It's five o'clock in the morning and somewhere in East Berlin we stumble out into the snow. Behind us the looming mass of the club we've just left, a subsonic thud and steam from vents signalling the pounding music and mass of bodies somewhere below. Eye's adjusting to the twilight we are instantly transported back 30 years. The East Berlin of imagination, the East Berlin that those of us of a certain age remember as a place permanently shrouded in snow, the stillness of suspicion, starkly dead eyed apartment buildings, dead drops and micro films.
Berlin has its ghosts, the visible scars aside, that you only catch in moments like this, when the past peeks through the bright lights and neon of the city and catches you unawares. They are only ghosts, echoes of the past, of course, perceptible to the sleep deprived and inebriated.
Berlin is that rare thing, a city so cool that it doesn't need to act all cool and grown up to prove it. Berliners are very cool, way cooler than Londoners to be honest. They are wry, charming, funny and self confident but not brash, arch or arrogant. There's an energy, a sense of playfulness to the city, a real sense that any thing is possible. As party towns go it takes some beating and it has more genuinely beautiful women per square mile than any other city I've been to.
The beer would take a whole month of posts to catalogue, so suffice to say I was repeatedly astonished, delighted and depressed by the beer I drank over a weekend of high jinks. The food equally was accomplished and self confident. This is a city that wears all its influences on its sleeve. The US influence is ever present, of course, so much so I ate one of the best burgers ever in a multi-lingual burger joint called The Bird on Am Falkplatz. A sausage stand in the optimistically named Lustgarten provided currywurst, bratwurst and gluhwien to battle hangovers and the sub zero temperatures. A turkish kebab shop on Oranienstraße provided an astonishing late night schwarma and the single hottest chilli sauce ever to burn a worse for wear Londoner.
They just need to do something about all that techno.