Having arrived in Berlin really only expecting what I had learned in my history and political science classes, I rather happily had my expectations completely turned on their head as I wandered the streets around my hotel in Mitte.
Mitte is a bit shy at first, but reveals itself to you slowly. Taking a turn down quiet side streets and following somewhat sketchy hand-drawn signs shouting "KUNST! Sie wissen, dass Sie sehen wollen" (ART! you know you want to see) can pay off handsomely, however. Not knowing I had stumbled upon the alley around one of Berlin's great art communities, I wandered around the alley at Kunsthaus Tacheles following the sounds of welding and loud belly laughs. Opening into a large courtyard filled with welded iron statues, the street gallery sucked me in and I lost time wandering the statues made of re-purposed iron from East Berlin's Soviet-era buildings. I bought a bottle of Beck's from an old man running a street refrigerator for those wandering souls that needed a drink after having their eyes opened.
Sadly, the Kunsthaus is fighting for survival now from developers. These wanders around the pop-up art squats help one to understand that there's a throbbing pulse to Berlin just under the surface of its dark past. Do yourself a favor and help keep the art alive - take a turn down that Mitte side street, visit that Kreuzberg dive bar, and see the communities breathing new life into a city emerging from its heavy history.