Berlin, a city for all seasons

Berlin, a city for all seasons

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Paris in spring is a riot of flowers. Autumn turns Tuscany into a patchwork of ochre. When winter comes, Hallstatt, Austria, is transformed into a magical ice kingdom. Germany’s hip capital city of Berlin shines bright throughout the year.

No matter the season, there’s always something happening in beautiful, vibrant Berlin. First-timers and those on their 40th visit alike never want for something to do in this ever-evolving urban oasis. Once the TV tower has been conquered, photos of the Brandenburg Gate snapped and exhibits of Museum Island’s world-class institutions thoroughly explored, it’s time to check out what’s happening on the cultural calendar. When large-scale gatherings are safe to attend, here is a look at just some of the events that will surely delight us once again.

Winter

While most of Germany languishes in a long, post-holiday slumber, Berlin bucks the trend by hosting its annual film festival. The Berlin International Film Festival, known as Berlinale, is one of Europe’s biggest film festivals and attracts the world’s largest public audience. Some 400 films are screened, with dramas particularly well represented. When high-profile films debut, it’s not just stars from German screens who shine: actors having attended in recent years include George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Richard Gere, among others.

U.S. military members might be interested to learn that this longstanding event has a connection to their service. The idea of the festival is credited to Oscar Martay, a film officer in the U.S. military stationed in West Berlin in the aftermath of World War II. In 1950, he formed the committee that laid the groundwork for the inaugural edition of the Berlinale, which was held the following year. This cinematic celebration takes place in mid-February.

Spring

In early spring, Berlin finds itself awash in a sea of delicate blush pink flowers. The profusion of cherry blossoms can be taken in along the Mauerweg, a path running along the route where the Berlin Wall once cut the city in two halves. Following the fall of the wall in 1989, the citizens of Japan gifted Berlin with more than 9,000 trees as a gesture of hope for peace and happiness in the reunited city and country. For a dash of Asian culture served alongside the floral beauty, head to the Gardens of the World in Marzahn, where the annual cherry blossom festival includes Asian music, dance, fashion, handicrafts and more.

Each year at Pentecost, Berlin’s Kreuzberg district celebrates the diversity of its people and their countries of origin with its Carnival of Cultures. Over a long weekend, locals and visitors sample street foods, peruse market stalls selling jewelry, fashion and souvenirs and take in music and performances. The highlight event is a parade with some 4,000 participants, including processions from Africa and South America.

Summer

As the weather warms up, cultural life moves outside. Roofs become open-air cinemas and parks and squares host live music events such as Classic Open Air, featuring opera, orchestras, pianists and singers. On June 21 every year, free concerts in all musical genres make up the Fête de la Musique, a jubilant celebration of the longest day of the year based on long-standing French tradition. The Long Night of the Museums, held in late August, features art, culture, performances and unexpected encounters. Beer lovers can soak up suds and a multicultural vibe at the International Berlin Beer Fest, where 2,400 brews from 90 countries are poured along the Karl-Marx-Allee. For three days, this becomes what organizers dub the world’s longest beer garden.

Autumn

Autumn starts off with a bang as elite runners line up for the Berlin Marathon. In 2018, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge ran the fastest men’s time ever clocked, a record that still stands. In late September, the Festival of Lights brings Berlin’s most iconic landmarks to life with vibrant and masterful illuminations. When skating rinks, a toboggan run and mulled wine stands take over Potsdamer Platz, Christmastime is near. Christmas market fans have some 80 venues from which to choose: Alexanderplatz, Gendarmenmarkt, Red City Hall and Charlottenburg Palace are considered the city’s best and biggest.

New Year’s Eve

Silvester, as the Germans call New Year’s Eve, is so big in Berlin it deserves its own special mention. The country’s biggest bash and one of Europe’s largest street parties sees a million revelers come out to celebrate the start of the New Year. Famous artists perform next to the Brandenburg Gate, and a Party Mile stretching from there to the Victory Column is lined with stages offering live shows, DJs and countless food and drink stands. At midnight, the skies light up with the country’s hugest display of pyrotechnics. The gathered masses beam with optimism and happiness. And for good reason. They’re celebrating a new year of hopes and dreams in one of the world’s great capitals.  

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