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“Why is Berlin so…” Answering the most commonly searched questions

Why is Berlin so ugly? Why is it so weird? We answer the most searched questions on Berlin - and a baffling one about Ireland.

We wondered what the most searched questions about Berlin were. Photo: IMAGO/Funke Foto Services

We asked Soovle, a search engine for search engines, to give us the most commonly asked questions about Berlin and the results ranged from the depressed to the bizarre. So, what are your most common questions about the Hauptstadt?

Why is Berlin so ugly?

East Berlin modernism: the quintessential “ugly” city? Photo: IMAGO/YAY Images

You hear this one a lot from a Bavarian on a trip to the capital or an American tourist used to American-style suburbs. Even some Berliners might take pride in the “fashionable ugliness” of the city. That said, Berlin is anything but an ugly city. The reputation is generally based on pretty conservative response to modern architecture. From the 1920s Bauhaus designs to the later experiments in modernism and postmodernism, Berlin long been ready to try out new ways of designing our living space (though there’s quite a bit of neoclassical and baroque stuff too).

Too often, people expect Berlin to be either a quaint and charming European capital, like Prague, and are dismayed to find brutalism, postmodernism and all the variety on display. For any serious student of architecture, urban planning, gardening, or public arts, Berlin is full of wonders Here are some examples of Berlin’s endlessly variable architecture:

Berlin’s 1920s experimentation in modernist mass-housing are now a UNESCO world heritage site. Photo: IMAGO/Jürgen Ritter
The Charlottenburg Palace is exemplary of Berlin’s eighteenth century love of French architecture and landscaping. Photo: IMAGO/Jürgen Ritter
Berlin’s St. Nikolai-Kirche is the oldest church in Berlin – its construction began in 1230! Photo: IMAGO/age photo stock

Why is Berlin so cheap?

In the chaos of the 1980s and 1990s, squatting was common in Berlin. Today, only a few squats remain. Photo: IMAGO/IPON

Berlin’s status as a “cheap city” is definitely in peril. Rents have been skyrocketing in recent years, and the idea of Berlin being a cheap place to live might be obsolete in the relative near future – but let’s hope not.

That said, Berlin has been a cheap place to live, historically – and even free, if you were willing to squat. Unlike most all other European capitals, Berlin is far from being the richest city in Germany.

Berlin has been a cheap place to live, historically – and even free, if you were willing to squat

So why is Berlin cheap? Short answer: history. Berlin had a population of over four million in the 1930s – and yet it still hasn’t recovered that level of population, nearly one hundred years on. There was the devastation of WWII, division during the Cold War, and the chaos of immediate reunification in the 1990s. But now the population is growing again – and rents are rising with it.

Why is Berlin so popular?

Berlin’s Museum Island compares favourably with the Louvre. Photo: IMAGO/Panthermedia

Berlin is the most visited city in Germany. That said, it’s not among the top ten most visited cities in Europe, and maintains a kind of cool detachment from the usual tourism powerhouses like Paris, Rome and London.

For decades, Berlin has been known for its nightlife. Photo: IMAGO/David Heerde

One area where Berlin gets a lots of attention, though, is for techno music. Since the 1990s, Berlin’s nightlife is unmatched. But the best reason to love Berlin might be simply how implausible it is. Look at the last 100 years of its history – it’s a wonder, really, that anyone still lives in this city today. The destruction, chaos and division haven’t been able to crush the spirit of the city, which David Bowie once famously called “the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine”.

Why is Berlin so close to Poland?

A map showing the German borders just prior to WWI. Photo: IMAGO/Heritage Images

Well, to be fair, it used to be further away…

the German Empire once extended well into what is today Poland

The German Empire once extended well into what is today Poland. When Germany unified around Bismarck’s Prussia in 1871, much of Prussia’s land was east of the Oder and Neiße Rivers and Poland was merely a region of the Russian Empire. After Russia and Germany played tug-of-war with Poland for a half-century, the end of WWII finally birthed an independent Polish state. The conditions of surrender after the war required Germany to cede everything East of the Oder and Neiße Rivers (now known as the oder-Neiße Line) to the newly independent Poland. Berlin is close to these rivers; thus, Berlin is close to Poland.

Why is Berlin so weird?

Berlin’s expansive graffiti is known worldwide. Photo: IMAGO/Jürgen Ritter

Berlin has a reputation for unconventionality. Today, less than half of the people who reside in Berlin were born and raised here. This cosmopolitan, modern city is a natural magnet for artists, philosophers and beatniks from around the world to gather in.

Berlin’s famous Currywurst. Photo: IMAGO/Schoening

It’s not just the people that make Berlin weird – the city itself is full of weirdness. The hat-wearing Ampelmännchen on the crosswalks? Weird. People going to kinky dance parties at 3 in the morning? Strange. The lack of a true city centre? Definitely weird. Putting ketchup and curry powder on a sausage? Downright insane – and delicious.

Why is Berlin so cold?

A group of tourists in Berlin take on a storm. Photo: IMAGO/Seeliger

Though you probably won’t find many people from Kyiv or Helsinki asking this question, Berlin’s winters can be tough. It isn’t exactly the cold, but the darkness and grey skies that have us yearning for those long summer evenings. It’s getting less cold everywhere, though (and that might be something we need to worry about).

Bonus: Is Berlin in Ireland?

There are plenty of Irish Pubs in Berlin. Photo: IMAGO/Rolf Kremming

To be honest, this one stumped us a bit. One of the most commonly asked questions on Answers.com, according to Soovle, asked if Berlin was part of Ireland. Is this something you’re worried about? If so, let’s finally clear things up:

Berlin is not in Ireland. However, on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, it might feel a little closer.