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New Berliners: Thomas

Thomas Pennington

Thomas Pennington

If you are anything like me, who had never lived abroad before, you will find in Berlin the opportunity to be alone with a city for the first time—a fresh start of the soul. Art galleries, museums, strange shops and cafes—New York has these as well, but what can I say except that the air seems clearer in Berlin—there is between you and the rich life of the city no fog of familiarity and expectation as I found so often in New York.

Stepping off the plane at Tegel airport for the first time, eyeing the road Unter den Linden on the ride over to the dorm, I felt like the passenger of a rollercoaster after the bars have lowered over your shoulders, but before the ride has begun. The freedom of having jumped in, really being stuck with the journey, was absolutely terrifying. In those first few moments of discovery everything seemed wondrous, from the texture of the cobblestones to the logo of the discount supermarket seen from my bedroom window. That vividness of even ordinary experiences would not fade during my time there and came to be Berlin’s defining feature.

Whatever your reason for coming; to make art, to study history, or whatever else, Berlin will sweep you up in its beloved present. I came to the city with visions from textbooks buzzing in my brain; wars and statesmen and famous paintings; yet in my time there it was those rapid ordinary moments which taught me such a great deal about Germany and myself. The most vivid memories I carry are not of exhibits on Museum Island or grand marble monuments, but of rowdy students on U-Bahn trains and steam rising from cups of Gluhwein in a Weihnachtsmarkt; evenings in a smoky, quirky bar which doubled as an art gallery, and a fleet of canoes trundling along a Spreewald canal—these are the Berlin moments that call me to the city even now.

There is an unprecedented opportunity to hear yourself think in Berlin; there is here too a way of living all Berlin’s own which, should you take the plunge, will become your way of living too—a fearless mode of life marked by endless discovery of the self and the city; by determined sophistication, boundless self-confidence, reflective pragmatism and a great affection for the inherent joy of living. Here is your opportunity to step into the city and find yourself transformed--to transform yourself--into a New Berliner.