The City of Freedom and the Queen of Self-expression

In my previous blog post, I wrote about Barcelona and associating it with being a golden city to Latin superstar Shakira’s 2016 album, El Dorado. In this post, I’m going to associate a famous German city known for its historical significance in political power and later on, being an international symbol of freedom , to an international pop superstar who, since her debut, taught us multiple ways of positively expressing ourselves.

Summer 2018 was indeed a time when I really engaged in celebrating music in large crowds. I had back-to-back months visiting back-to-back cities mainly to attend back-to-back concerts. At that point in time, I have visited my family in Germany and we have been to a lot of cities, villages and landmarks. But I have never been to the German capital until August of that year. The reason my friends & I went to visit Berlin was much less due to its attractions but more because we chose the city to attend Britney Spears’ concert. But well, there’s always something new to experience, see and learn by visiting a new place, right? Also, what a way to finally check what’s in store in the German capital at this time…it’s about time.

When I imagine of Germany, the quickest images that come into my mind would be those wooden houses found in the villages of Franconia and south-central Germany, those majestic castles in Alpine Bavaria that inspired the castles in our favorite Disney movies (let alone the Disney icon itself), or those astonishing Gothic cathedrals that one would find along the Rhine river. None of those make Berlin the grand capital city that it is now. But I remember when I was younger and when I got so hooked in reading about European history that I really found Berlin’s rise from a collection of small towns into the seat of political power of several middle-power European states such as the Margraviate of Brandenburg and early Prussia before it eventually became the capital of the Prussian Empire, the North German Confederation and finally, the united German Empire before settling as the capital of modern-day democratic Germany as inspirational. Today, it contains several monuments and parks celebrating victory, independence and freedom.

A quick fun fact was that my friends & I actually had a lot of drinks the night before our flight to Berlin such that on the day of the flight (we need to fly from Malta around 7:30 A.M.), one of my friends had to go to my flat to wake me up 35 minutes before the flight. Oh my gosh! The next 30 minutes was just a collection of quick and successive prayers, unfolded clothes into the backpack, over-speeding cab driving, and excessive sweating while running passed through airport security checks. If you think that was enough for the setbacks before arriving to Germany and watching our concert, think again. It happened that two planes had to take off around almost the same time – 1 to Berlin and the other to Warsaw. Guess what – I initially ended up settling inside the plane to Warsaw before the flight attendant noticed my ticket to have taken the other plane. Facepalm!!! jaja…more sweat dripped through my head until I finally joined my friends on the other plane. A couple of hours nap inflight and finally, we arrived to Germany.

For being the capital and largest city of an influential European country, I was actually impressed how Berlin scattered its landmarks across its space. It also has a neighborhood north to the Alexanderplatz that is quite chic and cozy especially for young adults and suitable for weekend meet-ups and group dinners. To the west of the Brandenburg gate, one would find a vast swathe of park perfect for cycling, strolling, physical workout, and easy eating. It turned out to be one of my most laid back trips that year.

Further east and south of Alexanderplatz, we explored a couple of parts in districts which were once part of the capital of former East Germany before it got reunited with West Germany around 30 years ago. Upon entering this part, one can actually distinguish which sections were part of which former German state. The eastern lines of the city metro still has feels of what it was like riding through that part of the city 3 decades ago. It was actually so surreal. Then we visited parts of the Berlin Wall which are now filled with meaningful graffiti highlighting 1990s New World Order concepts such as freedom, tolerance, equality, and going green. Finally, we also visited the Berlin memorial for the Jew victims of the Second World War. Not much explanations found in the vicinity but the structures of differing elevations and the atmosphere are all you need to feel, internalize and understand how it was for those people during wartime. This is always what I love about traveling – it gives me all the essential feelings when I get one with the architecture, the culture, the history and the lessons that the past teaches us.

To complete that weekend and of course, to accomplish what we came to Berlin for, we spent our last evening in the city to attend Britney’s concert. Second fun fact here is that I am unapologetically a huge fan of Britney since 1998. On one hand, I love her ever-evolving catalogue of songs – each bringing me a special segment of my life story and each giving me a specific vibe depending on my mood; but on the other hand, I love her personality as well – the humility, the down-to-earth-ness, and the resilience. Even if she is no longer that much active creating new material now, it’s really how easily relatable her earlier discography is to my life and the staying power of her personality and star that keeps me drawn into her. Whether she sings at the studio, dances on stage or simply lip-synching at segments of her show, she’s just one of those superstars that can get away because she has that IT factor, that star presence… that kind of entertainment that would still wow you regardless. The concert was no different from my expectations – die-hard fans like me completely filled the arena, screaming at every intro in her set list, singing along to almost every line to her lyrics. It’s like all of us who attended the concert had our spot to fill to make her concert that spectacle that it is. There’s no denying the nostalgia brought by her songs when she was younger, the adrenaline rush brought by her songs in the 2000s – 2010s and the contentment every fan who was there had after finishing the concert. Watching her live fulfilled me as a die-hard fan. It gave me a special sense of freedom – that freedom that makes you say, “I can fly further to the next chapter of being a fan.” We definitely went back to our hotel with satisfied smiles on our faces.

That was indeed a quick but fruitful trip to Berlin but my friends & I will always give that a special place in our hearts. The city, the architecture, the history, the experience with Britney. Truly, that weekend was a memory of freedom and self-expression. I’m quite sure if I’m given another chance to visit Berlin and will come across some of the same avenues we walked through, it’s like tapping off chips of memory from these trip.