Berlin was and is a multilingual city, an international city – ever since the Prussian kings with their Tolerance Edict brought the Huguenots to the city, giving the Prussian town a French flair. People with an eye for such things can still feel it today. And in Jägerstrasse – on the wall of a red-brick building which today is home to one of Berlin’s leading gourmet restaurants – there is a plaque commemorating the place where the Jewish intellectual Rahel Varnhagen once held her famous salon. Berlin was a city of German-Jewish culture, a city of pre-feminism.
And despite its proverbial gruffness the city has remained tolerant until the present. Berlin is close to the East, the Polish border is not far, and in January and February you can feel the icy continental winds that blow from the depths of Russia. This climate could prompt the city to become a bridge between East and West: a highly promising prospect for a city, once the EU’s eastward enlargement has become established as a social reality. Berlin is on the right track – but still has a long way to go before it reaches its destination.