Today Dr. Rogers and I met up at Potsdammer Platz at 9 a.m. to explore western Berlin. I showed him around Potsdammer Platz in a prevailing mist-rain, which we tried to sit out in Sony Center after walking around some. Finally we just left to go to the Ku’damm area, but fortunately the drizzle let up not long after we got there.
I continued to show him around the sites that I’ve already been to, and we went into both the old and new sections of the Gedächtniskirche to see what it was/is like inside. It is one of the few places that I’ve been to that feels really touristy. By that point it was nearing lunch, so Dr. Rogers and I sat down for a drink (and I had a currywurst) at a wurst stand outside the Zoologisher Garten Bahnhof area.
Dr. Rogers asked me if I thought I was getting what I needed out of the trip, and I told him I thought so, but he wasn’t so sold on all of it. Based on his other trips and studies in Europe (and because of my lack of experience in other European cities) he explained that his first impression of Berlin is that it isn’t all that international like a New York, L.A., or Chicago. Sure, it has a large amount of international retail stores and restaurants, a little bit of global culture and some international tourists (not nearly as many as expected this year) but so does nearly every major capital city, including D.C., London, and Paris. He also pointed out that these same capital cities (and other major European cities) also have international business headquarters and plenty of cultural arts just like Berlin.
This is all makes sense, and wasn’t even something I recognized without knowing what other capital cities are like. I did suggest that perhaps tourism is down this summer because of economic reasons, and it is possible that Berlin has become less exciting of a tourist destination than say the exciting early reunification days of the 1990s. It may be, for example, that British tourists who once considered Berlin an exotic tourist destination of the emerging eastern Europe now consider it less edgy and head to Romania (Bucharest was Dr. Rogers’s example) or the Czech Republic instead. That doesn’t make Berlin a has-been, just more in line with the norm. And, even if the down-tourism-year scenario is correct, it still doesn’t make Berlin very different from other major places; again, just closer to normal than it used to be.
My work isn’t all for naught, of course, with this new information. My field work is just revealing that my hypothesis was a bit off but still salvageable. My paper can still show the importance of Berlin in the E.U. and particularly to Germans (as most of the tourists we’ve seen have either been high school age or old retired Germans.) It can also show how successfully they’ve reunited in a short time. Plenty (practically all) of the elements of my research are still useful to my work. This is precisely why I had to do fieldwork here, to gain a real feel for Berlin without the bias of book and article writers.
After our sit we headed out to explore Charlottenburg, which is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Berlin. We both agreed that we would want to live here if we had to choose what district of Berlin in which to live. We walked around the Schloss Charlottenburg – practically empty today as compared to overflowing with tourists last year – and saw the gardens and took some pictures and then decided to take a U-bahn trip to Spandau. Spandau is far west Berlin, though it was originally a city unto itself and is older than Berlin. It still retains its own feel and doesn’t really fit into the rest of Berlin, as it is more traditionally German. It was a nice visit and we had a nice supper at a restaurant next to their large church, but it wasn’t really of much importance to my paper.
Now I am quite tired and have even more photos (100+) to go through. It is supposed to be very rainy (thunderstorm) conditions tomorrow, so I’m going to stay in and sleep and work through photos instead of getting out and about.
Hope everyone is doing well!