You get used to cobblestones in the plazas and pedestrian malls at the centre of many European cities, but these cobbles in Berlin are different.
A double line of the rough-hewn stones snakes its way around the German capital, seemingly paying little attention to the built environment.
But when you seek out the more famous Berlin landmarks – the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – the penny drops. The snaking cobbles trace the route of the infamous Berlin Wall, built by the East German communist regime to prevent its citizens from voting with their feet.
It’s a subtly effective reminder of the city’s recent, living history. After all, many of us were alive 28 years ago when the Wall came down.
Of course, to an Australian, all European cities reek of history. Some are famous for being the centre of empire, or for their palaces and architecture, others for fostering the arts, sciences, diplomacy and other worthwhile pursuits. Berlin is a contender in all of those fields.
The city’s friendly persona and obvious prosperity also present a bright and confident character that attracts tens of millions of visitors a year.
But Berlin may be unique in Europe as having been the capital of two of the most unsuccessful political regimes ever foisted on its citizens.