Berlin: This City is Under Construction

“Damn cranes,” I spit as I stare through the viewfinder of my camera.  “The bastards are everywhere.  Worse than tourists; at least tourists get out of your shot if you yell at them.”

I stare blankly towards a skyline of cranes stacked upon cranes.  One after another, they pierce the sky like pillars of steel forest in the heart of an urban jungle.  They stretch their arms into nearly every photo I attempt to frame and every view I attempt to be awed by.  Sure it’s cool, just like the 4 billion hipsters who have visited this city before me have said, but Berlin is under construction.

Berlin Construction

I feel like I’m entering a webpage with bits and pieces of code hanging around the edges of every image; like nearly every link I click returns a 404 error. I can’t help but be a little bit frustrated by it.  Proof that even if they have nothing to do with your actual experience, poor aesthetics can tear at your sense of organization. But there’s got to be more to Berlin than construction.

Berlin Construction

Among the travel community, people speak so highly of Berlin.  In fact, it’s the European base for many on the continent, and it’s easy to see why.  When you look beyond the cranes, there is a nice calm vibe to the city.  Nothing really seems rushed here, aside from the ambulances which may have the loudest speakers I’ve ever heard, and the cyclists that refuse to use the roads.

Berlin Construction, Mauer Park

But for me, the most obvious reason it seems people love Berlin is because it is such an open city.  People from all over the world, and from all walks of life, are welcomed in the capital of Germany.  There doesn’t seem to be that same judgmental mood exhibited in other cities. Sure, there is a plethora of activity and sights in Berlin, but it’s that feeling that you’re not a foreigner in the city that I imagine makes people stay.

Berlin Construction

There’s such diversity in Berlin too.  In the museum quarter, tourists with cameras slung casually over their shoulders.  At the train station, business men and women pace quickly with briefcases in their hands.  In the parks, hippies sit and strum acoustic guitars they don’t know how to play, hipsters sit circled in deep conversation, and a man wearing a scuba outfit from the 60s chews on a hotdog.  The architecture too is varied, and not even from on area to the next.  A perfectly modern building can stand side by side with a derelict building that hasn’t seen repairs since the fall of the wall.  I guess that’s where the construction comes in.

Scuba Man, Berlin

For a travel photographer with just 4 days, like myself, I was impressed by the scenes of the city.  I found classed culture on museum island and near the Brandenburg Gate.  But there was also a strong human aspect to the scenes in places like Mauer Park and the old airport. But of course, in every scene there is a crane.  And within any earshot there is a jackhammer smashing away at the cement.  Along any road, there is a barrier forcing you to choose a new sidewalk.

Berlin Construction

Truth is, the amount of construction in Berlin seems unreal.  And to my traveller’s eye, I don’t want to see scaffolding on buildings or cranes above them.  I might live in a Utopian world, but I don’t ever want to see as much construction as exists in Berlin.

Sure, Berlin is a cool city, but if someone could please go ahead and let me know when they’re finished building it, that would be great.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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3 Comments

  1. The cranes sum up my love for the city! Unlike so many places, where you look at ‘history’ in the form of buildings and artwork, in Berlin it feels like its history is still being created. Unfortunately (for you, not so much for me) I think Berlin will never be ‘finished’!

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    • nice way of looking at it Caitlyn!

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  2. Recently I just recognized that By myself when I tried to make some shots. But you should have been in Berlin during the 90ies right after reunification. There where definitely more cranes than buildings.

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