There is an incessant blurring-together of various things, and this is good, this is Berlin, and Berlin is outstanding.” So proclaimed Robert Walser in one of his many articles written during his stay in that German metropolis at the beginning of the twentieth century. That “blurring-together of various things” is as true now as it was then. Berlin remains a hodgepodge of styles and values, a centralized union of disparate voices drawn to the capital from the country’s other federal states or beyond, both a compromise between Prussian fastidiousness and unbuttoned liberality.

What hasn’t entirely blurred, even twenty-five years after the fall of the Wall, is Berlin’s East–West divide—not physically, of course, but mentally. The city may now be unified, but many of its formerly separated citizens still feel marked differences among one another in culture and outlook...


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