural backwater, it’s now the hub of the north European transport network and a creative centre, which is home to literally thousands of artists, writers and musicians.
Arguably, Berlin hosts the Continent’s most important film and music industry festivals. The art scene is going international, there’s enough classical music for two or three normal cities, and the party of the long Berlin night still pulses right through until dawn.
There are still divisions, of course, but this formerly sliced-up metropolis has found its ways of transcending them. In the new, creatively confident Berlin, cultural collisions are celebrated, rather than avoided. This is a city where football tournaments bring out hybrid German-Turkish flags, people dance to Beethoven at classical club nights, tattoo parlours merge with burger bars and dance and theatre fuse in cutting-edge performing arts. Here, abstract designer kiosks exist as much to interrogate the nature of consumption as to sell you Pop art knick-knacks, gay and lesbian people rub shoulders in truly mixed-up cruising areas and ancient ideological adversaries face off in new street names.
It’s also a city that's confident enough to fill its new centre with memorials to the victims of its evil wars. Berlin will never be a place where things are taken lightly. But that’s no reason not roll up your sleeves, get involved, have fun, and experience the very model of a modern, multicultural metropolis.