Berlin has been one of my favourite cities for many years.
My first visit was as a schoolboy, not long after the wall came down, and I have been fortunate enough to return regularly, in a professional capacity, throughout the intervening years.
For most of those engagements, I rented digs in the vicinity of wherever I happened to be performing, but, in recent years, I have chosen to wander further afield. The first time I did so was a purely practical decision. My wife was studying German at the Goethe Institute at the same time, and we wanted to find somewhere suitable for both our commutes – a 30-minute walk for her, and a 30-minute journey by U-Bahn for me.
Always a big fan of railways and trains as a boy, it’s probably not surprising that I quickly fell in love with Berlin’s somewhat eclectic underground system.
Part London Tube, Part Moscow Metro, part Chicago L, the U-Bahn system is a by-product of the extra-ordinary modern history of this city. A five-minute ride can see you go from underground to overground and back, passing through a vast array of station design and architecture, from the greenhouse-like elevated stations of Bülowstraße and Nollendorfplatz to the subterranean darkness of Mohrenstraße, with its red-marble cladding, rumoured (inaccurately, as it turns out) to have been recycled from the ruins of the Reich Chancellery which once stood nearby.
Like the rest of Berlin, graffiti is everywhere. In fact, some of the trains even sport liveries which mimic the colourful wall-art to be found wherever you look.
Best of all, it’s a great place for people watching. Since getting back into photography, I have found myself seeking out subjects which are free from human interaction. Rome, with its endless coachloads of tourists, presented a real challenge in that regard. But here in Berlin, I have more regularly started to involve people in my pictures, as it seems clearer to me with every passing day that is the people of Berlin who make it what it is.
Cheaper, more reliable, and considerably less stressy than the London and New York underground systems, I find myself actually looking forward to my daily jaunt to work.