You’re Still The One – Why I Love Berlin – Berlin, Germany, Europe

After five short days touring the Baltics, I took an easyJet flight from Riga to Berlin. I came back to this city, my favorite in the world, for the fourth time in three years.

I mainly came to see the Love Parade. It is said to be the largest street rave party in the world. Due to some financial issues and problems with the Berlin municipal government, the party was canceled for the past two years. To celebrate its return, they used the slogan "The Love Is Back and Alive".

I checked in at Hotel4Youth in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. I could only get a single room – super peak time (World Cup had just finished and now the Love Parade). I was charged 47 euros rather than the regular 30. It was a nice room, though. I had my own ensuite bathroom and a television.

I took the U2 (underground train) to Potsdamer Platz, then walked to nearby Brandenburg Gate and the Strasse des 17 Juni (June 17th Street), the thoroughfare where the parade was held. Well, it was fun. There were lots of people along Strasse des 17 Juni, drinking and dancing. About 40 floats marched along the Boulevard, from the Brandenburg Gate to somewhere near Siegessaule, also called Victory Column.

Each float had a DJ spinning dance music, many dancers were twisting and grinding on the float. I heard internationally acclaimed DJ, Paul van Dyk, (originally from Berlin) and Tiesto were on the floats, but I was not able to identify them. People were clad in their national flags (there seemed to be a huge Polish crowd), moved and danced next to the floats. Some were quite drunk. Nobody got violent or caused disorder, everybody was having great time.

I left after two hours, getting too crowded, planned to return later that night. Walking away from Siegessaule towards Nollendorf Platz, I accidentally ran into a street fair. It was not related to the Love Parade, it was the Christopher Street Day celebration. Several stages around street corners were set up where singers performed and DJs played dance music from different eras. There was food and drinks from all over the world. What a fun-filled day.

Berlin is a party capital and a multicultural metropolis. The World Cup made that more evident. Even after several visits, Berlin still holds pleasant surprises for me. There are endless parties and cultural activities, like New York City, with a lower price tag, cleaner streets and more disciplined crowds.

Almost all the countries I traveled to were former communist countries. Before Berlin, the Western Balkans and the Baltics; after Berlin, Poland, Ukraine and the Eastern Balkans. Since Berlin had been separated by the wall, it seemed an appropriate middle point for this trip. It is also a great symbol of how things change. Berlin is the real center of the new, integrated Europe. I will be back for another visit soon – my favorite city in the world.

Saricie Kuo is a college professor and public health researcher from Taiwan. He is also a part-time novelist and film critic. He took most of 2006 off from his career and traveled in Europe and South America. He made a wish when he was 18: to visit more than 100 countries before he turns 40. Currently in his mid-30's, Mr. Kuo is glad he has only 10 countries left to reach his goal.

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