Berlin vs. Prague

Ever since my trip to Berlin this weekend I have been thinking and wondering about the difference between cities. It was amazing to me how different Berlin felt from Prague and as I started thinking about it how different Germany and German’s are from Czech’s and the Czech Republic. It really is amazing how very different two neighbors can be.

So, how are the two cities different? In what ways is Berlin different from Prague? Well, it’s hard to explain the difference in words. Really it’s more of a different feel to each city. Berlin (at least the parts of Berlin we were in – mostly Eastern Berlin) felt open, creative, social, and new. The sidewalks on the streets were wide and shops, as well as restaurants, often pulled their goods out onto the sidewalks. It was like each shop and each restaurant had a front porch where people could mingle and take a quick look without committing to go inside. It gave the whole place a very welcoming feel. There were also a lot of parks and trees that served as just one more social space for people to hang out in and be together. And people were out – it was a pretty cold weekend when we were there but we still saw tons of people sitting out at tables on the sidewalks, shopping in the shops, and chatting with one another at the parks. Prague isn’t really like that.

So, what makes two cities that have experienced similar things and are so close in proximity so vastly different from one another? That is the question that many of us women kept asking over the weekend and after it. In the end we realized that even though it feels like Prague and Berlin are close to each other and had similar experiences in actuality their experiences were very different and those differences shaped the differences that can now be seen in these cities.

For example, both cities were under Nazi rule during WWII, but Berlin was bombed numerous times until there was literally not much left while Prague was only bombed once on accident. Because of that Prague lives constantly surrounded and immersed in its varied and colorful history. Few major European cities are so well preserved and it is a blessing that the people of Prague can see so much of their history in their buildings. But, it is also a curse, because where Berlin was able to recreate itself after the war, Prague still seems to carry around a lot of luggage from the past.

Another thing that we noticed was that even though East Berlin was also under communism they probably had a very different experience of communism than Prague did. There are so many things about Prague and about the people of Prague that can still be directly linked back to communism. The chains of communism may have been removed, but in many ways the city still isn’t free of those shackles even though they are making progress. Berlin didn’t feel that way as much. Berlin felt free. Eastern Berlin was so close to the west that when communism fell the west just rushed right in. Prague may be the “gateway between east and west” but in many ways it was very removed from the west during communism and it seems like it’s going to take much longer for it to recover from that oppression.

Then there are just the differences in the people and how that affects the cities themselves. German’s are very different from Czech’s and they approach problems and issues very differently.

The more I travel the more I believe that each city has a personality all its own. It’s fascinating to me how different two cities can be and the personas that different cities take on over time. There are so many things that influence the feel and attitudes of a city and so many things that come together to make a city what it is. And it seems very difficult to change a city – not impossible – but difficult. It takes a long time for a city to shake off an old persona and create a new one. It’s really interesting to me.

So, those are just some of my random thoughts on Berlin vs. Prague.

Rejoicing in the journey - Beth Stedman

Photograph by Beth Stedman