As it turns out, Berlin, MD is exactly what it claims to be
On the whole, I tend to be skeptical when faced with self-appointed titles. As my family’s car sped past the sign announcing Berlin, Maryland as “The Coolest Small Town In America,” I felt the usual inner cynicism.
“Says who?” I asked, eight years of New York living coming out in snarky undertones.
To be clear, I don’t mind a “Voted as…” or “Best of…” mention, but merely announcing yourself as “the COOLEST”?
Reader, I ate my words the very next day.
My family is spread out across the country, and we usually use the twelve days of Christmas (December 25-January 6) as our chance to get together. This year, my parents, sister and my boyfriend all met up in Maryland, and decided to road trip for a quick stay in Ocean City. We walked on the beach, took in the views sans the usual summer crowds, and got hooked on an excellent local restaurant. (Seriously, some of the BEST scallops, shrimp and grits, and food in general here). On our way back, we took a detour to stop in Berlin.
The drive into Berlin (BURR-lehn) is flat, with a two lane road flanked by older houses. This slowly gives way to stately Victorians as the road approaches the town. Once on Main Street, however, the town turns into a full-on Stars Hollow experience — almost every shop is adorable, historical, and interesting. There were several cafe possibilities, but we opted for Baked, a cafe and bakery. The inside was cute and funky, and the walls had local artwork available for sale. As we ate our powerbar (chocolate, oats, honey and peanut butter; a definite winner) and cupcake bread pudding (yes), we mulled over Berlin’s history.
It seemed an odd placement for a town — despite its age, it wasn’t located advantageously. There was no railroad or river nearby, and it was too far from the ocean to be a port town. As it turned out, the ocean was the exact reason it was there. Berlin developed as a rest stop for travelers on their way to places like Ocean City.
(Or in our case, from it).
We had the conveniences of modern travel, so there was no need for us to stay at The Atlantic Hotel. Still, peeking into the ornate hotel located in the middle of Main Street felt like stepping back in time — open since 1895, the interior was styled in Victorian-era charm. (As was the outside…though there were electric heating blankets placed on all the rocking chairs).
As much as we all wished to stay, the open road called. We found a few more treasures in an antiques market, looked into the natural remedies store, and piled back into the car.
“You know,” I said, as my mother asked my father to snap pictures of the houses out of the car window for a relative. “I think that might be the coolest small town in America.”