By VARDHAN KONDVIKAR, Editor, Lonely Planet Magazine India
Cities are great reinventors… They change you, certainly, but also keep changing, constantly waxing and waning and being accused of dying as you speak and of being in the throes of a renaissance, often at the same time. They grow at an immense pace, changing face faster than a mink-wearing golddigger.
A good example is Berlin, which went very rapidly from small capital to imperial city to backwater to Hitler’s dream of a ‘world capital’ (and you should read the chilling Fatherland to see what a tacky mess he would have made of it) to bombed-out hulk to spy-infested centre of Cold War intrigue, in half a century. And in the years since the Wall came down, it has, somewhat unexpectedly, ditched its seriousness and turned into a total party animal: the new, lovable Berlin is fun, colourful, artsy and more than a little crazy, with plenty of quirky attractions on offer, a great next step for city-lovers who’ve been to London, Amsterdam and Paris.
The problem with cities, though, is that they don’t really have time to let you find your way around: you either need a friendly local, or a very good tour – so we’ve listed some of the best city tours we’ve tried, from a drunken (but literary, mind you) bar hop in Dublin to an Art Deco tour of Miami to a night-time tour of Ahmedabad’s smaller streets. We’ve also gone beyond the usual ‘big is great’ way of labelling cities and looked at ‘Tier-II’ cities – Pune, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Shillong – which might not be enormous, but have just as much spirit (and endearing oddness) as the metros.
And in case you want to take things a little more slowly, our bonus feature is on whisky in Scotland, so settle down in your favourite armchair with a dram, and smell the peat on the pages.