During my vacation I travel in Europe, mostly in Germany where my family lives. No wonder I compare the cities I visit. Berlin appears to be relatively quiet and spacious. Old shabby buildings―the broken Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in downtown Ku’damm being the symbol of Berlin’s checkered history―remain standing. Only when you step inside can you appreciate the real value of their historical importance. As there are no glitzy sign boards or tourist posts, it is almost impossible to discern if they are really worth visiting. Who would believe such an unmarked train station like Nollendorfstrasse's contains various hidden stories to tell? Aside from Christopher Isherwood's Berlin stories, one of them adapted into the film and musical Cabaret, Berlin is a treasure trove of history which would only reveal itself when you make an effort to uncover it.
London is far more fast-paced and disorienting. Freshly arrived from Berlin, you would find a lot of differences in this truly cosmopolitan city where you would see people of more diverse racial backgrounds on the street and public transport. Sometimes, you would wonder if you are really in the capital of the former British empire, not least because on some occasions all the passengers surrounding you are colored in the Tube, or their subway. Apart from lower-placed urinals in the toilet and much fewer canine companions in public, you would also appreciate the free use of toilet there, unlike in Germany where you are supposed to pay 0.5 to 1 euro each time you use it. And free drinking water in London's restaurants might appease your anxiety about sky-high food prices, just a little.
What really distinguishes the two cities is the government's way of existing, especially in the streets. The hands of government are clearly visible in London, boosting your sense of security. Friendly British policemen nicknamed "Bobbies" are always present in key tourist places, ready to help map-carrying perplexed travelers from all around the world. Because of my experience in Berlin, however, I sometimes felt like I have become a child again who needs constant care and monitoring. In Berlin, the presence of police or security staff is seldom felt. Police are not as kind. It means you have to be more responsible for your own safety and well-being once you arrive there. Only basic information is provided, and the traces of government like warning posts in public places are almost zero. So you might feel lost or helpless when you have lost your bearings on the street. But you will come to understand that you have to prepare well and act responsibly in accordance with more freedom given.
Given my experience in both cities, I believe the ideal form of governance should be neither nanny nor too hands-off. I guess it's somewhere between the two. After all, both cities show that what really matters is how members of society agree to run it. Police can be friendly like tourist guides as in Britain, while they can be invisibly functioning like in Berlin. If members of society choose to be agents of change, not slaves to the system, they can make a better functioning society.