About Berlin-O-Philia

Hello to you all, Berlin lovers or would-be lovers.

Our names are Shooky and Yonit. We are an Israeli couple, who fell in love with the city of Berlin, capital of Germany.

When we first got to Berlin, on June 2005, we didn’t really know what to expect. As Israeli Jews, naturally, our relationship with Germany in general is complicated. One of us (Yonit) is a third generation to the Holocaust, and always had an urge to go there. The other (Shooky) showed a bit of reluctance to spend our first overseas vacation in years there. Israeli indoctrination, you see… But as we landed (unfortunately in Schoenfeld, a mistake corrected in 2006), all the doubts were gone.

Berlin is a fascinating city, in many respects. It is, at least from our experience, an easygoing and very friendly place. And that is even though it is laden with history, some of it not very pleasant to remember (to use an understatement). It deals with its history in a most respectful way, and has so much to offer to everyone. Multiculturalism is alive and well there, and we have never felt so welcome and safe in any other place in the world (We should also mention, since we happened to meet him in person, that they got the coolest mayor ever…). And unlike most Israelis, at least one of us thinks German is a beautiful language (although pretty tough to learn).

For the record – we’re mainly urban tourists. We don’t really care for nature treks (that’s not to say we’re not environmentally aware, though), nor do we care for vacations on the beach and stuff like that. We have a beach 20 minutes walk from our apartment in Tel-Aviv. Rivers are much more exotic in our eyes…

So Berlin became a sort of an obsession to us, but in a good way. One day, hopefully not many years from now, we’re hoping to move there, at least for a few years. For the time being, we plan on going there whenever we get the chance, and share our love to this gorgeous city with the world, by sharing our experiences, insights, revelations and perspectives, and of course, our pictures.

***

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City” (Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt) was the name of a silent film from 1927, directed by Walter Ruttmann, which showed one day in Berlin, starting at the earliest morning and ending in the deepest night. Berlin in the 1920s was indeed a great city, more liberal and vibrant than New-York or even San-Francisco today. That didn’t end so well back then. But nowadays, it returned to glory, without forgetting to learn from its history. This blog will try to capture this renewed symphony, mainly by words.

23 responses to “About Berlin-O-Philia”

14 08 2007
Nice American Guy (15:03:28) :

Until the next economic downturn… Germans are still Germans, and the only difference is that they are now relatively satiated. I am not a Jew, but have an MA in European history, and I simply cannot understand how Jews fall in love with the headquarters of their annihilation.

15 08 2007
yonit (02:55:47) :

Thank you for your comment. I myself have a MA in moral philosophy (about Adorno’s “minima moralia”), and am in the process of writing a PHD about the memory and lessons of the shoa, so you can be sure I’m well aware of the fact that my opinions contradict the usual indoctrination. I also deeply believe that saying things like “Germans are still Germans” reflects the same flawed, generalizing and discriminating thought that was very essential to the occurance of the shoa.

None of the Germans I know was more than a child during that time. Most of them weren’t even born. I don’t think anyone, including you, would like to be held accountable for their grandparents’ actions. It just doens’t seem very fair, does it. But they do take responsibility, and they did learn. Their political system reflects that, and also the way they deal with the memory (of course, on the individual level it’s much harder. I feel no resentment for a 3rd generation German who prefers to pretend his grandparents hid Jews. I always thought their situation is much worse than my own, as a 3rd generation to shoa survivors).

I find all that very worthy of praise and very hopeful, especially when I look at my country, the country of the victims, and see the situation of Shoa survivors here (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of corruption and cruelty). In short, I feel that Germany today is a more of a victory over Hitler than the state of Israel, which is more of a loss. I hope this helped you understand.

15 08 2007
Berlinait (04:18:24) :

Hi Shooki & Yonit

Thank you for this marvelous initiative. I am an israeli, living in Berlin and totally in love with this city and it's inhabitants, and it's always a pleasure to find other Berlin-O-Philes.

I'd like to add just one minimal comment about your introduction. Berlin is a huge urban center, but for me part of the charm is it's nature. There are more lakes in the city of Berlin than there are in the whole state of Israel (I know it's not hard) and the experience of taking the train to the nearest lake and bathing almost alone is an experience that non-europeans like us can treasure. And of course there are all the parks in every corner, the forests, the rivers etc. For beach lovers there are even the silly beaches with the fake sand around the Spree everywhere in Summer. This is indeed a marvelous city for nature lovers as well.

19 08 2007
Klaus (09:47:42) :

Hi, I will greet Berlin of you soon.
To the responses here: I see that it's hard not only for Jews to take a different opinion to the German society today and the past. I visited a lecture last semester in Philosophy and there was a professor talking about forgiveness. He mentioned Vladimir Jankelevitch, French philosopher, who wrote an essay about that topic but was never able to forgive any German of any generation. A statement of him I try to translate: "Forgivingness is not made for pigs. Forgivingness died in the dead camps". He never wanted to translate his work into German, but after his death, his daughter made it possible. Maybe a chance for me reading a book of him, cause it seems like that beside his harsh point of view he has some interesting ideas.

More informations:
http://www.dradio.de/dkultur/sendungen/kritik/580929/ (if you can read German)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Jank%C3%A9l%C3%A9vitch

8 09 2007
yonit (15:13:42) :

I’m sorry, I was so busy working on new materials, I almost missed your comments.

Berlinait – the only nature I can stand for more than an hour are my 5 cats and my backyard… we did come across the beach bars (and dedicated a post to them), but they felt too ridiculous for someone still living in Tel-Aviv (hopefully, not for very much longer). But your description of bathing almost alone in a lake does sound tempting… Anyway, it does seem that this is a city with a little something for everyone.

Klaus – for me, the question of forgiveness is not very relevant when you talk about the third generation from both sides. I don’t need to forgive a 30 years old German who did nothing to me or to my family, even if his grandparents did. When I saw the documentary “2 or 3 things I know about him“, although my grandmother was from Slovakia (she survived Auschwitz. Most of her family didn’t), I actually felt sympathy towards the children of Hanns Ludin. They didn’t have it any easier than my mother or myself. Actually, it seems to me that it was worse for them.

I believe the nature of the debate (and research) about the Holocaust deals, or should deal with very different issues today, as most of those belonging to the “first generation” from both sides had died, and the ones still alive were children then, that is – not really accountable.

As for the link you gave (sorry, I don’t yet read German well enough to read the first link), well, it seems rather unphilosophical to oppose the German philosophical influence, and the statement about forgiveness, not made for pigs, does not seem to come from a very philosophical place too. Although I can understand the sentiment, I think it’s obsolete, and not very productive.

and do say hello to Berlin from us. We’ll probably be visiting in October. I can hardly wait.

28 09 2007
Norbert (15:09:24) :

Hello Shooky and Yonit,

Wonderful site and a good read, thank you so much for it. It is with delight that I see Israeli visiting Germany and the Jewish congregation in Berlin taking an upswing. I consider it another victory over nazis, besides, I'm always glad when visitors like my hometown of choice.
I second your stance that this is not about forgiveness.

Next time you are here, visit Prenzlauer Berg (if you haven't seen it yet: Helmholtzplatz, Kollwitzplatz, Kulturbrauerei, Kastanienallee …) and your drinks will be on me. (October is not the best time, though, as it's getting colder which spoils street life.)

That said, I can't wait to visit Tel Aviv. Maybe I'll set up a website like yours when I'm back.

29 09 2007
yonit (02:11:04) :

Unfortunately, October is the only time we can this year (work, studies and financials allowing…). As it seems now, it'll probably be around the 18th (we are still trying to include a couple of days in Koeln). We'll be very glad to take you up on your word about the drinks, and will certainly be glad to show you around Tel Aviv when you come. Feel free to contact me by email ([email protected]).

31 10 2007
amanda (08:26:45) :

I am an australian and i live in Copenhagen which I love but love berlin even more for many of the reasons i see reflected in your writings. I was in berlin for the third time from Dec 25th – 31st and would like to come again during that time. The most memorable day (and it was a full 8 hours I was lost in there) was the day we spent in the National Museum. I wont be looking particularly for anything Christmassy (am happy to enjoy what there is) but I just wonder if you have been in the city during that holiday season and what you might suggest trying to see or do as there are many places closed and its pretty chilly.. I am granted a rather long break from work as my office is closed but I dont have a lot of cash to contribute to a trip so love the chance to visit Berlin but would also love to be a bit prepared for the holiday season and make the most of the days leave. All the best and congratulations on a thoughtful and interesting site. amanda

1 11 2007
yonit (03:55:17) :

Hello Amanda, and thanks for your comment. I was in Berlin one day last December, but it was work related, so I didn’t get the chance to get really deep into the Holiday spirit or actually do anything (but a little shopping spree). Last year, btw, wasn’t that chilly, even for someone like me, coming from a rather hot region of the world. And anyway, the chill can be solved immediately with a glass of that spicy wine they sell on Christmas, or a few glasses of beer… Besides, We will post something about events and relevant places to see closer to the holidays.

10 01 2008
Pierre van Eck (07:20:50) :

Hi yonit – some really thought provoking comments! I’ve stumbled across your blog whilst surfing for tourist related info and will certainly link to specific threads from the Berlin pages of our travel community e.g your description and photos of the Jewish Museum was most informative and I am convinced that our visitors would thoroughly enjoy it. I have, in the interim, placed a general link to your blog. Keep up the good work! Greetings from Cape Town, Pierre

24 01 2008
Mark from Atlanta (13:57:27) :

Shalom from Atlanta,

I just returned from my first visit to Berlin and want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your blog to help in my planning, and generally getting a ‘feel’ for this marvelous city. I’m working on my own very small blog, primarily for family and friends, and I would like to ask your permission to include a link to your site here, if that’s ok with you.

I am not Jewish, but my wife and children are, and I returned from my too-short trip determined to bring them there to see this city for themselves. I can’t wait to go back for a return visit.

28 01 2008
Ken (08:27:23) :

Hi,

I’ve just completed a site aimed at tourists who want to visit Berlin, but with a budget that is as tight as a virgin. With categories like Eat for €2 & Sleep for €15 I hope it can become a useful resource for people who want to visit the city. Feel free to throw a link to it if you find it any good: http://www.dirtcheapberlin.com

I’ve added a link back to your resource. KUTGW.

Ken

6 02 2008
yonit (15:25:24) :

Pierre – thank you very much. Mark – of course you can put a link. And Ken – wonderful site, I’ll check it out more thoroughly soon.

13 02 2008
Mark Evans (13:15:43) :

Shooky and Yonit:

My name is Mark Evans and I’m director of community with PlanetEye. We’re creating an online travel guide that features beautiful travel photos, mapping technology and insider tips from travelers and locals. I’m wondering if you might be interested in an editorial project focused on giving travelers the scoop on what to do in cities other than the major tourist attractions?

Mark
[email protected]

15 02 2008
Lucas (14:56:44) :

Welcome to Berlin Shooky and Yonit!

If you ever want to do a
Please check out our website.

23 06 2008
Paul Willis (09:47:04) :

Hello Shooky and Yonit,

I write for CNN International’s Web site. One of our TV shows, My City My Life, will focus this month on Berlin.

As part of our online content we are looking to get the thoughts of a Berlin-based blogger about the city. I was reading your blog with great interest (very good content and excellent writing) and was wondering if you would like to contribute to the site.

It would basically involve a Q&A about the city. We would also need some photos of the two of you.

Could you contact me as soon as possible at the email address I included.

All the best,

Paul
P.S. I am based in London

1 08 2008
Maw Khaing (09:40:30) :

Hello Shooky and Yonit,

Thank you for your great entries and particularly on No 76 WIlherlmstrasse. I am interested in receiving more information regarding the building. It would be great if you could assist me in this matter.

I work for African Presidential Center at Boston University, (http://www.bu.edu/aparc/) and we have roundtable discussion event for our partner universities and organization every year. Our center’s role is to chronicle Africa’s development, encourage multidisplinary approach to teaching about Africa and establish a forum for African leaders to engage in social, political and economic sectors.

With that said, our center would like to have our next roundtable discussion in Berlin, Germany. (Here is the link to some roundable events we have had http://www.bu.edu/aparc/news/) We would like to have it at No 76 WIlherlmstrasse because this is where Berlin Conference of 1884 took place. This place is significant because from that meeting the partition of Africa took place.

I would like to know if it is possible to hold event in this venue or if there are nearby venues where I can hold a conference at. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

You can reach me at [email protected] and by phone at Ebony Griffin +1 (617) 353 5452

Best,
Maw Maw Khaing
[email protected]

11 08 2008
Vasilena (12:00:02) :

Dear Shooky and Yonit,

Having recently returned from a 2-month-long stay mainly in Duesseldorf (and visiting Berlin for a few days), I wanted to let you know that I too share your affinity for this wonderful and complex city. Having grown up under communism in Sofia, Bulgaria, some of the districts in East Berlin struck too close to home.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but Berlin has an uncanny sense of grittiness to it that translates into a sort of unspoken urban energy that is almost palpable. The communist relics, the transparency of the bundestag, the political graffiti, the holocaust memorial, the derelict tanzhalles, the cafes, and nightlife….not all odes to the best of memories, but they are all incredibly honest in their very real translation of human creativity, emotion, forgiveness, questioning, and memoriam. I was so incredibly moved by my visit, that I decided to use the city as the basis for my architectural thesis…and quite possibly make it my future home!

Keep it up, I love reading this stuff!

Best,
Vasilena

10 10 2008
jeremiah (09:12:49) :

i find Berlin a particularly difficult city, employment is very hard to find and very low paying, I think for tourists its cool and students as well, but for those of us ‘auslanders’ who are here for the long haul because of children or family its extremely difficult. .I have been here a long time 6 years Berlin and 10 years Germany. All you have to do is ask some turks about how they feel- The first years of being somewhere are nice. .but slowly I have turned my back things. I find pervasive German chauvinism and anti immigrant sentiment at all levels of german society- in the office environment, in public transportation and in the apartments . .i feel kinda guilty putting it this way because its not fair to my German friends. . but at that same time berlin is a city of cool meets backwards and they clash against one another. .

31 12 2008
Nick (20:44:49) :

I just visited Berlin for the first time in November. I found your site after searching for more info on ampelmann (my fovorite souvenir from my trip was an ampelmann track jacket). Reading reactions to your site, I was disappointed by the ignorant statement from “Nice American Guy”. Jews can love Berlin, Black Americans can love Mississippi, Catholics can enjoy Northern Ireland. There is quite a bit of history in Berlin. I really enjoyed seeing the sites and experiencing the unique people as they are today. I suppose it is a bit ironic that Berlin is such an incredibly tolerant place these days. I wish the people were a bit more social towards strangers (like me), but everyone I met was very polite. BTW, the most friendly stranger I met was an Israeli waiter working at an Italian restaurant. Go figure? Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.

12 02 2009
kerstin (01:06:07) :

Hi,

I just stumbled across your website and found it very interesting – do you still blog? Are you still living in Berlin?

On my website, I run a series of interviews with people (The WD Interview) and it might be interesting to talk to you about your experiences.

You can contact me at teh address above,

Kind regards,

Kerstin

26 09 2010
Rev Kristian Lewin (13:51:41) :

Dudes,

I’m hoping you can help me with your knowledge of Berlin. On Oranienburger Strasse near the synagogue there is a courtyard containing a tree (you can see it on google earth). Do you have any idea what it symbolises? All I know is that when I was there it had a very powerful feeling and I know the area suffered quite heavily during Kristallnacht. I hope to hear from you soon!

Regards, Rev. Kristian Lewin

Yonit: Sorry for the delay. Unfortunately, we’ve been out of touch with this blog for awhile. I’m not sure what tree you’re talking about. Perhaps you mean the place where Moses Mendelson is buried?

3 12 2010
Edgar Kuijer (14:55:26) :

Vasilena’s comments are very precise, I love her description of Berlin a lot. There is an atmosphere in Berlin that’s hard to explain. It’s certainly not the most beautiful city in the world but somehow it does not matter. My first encounter with Berlin’s identity was also the most shocking experience for me. It involved taking the S-bahn (S7) to Berlin from Potsdam station. Unexpectedly the train entered the Wannsee railwaystation. I had no idea I would pass this infamous, most evil place in the world. The (still original) station is more a WWII monument to me than everything that was intentionally erected in the whole city of Berlin, knowing that at short distance the whole destruction of a race was planned (Wannsee conference). What an entry to this Rome of the twentieth century, I will never forget it.

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