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That we were even in Berlin for a three-day city break gives the lie to the myth of German efficiency. My wife had been invited to tutor a training session for a group of German social workers. The date was agreed; the arrangements had been made. We had decided to extend the visit: I would come along and carry the bags; we would add on an extra couple of days to sight-see; neither of us had ever been to Berlin before although it had long been on our list. As it turned out, the German organiser completely screwed up; he had to rearrange the dates and hadn't even bothered to consult my wife to see if she was available (she wasn't)! So, as it was their mistake, they agreed to cover our visit, which would now be just a leisure break. Travel ~~~~ We flew with Easyjet. Very cheap flights, booked well in advance, flying into Schoenfeld airport, south of the city. I won't tell you how to get into the city from there (it was quite easy) as Schoenfeld closes in June 2012 so, in future, you will fly into somewhere else. Getting about ~~~~~~~~ Berlin does a tourists travel ticket (Berlin Welcome Card) that covers buses and trains. Like London travel passes they cover various zones, three (A, B & C). A & B cover the city and outskirts whilst C covers the suburbs, such as Potsdam. We bought the ABC one. The 72 hour one costs just over Euro25. Good value for money I reckon. It also gets you discounts on various attractions. Berlin has a very good train and tram system. The trains are generally the U (Underground) services, like London's Tube, and S services, which are the overground lines. There are also R (Regional) services which mostly consist of the double-decker trains you may have seen. Different services can run on the same lines though, just as in London but the trains look the same so you have to know which number service you need and in which direction you want to go. Staying in the City ~~~~~~~~~~~ We had booked into the Hotel Kubrat on Leipziger Str, right by the Stadtmitte U (U2 and U6 lines) station, recommended to us by our hosts. I will do a separate review. This hotel could scarcely be better located: it's just in what was the old Russian-occupied East Berlin part of the city; the World-famous Checkpoint Charlie is just around the corner on Freidrich Str, just 200m away; Unter den Linden, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag are no more that a 30min stroll away; there is a superb selection of restaurants on the doorstep in the Gendarmenmarkt district. Day 1 (Saturday) - Berlin on foot ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Overcast with occasional sun and a biting cold wind. I always say that if you want to discover a city, the only way to do it is on foot. So, we set out heading west along Leipziger Str, towards Potsdamer Plz. This area has been drastically rebuilt from the rubble of the war. The main attraction here was a new shopping mall. The shops don't open until 10am but stay open as late as 9pm. My wife was in heaven when she discovered Deichmann's shoe store, selling a huge range of shoes at unbelievable prices, even cheaper than Brantano but far better quality than Shoe Zone. She showed remarkable restraint in only buying two pairs. We then headed towards the city's main park - Tiergarten. This is quite close to Potsdamer Plz and soon we were walking in amongst the trees, which provided welcome relief from the wind. This park is much more like a wood rather than the sort of park to which we are used in London. Utterly delightful though and the more so when you see the pictures of the total destruction it suffered in the war. We wandered across it, stopping to watch the birds on the various waterways that cross the park, and to take pictures. This early in the year there wasn't a lot of colour, other than a few rhododendrons and a few planted out flower beds. I would expect that to change come summer. Spotted some black and grey crows-sized birds I'd never seen before. Turned out to be Hooded Crows. We headed to the opposite corner where was advertised the "Englisher Garten". As the map suggested that there was a café nearby, that seemed as good a destination as anywhere. As it turned out, the garden was somewhat of a disappointment but the café was definitely welcome. We enjoyed a couple of very tasty wheat beers (Maisel's) which went down a treat. We headed back eastwards through the park towards the Brandenburg Gate and just as we arrived, turned left the 100m or so northwards to see the Reichstag building. I understand that you can visit but we didn't really have time. Shame really because, from outside, you don't get a good appreciation of the scale of Norman Foster's glass dome, as it's sat right in the middle of the building and so mostly obscured. If you walk back a fair distance on the lawns facing the grand entrance, you get something of a feel for it. It was here we heard a German brass band and so wandered across. It was then that we discovered that Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich were in town for the German Cup Final and that was one of the supporters' bands. For the record, Dortmund won. The fans were boisterous but well-behaved. The fans were mostly congregating around the Brandenburg Gate, having their pictures taken with the various entertainers, dressed up in military uniforms. This is the start of Unter den Linden and was the most famous (after Checkpoint Charlie) dividing line between East and West Berlin, the gate itself being entirely in the Russian zone. Unter den Linden is a very wide boulevard with lots of souvenir shops and restaurants along its entire length. I wouldn't say that the architecture is interesting: much seems to have been rebuilt after the war to an "expedient" design. Having been in the Russian zone, you might even call it utilitarian. We did stop at a German restaurant (Nanteck Altberliner) for some lunch and had a very enjoyable meal for an extraordinarily good price of Euro30, including drinks! From here we headed up towards Alexander Plz where stands the famous radio tower, but we promised ourselves a visit to that for another day. Being not far from our starting place, we headed, somewhat foot-weary back to our hotel. Not wanting (or able) to walk far, we wandered up Fredrich Str to find a restaurant for an evening meal, and came across Bocca di Bacco, an Italian restaurant. It looked nice but only rated 99th out of 170 on Tripadvisor (!) but we decided to give it a try anyway. No complaints about the food but the service was decidedly off-hand. Clearly they have the idea that maybe we mere tourists were beneath them. The waiter obviously took one look at my watch and decided I was good for a Euro300 wine. Nose severely put out of joint when I ordered something much cheaper! At nearly Euro160, the meal wasn't even cheap overall; I don't mind paying if the experience is good; the tip I left was probably less than they were expecting! Day 2 (Sunday) - Potsdam ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Grey and still a biting wind! We reached Potsdam in around an hour by a combination of U and S trains. A quite easy journey; Potsdam is about as easy to reach from central Berlin as Windsor is from Central London. The Potsdam station exit at one side takes you to the tram and bus station and on the other side to the coach park where the tourist buses depart. We wanted to go and see the Sans Souci palaces, which is on the route of the Potsdam City Tour bus, one of the usual jump on/jump off tourist buses you find in most cities. What we hadn't realised was that you can't buy a ticket on the bus itself and there was no one obviously selling tickets anywhere. I the end we found a guy on the public transport side of the station. Tickets cost Euro12 with your discount. The bus covers all of the famous locations in Potsdam, including the Schloss Cecilienhof, where the famous Potsdam Conference was held, which divided up Europe between Russia and the Allies and which ushered in the Cold War which culminated in the building by the Russians of the Berlin Wall. You even get to ride through what was the KGB enclave, from which Russia did much of its spying on the West and where U2 spy plane pilot, Gary Powers, was held after his plane was shot down and before he was exchanged for KGB spy, Col Fisher, on the nearby Glienicke Bridge. The complete ride takes around 1hr 45mins. We got off at the Neues Palais at the furthest point of the route. It was time for something to eat but out here all there was was a sort of marquee selling food and drinks. We both had a chicken risotto, which arrived just luke-warm, together with a couple of beers; not an enjoyable experience and all the worse for them not accepting payment by card! This was a problem I found widely in Potsdam. It does appear that where finances are concerned, outside of the major cities the Germans live in pretty much the financial Dark Ages. It does seem extraordinary that, over 40 years after they were introduced, there are still German business who will not accept credit or debit cards. From what I see, Germans seem to be happy to carry around wads of note and pocket-fulls of coins and pay for everything in cash. God knows what they would make of contactless payment! What price the "Cashless Society"? At least we didn't have any such problems in Berlin. We decided not to do the palace tour and, as the weather was at last starting to brighten up, we walked back though the park towards the town instead. Halfway we took a detour to the Orangerie, which is set high on a hill overlooking the park. The central section is open to the public and, by climbing up the tower to the concourse, you get tremendous views over Potsdam. Onwards from there we passed the windmill that was used to shred tree bark for the local tanning industry. Past here and you are pretty much back in the centre of the city. Here, just to one side of the main square is, what Potsdammers like to boast, the "original" Brandenburg Gate. Much smaller and older than the Berlin one, it leads onto the main shopping streets, with many restaurants and cafes from which to choose. These mostly traffic-free cobbled streets are by far the most attractive quarter of the city. On the way back to the station you pass what appears to be a mosque. It turns out that it is in fact an old pumping station for the waters of the fountains of Sans Souci! The minaret is the old chimney of the original steam engine! I wonder what the reaction to that would have been in Britain? We very much enjoyed Potsdam, which seems largely to have escaped the total destruction of the war suffered by many of its larger neighbours, especially Berlin. We just wished that the weather had been nicer. Back in Berlin, we chose J W Augustiner in Gendarmenmarkt, a restaurant which brews its own range of beers. This is a very German restaurant, heavy on the meat and light on the vegetables, exactly as we imagine German cuisine to be. I did enjoy the meal though my wife less so. We did have a German red wine with it, rather than beer and, although of excellent quality, I suppose really that a heavy meal like that demands to be washed down with large quantities of beer. However, if this is what you are looking for, there really isn't much better. Great atmosphere, excellent service: Euro92. Day 3 (Monday) - City Cruise ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sunny but still with a cold wind. By now our feet were crying out for relief so we decided to take a cruise along Berlin's River Spree. We took the train out to Schloss Charlottenberg with the intention of taking the cruise boat back to Freidrich Str, close to Alexander Plz and a trip up the radio tower. The boat actually does a round trip, returning up Berlin's narrower canals to the starting point. Our half trip tickets cost Euro10 each. There was a short period to wait before the departure and so we took a look at the outside and public gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg. You can take a tour of this palace and I understand that the gardens between the palace and the river are quite delightful. The cruise was quite relaxing and enjoyable although much of the initial trip covers areas where the buildings are mainly residential and so not of significant interest. As you get closer to the city centre you do pass a lot more of interest, including the Reichstag and Berlin's cathedral. This is where we supposed to get off but there were so many passengers getting on at this point and no way of getting past them until they had all boarded that as we reached the disembarkation door, the boat was already pulling away! We did eventually negotiate for them to stop briefly at the landing stage of a rival company to let us off and in the mean time we did have the benefit of passing through Berlin's Mill Lock and seeing sections of the old Berlin Wall, still standing along the edge of the river, and all for free. From here we got the train back to Alexander Plz and took time out to have something to eat at Reinhard's on Poststrasse, in their sunny, sheltered courtyard. I can recommend you seeking out this eatery, tucked away on a side street. We had an excellent lunch, with beers, for just Euro38. And so, finally to the radio tower (Berliner Fernsehturm). For just Euro9 (including discount) you get to take the lift up the just over 200m to the 360 degree enclosed viewing platform. From here you get outstanding views over Berlin. Around the edge of the platform there are information panels explaining what you are seeing but the disconcerting thing about them is that they don't line up with the views they are describing! However, the experience is highly enjoyable and not to be missed. Many, many photos were taken. On our way back to the hotel we took the brief detour to Checkpoint Charlie. The location is still marked by the border crossing post in the middle of the road, just as it was before the wall came down. They have preserved the "You are now leaving..." signs and, in the middle of the road at the road junction there is a huge post surmounted by pictures of Allied and Russian army officers on either side. All around here are souvenir shops and, just on the old Russian side of the border, surrounding an undeveloped plot of land, hoardings detail the history of this famous location from the end of WWII to the fall of the Berlin Wall. And so, to our final night out in Berlin. This time we took note of Tripadvisor and chose Entrecote, a French restaurant, 20th of the 170 restaurants listed. It's on Schultzen Str, just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie. The meal we had there was superb. The food was excellent but, unlike Bocca di Bacco, the service was impeccable. The atmosphere was great; the restaurant is quite narrow but goes back a long way. You got the feeling that they were actually happy to have you as their guest. Not only that but at Euro146, it was actually cheaper than Bocca di Bacco! Conclusions ~~~~~~~ We enjoyed our visit to Berlin, brief though it was and I would love to go back again some time to take more time over those attractions over which we spent less time that we would have liked. Mind you, this is inevitable; in over 2 dozen visits to Paris, we still haven't really visited more than a half of that great city. However, overall I was a little disappointed with the appearance of the Berlin. It does seem to be substantially lacking in character. I suppose, with the wholesale destruction that the city suffered after the war, this is somewhat inevitable. We might ask what London would look like today had it suffered similarly. Much of this is also undoubtedly due to disregard of style and the drive for utilitarianism that characterised much of the Russian influenced rebuilding projects that East Berlin suffered. No doubt, over time, Berlin's government may rectify these "errors", as they have already started to do.
My boyfriend and I went to Berlin in April after I bought him a weekend away there for his birthday. We flew from Glasgow to Berlin with Easyjet which cost £150 for return flights for both of us, which I thought was quite cheap. Once we got there, we stayed at Melia Berlin which cost about £300 for both us for 2 nights, which obviously isn't that cheap, but I wanted to make it special. The hotel was in a nice area which was close to all the places you wanted to go. And even if it wasn't, it was close to about 4 different types of public transport to get you there. *Transport* I was so impressed with the public transport provided in Berlin. It was so easy to get anywhere. First of all, when we arrived at Berlin Schoenefeld airport, we were given a pass at the tourist information bit that allowed us to use all forms of transport as much as we liked for a selected period of time. I think it was about 10/15 euros each for 3 days, which was great as we used it all the time. Berlin has at least 5 modes of transport; S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Tram, Bus and Ferry. There are also taxis and the residents of Berlin make use of bicycles with approximately 70% of the population of Berlin having bikes. We used the S-Bahn, which is like our above ground trains, to get to and from the airport and to get to the zoo. The U-Bahn is like our underground subway system and you can go many places with this like Checkpoint Charlie. Both these forms of transports are excellent, they're generally on time, easy to navigate and clean, unlike our trains and subways. The public transport can be a bit busy at certain times of the day, but we usually never had any trouble finding a seat. I saw a double-decker train a few times and was in awe, I'd never seen one before. You can get just about anywhere with the public transport in Berlin, it is so easy to use. *The sights* -Brandenburg Gate We saw this twice, once during the day then another time at night. Just so we could see it all lit up. It really is an amazing piece of architecture. It's huge, it's a lot bigger than it looks in pictures. It's really easy to get to, there are lots of signs pointing the way for you. This is a real must-see if you visit Berlin. -Reichstag Another must-see when visiting Berlin! It's a truly astonishing building and all the history associated with it is so interesting. I love how they've mixed old with new with the dome at the top of the building. The dome is amazing too, they have walkways spiralling upwards within the glass dome so you can go write to the top of it, which was amazing as you can see all of Berlin from it. We went there at night and it just looked beautiful all lit up. WARNING: Be prepared to wait an extremely long time if you want to go inside the Reichstag. We waited two hours the first night and as soon as we got to the front of the line, they decided it was closed. So, we went a bit earlier the next night and waited 2 hours again to get in, but when we did it was amazing. Maybe if you went earlier, there would be less of a wait. -TV Tower You can see this enormous structure from anywhere in Berlin, I think you can go up, but we didn't have time. But on a previous visit to Berlin, my boyfriend had went up and said it was amazing to see everywhere in Berlin. -Berlin Zoological Garden This is further out than other attractions, but it's easily reachable using the S-Bahn and getting off at Tiergarten. This is a very well-known zoo and we went soon after the whole drama with the polar bear and the woman who tried to kill herself, so it was buzzing with people. There are so many animals here and it is a huge zoo, we spent about 3 hours here. There are many facilities for food and drink. Don't forget to visit Knut, who's a very famous polar bear. We also went to Museum Island, and walked along a very posh road, the name of which I can't remember. It has loads and loads of designer shops and a shopping centre type thing completely devoted to cars - where I saw a Bugatti Veyron, which was a very exciting moment for me, lol. We also went and saw a bit of the Berlin Wall and generally just walked around the city - yes, I was very blistered. Another thing that I was extremely impressed with was the recycling facilities provided in Berlin (and perhaps the rest of Germany, I'm not sure). The bins in the street are all colour-coded to what should be put in them so they could be recycled properly. They should bring that over to the UK, it's an excellent way to recycle. *Food & Drink* We stayed near in Friedrichstraße which had a whole host of bars and restaurants near the River Spree which looked beautiful at night when it was lit up. The food was all great, nothing to complain about. My boyfriend enjoyed the huge range of beers on offer and tasted many of them. There was a bar called 'Brecht's Bar' - which I loved as I was obsessed with Brecht after studying him. A restaurant that I recommend is 'Vapiano', it has an excellent range of pizza's, pastas and salads. When you first go in, you're given a card and whenever you order something you hand this card over and your purchase is put on it. When you're finished eating, you just hand the card to the cashier when leaving. It was confusing at first, but a nice idea. *Overall* It is such an amazing city and I definitely would go there again. It has so many things to see and do and I just love the culture of it. They seem so healthy and concerned about the environment with the recycling. I know that a city break is usually only 2 or 3 days, but I think you need a week to really enjoyed Berlin. There is so much to see that it's difficult to do so in such a short time period. All the people are really nice as well. I really would recommend Berlin to anyone. I really enjoyed my time there and hope to return, one of my best holidays ever. Has also been posted on Ciao under the same username.
Having visited Berlin twice on business during Winter months and being curious as to what exactly I had not seen whilst sat in meetings etc. I decided to visit during early July when the weather is a lot warmer without being to hot for sightseeing. To my delight I found that Berlin is a city to suit the majority of tastes. For the sightseer there are all the well known landmarks , such as Checkpoint Charlie , remnants of the Berlin Wall ,the Brandenburg Gate etc. etc. The majority of the sights are relatively close together so if you are fit enough and have enough time ,with the aid of a tourist map, your tour can be on foot. Alternatively there are numerous opentop tour buses that will take you on a trip with commentary ( in three or four different languages). These buses stop regularly allowing passengers to alight and have a good look round , to continue your tour you then jump on the next bus, from the same company, that comes along. Alternatively there is Public Transport with route 100 covering the majority of the major sights. The costs of transport within Berlin are very reasonable, a Berlin Welcome Card can be purchased on line for varying number of days and zones to travel on tram, bus train or underground. The cards attract discount at many of the museums etc. as well as some of the privately owned tour companies. The welcome card can also be used to travel into Berlin from the two main airports. If history or art "floats your boat" then you will not be dissapointed ,there are obviously references and links to WW2 but Berlin goes a lot deeper than that with well over a hundred museums and galleries. Should you wish to have a relaxing tour then a boat trip on the River Spree is highly recommended, here you will see parts of Berlin from a different aspect, at a steady pace and if you wish accompanied with a nice cold beer, or fizzy drink and ice cream if you so desire. On my business trips I was shown the old Soviet parts of Berlin with the cobbled streets and old trams I didn't have the opportunity to visit this time but well worth a look. All the sightseeing will make you both hungry and thirsty but that can easily be solved in the many various bars and restaurants, personally I like to see how the locals do things so we visited small establishments and bars every meal we had was excellent with good service and upon request if it wasn't at hand there is always an English menu. The prices are very reasonable compared with other capital cities I have visited. We did not visit nightclubs etc. but there is plenty of evidence that there is good clubbing available. Besides the usual tourist shopping the are plenty of opportunities for those who require "retail therapy"
I visited Berlin a year ago on a history trip with my school. My initial thoughts about going was "wooo, a week off school with my mates" but I was suprised by the amount of interesting locations and sites within the city. I would first like to say the hostel we stayed in called Hotel4youth looked really ugly and horrible on the outside, and to everyones suprise it was like this on the inside. So this was a major dissapointment. Our first excursion involed visiting the Reichstag which was the first building in berlin used by parliament, we had to get up at 6am as the queues can get very big, very fast and we didn't want to queue for hours, security takes about 30 minutes to get through and the site at the top is well worth the wait. Fortunately the weather was nice meaning there was very little cloud cover so we could see all the city, and the huge glass dome contains lots of interesting information about the cities history which is well worth a read. On the second day we visited the holocaust memorial site which was certainly an experience. At first glance it appears to be just alot of big black concrete blocks sticking out the ground in straight lines, but when you actually walk into the site you realise the sheer scale of it all, as the ground slopes in, so as you walk towards the centre you start to get really claustrophobic and it can be quite overwhelming and is meant to represent how the people of the holocaust felt. We then headed to Sachsenhausen, the concentration camp. Its a really creepy site full of some amazing history and sites and we spent many hours wandering round exploring the different rooms and buildings. This site is perfect for people interested in photography and I took roughly 350 photos on just this one day. Our next day consisted of shopping and the shopping area by the memorial church is fantastic and easily acessible by subway, there are roughly 200 shops including restaurants and ice cream stalls. Our final day enabled us to visit the berlin wall and a couple of museums, we were meant to visit four museums, but a slight row among the group had arisen as our tour guide had not let us stop for lunch or sit down for 3 hours so we then moved on to the Berlin olympic stadium. The stadium is very grand and you will find yourself completely dumbstruck when you first enter, to test how huge the stadium actually was we timed how long it would take a paper aeroplane to fly from the top of the stand to the bottom. Very impressive to watch and came out at about 3 minutes, which is huge. *****Summary***** Berlin is an amazing city full of incredible history and very cheap, there are some brilliant shopping locations and you will not be dissapointed if you go there. And with todays cheap flights available it is deffinitely worth a visit 5 Stars
Berlin - Underrated, fantastic place to visit. Being in the spirit of writing about Berlin as i seem to be today! I thought i would continue with a little review of the time i have spent there Ive visited Berlin twice, the first time was with my A Level history group (yes, i am a geek. lol) and the second was earlier this year without a teacher guardian :) I honestly love Berlin and my other half felt the same. You are surrounded with history, yet you can go to some of the most modern, funky areas. Whilst im well aware there are TONNES of things to see and do, ill try and give and overview of what we got up to and how we found it.... Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Hauptbahnhof really is a fantastic place to be when your finding your feet in Berlin. 15 minutes walk from Reichstag and 5 minutes from Tentstation, with links not just all around Berlin but all around Europe, Hauptbahnhof has it all. Lots of souvenir shops (although slightly more expensive than the markets), snack bars, 2 supermarkets and restaurants. Quick snacks can be found in Dunkin' Donuts and McDonalds (Check out the 'McCafe' for bagels and soups!) as well as a stunning Eiscafe (Ice Cream Cafe). For a really nice but cheap meal, my top tip is the little Chinese resturant on the 2 floor at the Reichstag exit - around 5.00eu a meal for lovely freshly cooked chinese with noodles or rice. Excellent tofu for fellow veggies! Very handy to note that Hauptbahnhof has a 24 hour pharmacy with speakers of most modern languages! Reichstag (German Parliament) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I have to confess, i am a third year politics student and a bit of a geek - but my other half is the opposite and he really enjoyed this. As i work for UK Parliament, i emailed a few months before and asked for a tour and they were happy to oblige for free! (plus this avoided the queues outside) I think they do this for a limited amount of people a week, so if you have a bit of notice before you travel its well worth an ask! Otherwise, id really recommend going. You dont have to tour the parliament but can go straight to the glass roof and walk all the way round to the top, giving you a fantastic panoramic view of the city. This might be too hard work for those who are disabled, but the entire building is wheelchair accessable. I would realllly recommend you turn up early for this, queues can last well into the day if you dont! but this is completely free, so well worth a visit :) New Berlin Tours ~~~~~~~~~~~ New Berlin Tours offer loads of different tours around Berlin! Off the top of my head, i know they do a Red Berlin Communist Tour and a bike tour. However, the top top tour is the free Berlin Tour. This covers most of the city and lasts around 5 hours! The tour is completly free! you just pay a tip to the (usually lovely) tourguide. More detail can be found here; http://www.newberlintours.com/nbt/ Thought our favourite - the new Berlin pub crawl! There really are some amazing amazing pubs and clubs in Berlin. Open air areas with old tanks for seats and fire shows, alongside little boutiquey clubs. for 12eu the tour guides will take you round, get you in free for all the places and give you a good deal of free drinks - (PACE YOURSELVES! - this one is for the long hall!) free entry and cheap deals on drinks. Berlin Wall East Side Gallery ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery is a fantastic place. A section of original wall with original artworks, most of which you will see around postcards in souvenir shops. To make a day of it, we rented bikes from Friedrichstrasse and followed the well sign-posted wall tour. This will show you a wide selection of the city as well as taking you along to the gallery. Just remember to follow the signs and the markings in the road (might be worth to pick up one of the free maps, just in case!) If you like your graffiti art, this is a great trip. You get to go along the river and the whole trip takes around 2 hours (allowing time to go slower and stop and look). We rented the bikes for half a day which was plenty of time to get around, stopping at anywhere we fancied on the way! Just down from the East Side Gallery is a fantastic bar. I forget the name but you will see it from the tonnes of graffiti and the fake beach setting. Lovely for a refreshing beer on the way! Checkpoint Charlie ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Very touristy - and 'snackpoint charlie' made me cringe >.< but really a humbing place to visit. Follow along the wall to read about the history of the check point (from memory this was listed in English, German and Spanish) or visit the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. One little gimmick but a nice souvenir; for 5euros you can have a selection of 'checkpoint charlie' stamps put in your passport. I think you get 9 in total, or you can get 1 stamp for 1euro. There are some great shops around here too! Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Its hard to get into words the experience of visiting a concentration camp. The dark horrors of history from so few years ago come alive with stunning vividness. I wont say much about Sachsenhausen, because you have to see it to even begin to understand it. All i can say is i recommend that everyone should visit one at least once. We must never forget the ills of history lest we dare to repeat them. I would recommend arranging an English tour for this trip. Its quite off the beaten track if you dont know where your going to and the tour guide will be able to explain everything to you. I know New Berlin do one, but you will see many others advertised while you are there. Its not an easy day, but very much worth a visit. http://www.stiftung-bg.de/gums/en/index.htm Topography of terror ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This is a free exhibition in open air grounds whilst money is being fundraised for its new home. The exhibition explains the history of Nazi Germany with focus on its terrorist elements. All the signs are posted in English as well as German, but you can also rent a pair of headphones with an audiotour. We incorporated this onto part of our bike day out, but well worth a visit if you are interested in history. .................... Bit of fun... see how many Berlin Bears you can get your photos with! Looks great in the album after! Much more to tell you about, but im done in for tonight! Will update soon with more information about Markets and nightlife :) For more information on Berlin Schonefeld international airport or Tentstation Campingplatz, please check out my other reviews :)
Berlin*, Berlin, Wir fahren nach Berlin! (Berlin, Berlin, We're heading for Berlin!) (pronounced Ber-leen, stress on the second syllable) This slogan has been chanted enthusiastically for ages whenever a German sports team made it to the capital for the last round, meanwhile it has left the confines of sports and is now even used by the Berlin Tourist Board for a campaign to attract visitors. I've been to four Berlins in my life: when in my mother's womb I was in Berlin, then the capital of the Third Reich, from the GDR (German Democratic Republic), where we later lived, I visited Berlin once in the 1950s, a much smaller city then (only the Soviet sector), but still a capital, the capital of the GDR. After fleeing to West Germany I visited West Berlin, not a capital any more, but no ordinary city, either, it had become 'the front city', the 'island in the Red Sea', the 'stronghold against communism'. I saw the wall and am glad I did, although I knew it from pictures, I didn't imagine how gruesome it was. My fourth Berlin is the capital of the reunited Germany; after the fall of the wall in 1989 I've visited the city several times, there is no other capital in Europe for which you need a new guide every time you go because so much changes, so many buildings are renovated or rebuilt from scratch or are completely new. Berlin has not one centre but several, this has nothing to do with the partition, it has always been like that, the different boroughs have quite independent sub-centres, too, a tourist should know this in order not to be disappointed. I think it's a good idea if I take you through the city from West to East, starting at Bahnhof (train station) Zoologischer Garten which was the destination for everyone coming from West Germany before the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) was opened in May 2006. The area round the station was one of the shopping and cultural centres of Berlin before WW2 and the only one after the war until reunification. Let's go to the Gedächtniskirche near the station, it was bombed in 1943 and nearly completely destroyed, the Berliners decided to leave the ruined steeple of the old church as a memorial and build a new one and a new, separate church beside it. Since 1961 this ensemble has been the landmark of West Berlin, both buildings are octagonal and have straight walls, because of their shape (tall steeple, low church) they've got the nickname 'Lipstick and Powder box'. Nearby is the famous Kurfürstendamm, 'Kudamm' in short, a 3.5 km long avenue with rows of trees and with expensive shops and restaurants, galleries, theatres and fashion boutiques (also in the side streets), a place to see and to be seen. If (window) shopping wears you out, then relax in the famous Café Kranzler. But you can also find refreshment in the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens=Department Store of the West), one of the most famous European department stores, this year it celebrates its 100th anniversary. This store is a sight in its own right, people go there to visit the sixth floor where food is sold. Ah, but what kind of food! Delicatessen you've never seen - or do you buy and eat elk and bear ham? It was here some years ago that I saw my first real life yuppies slurping oysters and sipping champagne in their lunch breaks. The area has lost a bit of its former attraction now that people can also go to the eastern part of the city but it's definitely still worth a visit. Let's buy a day ticket or a ticket for the number of days you want to stay in Berlin for the S-Bahn (trains above ground), the U-Bahn (underground) and all buses in the ticket booth of the BVG in front of the station, there's someone you can talk to, *I* can't help you with the vending machines on the platforms, I'm an inlander, I speak the language, I've got an academic degree but I always ask for help when I need a ticket! Don't forget to stamp it before getting on a train, the fine is 40Euro. A good way to see the main sights is to take Bus 100 running from Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten in the west through the city to the Alexanderplatz in the east. The bus takes 33 minutes to cover the distance, if you don't want to travel American style (Europe in five days, "If today is Tuesday, this must be Switzerland."), you may need a day or two (or three), we'll get off occasionally and walk around a bit to also see the sights off the route. At the stop Großer Stern stands a 69m high column in the middle of a traffic circle on the avenue Straße des 17. Juni (the Love Parade used to move along here) which runs through the Tiergarten, a former Royal hunting estate tuned into a large park. It's the Siegessäule (victory column) erected in the late 19th century to commemorate the Prussian victory in a war against Denmark. On its top a gilded female figure (nickname: 'Goldelse' [~ Gold Lizzy] represents the Goddess of Victory. It's possible to climb up and enjoy a panoramic view but I can't give you any details as I've never done it. Look left when we come to the stop Bellevue, this is where the German President resides, our Buckingham Palace so-to-speak (several sizes smaller, though). The next stop is the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of the Cultures of the World), nickname: 'Pregnant Oyster' because of its extraordinarily curved roof. Exhibitions are shown here, but even if nothing is on, it's worth while getting off here. Behind the building is the river Spree, not used for commercial traffic any more, it's too small for modern barges, but tourist boats run up and down the river and it's a good idea to get on a boat here and glide along behind the buildings of the Regierungsviertel (government quarter). A guide explains what we see (there are also tours in English), the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station), Europe's largest two-level railway station, the Chancellery (nickname: Washing Machine), the building where the politicians have their offices, all built after reunification and brand new, and the Reichstag (Parliament) built in 1872 with its huge glass cupola (nickname: cheese cover) designed by the British architect Sir Norman Foster. We get off the boat at the Cathedral (nickname: Soul Gasometer) and are then near the Museumsinsel (Museum Island), which was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 1999, a must see sight if you're interested in Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Greek art and paintings of the 19th century. This boat tour is quite relaxing but it only gives us an overview, if we want to get near the buildings, we have to stay in Bus 100, the stop after the Haus der Kulturen der Welt is the Reichstag. Approaching it we can already see the queues, tourists want to get in and up and then look down into the assembly room where the politicians have their meetings (Who isn't listening but reading a newspaper? Shame on them!) and then walk up the ramp inside the cupola to the top. It's free of charge, my advice is to go there early or very late (admission from 10am until 10pm, open until 1am), the view of the cityscape is striking, I remember one summer evening when the city was still the largest building site worldwide with thousands of huge cranes and behind them a romantic sunset, unforgettable and never repeatable! The cupola has become the No 2 tourist attraction in Germany after the Cathedral in Cologne and it's closing ranks. About 100m away from the Reichstag is the famous Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) topped by a triumphal chariot, the Wall ran between the two buildings, the Reichstag was in the West and the Brandenburger Tor in the East, a double line of granite stones in the asphalt shows where the Wall was, all tourists want to know, understandably the Berliners are not so keen. The area in front of it (on the western side) is the place where Berliners meet for spontaneous manifestations or outdoor parties, when I was there this year at the beginning of October, Coca Cola was organising a gigantic spectacle on the 2nd and 3rd October with live bands, 500.000 spectators were expected. October 3rd is the national holiday commemorating reunification, nice to see that it was celebrated with music and not speeches. Standing in front of the Brandenburger Tor we turn to the right and walk down the street for about 200m until we come to the much debated Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe which was opened to the public in 2005. On a field of 19.000 m² stand (from the net) '2711 stones placed on sloping, uneven ground in an undulating wave-like pattern, giving visitors the feeling of insecurity as though the stones were on unstable ground. Visitors can enter from all four sides, day or night, and wander on their own through the maze of stones, as though visiting a graveyard with nameless tombstones. The columns are sunk into the ground to various depths and at some places, they are higher than the heads of the visitors. There are no set paths or sign posts to guide viewers. The memorial was designed by architect Peter Eisenman to deliberately disorient visitors by having all the stones tilted slightly and paths that are not level.' You have to find out for yourself how the memorial touches you, don't forget to visit the Information Centre. From here it's only a stone's throw to the Potsdamer Platz, waste land once and now a magnet for visitors from all over the world, they don't only come to shop or do business but also to look at the buildings from an architectural point of view the most famous being the Sony Centre with a roof that reminds of the peak of the Fujiyama. Back to the Brandenburger Tor, the area east of it was also waste land until ten years ago when the Grand Hotel Adlon (five stars +) was reopened and other buildings, many embassies among them, were built on the street Unter den Linden (Under the Linden) which starts here. This Avenue was a famous promenade before the war and has now regained some of its former splendour. We could get on Bus 100 again and go straight along Unter den Linden up to the final destination Alexanderplatz, but I'd like to invite you to make a detour and visit the Friedrichstraße, the first street to the right behind the Brandenburger Tor, this is another shopping area, the street itself is not elegant like the Kudamm, but some of the shops are in a price range not found in the West. Peep into Quartier 205, the Gallery Lafayette, whose shopping areas are located round an empty space shaped like two cones, the longer one going up two floors, the shorter one going down one floor, then have a look at Quartier 206, from the ground floor an elegant, white curved marble staircase leads down to the basement with coloured marble inlays where a piano player entertains the guests sitting at small tables consuming coffee and cake. It's a shop in a shop thing, all the international high price fashion houses sell their wares here, an outfit can easily cost 3000Euro. Who buys here and where and when the clothes are worn is something I can't answer, I don't know anyone belonging to the High Society of Berlin, the Berliners as such are not elegant (in contrast to the inhabitants of Munich, for example), on the contrary, a certain Proll (from the word 'proletarian') charm is typical for the capital. There's a lot more to see near the Friedrichstraße, but I think we should hop on Bus 100 again and go to the Alexanderplatz now and look closely at Berlin's highest building (368m, Europe's third highest structure), the TV tower, nickname: 'tele-asparagus', if you want to go up, you may have to wait for some time in front of the lifts but you'll be rewarded with the best view of the city. There is a visitor platform at the height of 204m and a restaurant rotating every 20 minutes in the middle of the sphere. "Enough! We're tired of sightseeing.", I hear you groan, "What about entertainment and nightlife?" This, of course, would fill another review, let me just mention that there are more than 200 clubs as well as innumerable bars, cafés, pubs and that the word 'curfew' is unknown in Berlin, most establishments close only early in the morning - if at all. I think you should come yourself and find out what the Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, called Wowi ('Vovee' for you), meant when he called his city, "Poor but sexy!"
It is one of my life's ambitions to visit all the capital cities of Europe so I was thrilled when my parents said we could go to Berlin. Berlin is the Capital City of Germany and is located in the north-eastern part of the country. We stayed in Berlin for four nights last October. That may not sound like a long time but we managed to cram an awful lot of exploring into our time there! I will go through which attractions we visited each day to give you an idea of how long it takes to see the main sights. ~ Day 1 ~ The majority of day one was travelling to Berlin. We flew with easyjet from Newcastle airport. It was late afternoon when we arrived at Schonefeld airport. It took us about an hour to get from the airport to our hotel (Marriott) which was in Berlin City's centre. After unpacking we went for a walk in the immediate area of our hotel. It was dark though so we didn't really go very far. In the hotel reception area there were cabinets with merchandise for sale. One of these cabinets particularly caught my attention because it was filled with items decorated with green and red men wearing hats. They were from the pedestrian crossings but I wanted to discover their significance. Finally, towards the end of our holiday we found out that they are called Ampelmann. The Ampelmänn are the red and green traffic-light men from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) which, following reunification, have achieved cult status in Berlin. ~ Day 2 ~ We walked about 5 miles on out first full day (I measured it on my pedometer!) We started off by walking to the Sony Centre, which was just around the corner from our hotel. This was one of the places that my dad knew he wanted to see before we even got to Berlin. The Sony Centre is located in Potsdamer Platz (the new centre of Berlin) and it houses apartments, offices, trade and catering businesses and a cinema with a film museum. We walked round and took some photos but we didn't really know what was there so we didn't go inside any of the buildings. We intended to go back and have another look round but we never really got the chance. We went for a walk not really knowing where we were going but it wasn't long before we came across Brandenburger Tor (The Brandenburg Gate). The Brandenburger Tor is a former city gate and the symbol of Berlin. It was built between 1788 and 1791. In 1961, the gate was closed when the Berlin Wall was built. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the gate symbolised freedom and the unity of the city. It re-opened on 22 December 1989 when the West German Chancellor walked through to be greeted by the East German Prime Minister. After walking through the gate (towards East) we found a French café which had lots of Peugeot items in downstairs. Working for a Peugeot dealership in England we were interested so we decided to take a look. There were lots of items (e.g. Salt and Pepper Mills and Saws) that I didn't know Peugeot made so I found this an interesting place to visit! There was a full size 601 (one of the first Peugeot's made) and also the 907 Concept Car. There was a shop where you could purchase Peugeot items such as small Salt and Pepper Mills and miniature cars. We then went upstairs into the café and we had drinks and I had a delicious sandwich! ~ Day 3 ~ We went to the Berlin Dome (Berliner Dom) on day three. The Berliner Dom or Berlin Cathedral was built between 1894 and 1905 and is 75m tall. The cathedral was built after the split of the Protestant and Catholic Church, as the Protestant answer to the Catholic cathedral of St. Peters Basilica in Rome. Originally rising up to 97m, the dome was destroyed in the Second World War and only rebuilt in simplified form. The Cathedral was beautiful inside and we went up the Dome. It was a long, exhausting trip to the top but the view was amazing. After visiting the Cathedral we walked to Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of east and west, and - for the East Germans - a gateway to freedom. Walking towards Checkpoint Charlie (towards the American Sector) there was photos and information about the Berlin Wall. There was also a museum about the Cold War and the Berlin Wall. We didn't go in here, as we didn't realise what it was. If I ever go back to Berlin I think it would somewhere I would visit. Today, Checkpoint Charlie is a tourist attraction. When we were there, there was a man dressed as an American Soldier whom you could pay (70p) to get your photograph taken. ~ Day 4 ~ After a tiring three days we wanted to do something a bit less energy consuming so we got a taxi to the zoo. Zoologischer Garten Berlin is one of the biggest zoos in Germany and the one with the largest number of species of the world. It was a large zoo and we walked a lot. It was a very enjoyable experience as it was quite peaceful and the weather was also quite nice. It cost 11 Euros each to get into the zoo (approximately £7). After visiting the zoo we headed to Kaufhaus des Westen (often abbreviated to KaDeWe) which is the largest department store in all of continental Europe. I had read about it before we went to Berlin and being a bit of a shopaholic it was a must see! The store has 7 floors (!), and I took (dragged is probably a more appropriate word!) my parents around them all! When I first went in I spotted some pink tights and having been looking for some for over a year in England I was very happy! KaDeWe was in my good books straight away! Being our penultimate day in Berlin I spent most of my remaining money. The store sells absolutely everything I could think of! We bought lots of presents from here. Some of which were delicious chocolates. (I bought some for me too!) Before we left we went to the café on the top floor. It was very bright and airy and we had a drink and some cake (Mmmmmm!). KaDeWe is quite expensive but I think some items were well worth the money. Day 4 turned out to be just as tiring as the previous days but it was still very enjoyable! :-) ~ Day 5 ~ We flew home on day five but the flight was quite late and the hotel looked after our luggage so we had another day to explore. Not far from our hotel was a Holocaust Memorial. It was opened in May 2005 after many disagreements over its design and outright opposition from many Germans, including some Jews. The memorial consists of 2,711 gunmetal grey reinforced concrete slabs. Each slab is positioned uniquely on a grid. It is the size of several football fields and lies in the heart of Berlin between the Brandenburg Gate and the site of Adolf Hitler's bunker. Visitors can enter from all four sides, day or night, and wander on their own through the maze of stones, as though visiting a graveyard with nameless tombstones. Although it is like a maze there is no way you could get trapped inside because you can walk completely around each slab. Therefore you could go in one side and out another. The columns are sunk into the ground to various depths and at some places, they were higher than our heads. There were no set paths or signposts to guide us. The memorial was designed to deliberately disorient visitors by having all the stones tilted slightly and paths that are not level. I did feel quite disorientated and it was a very moving experience. Some critics complained that the memorial is too visible and too painful a reminder for people who had long confronted the Nazi past. Others said the monument should also commemorate the other 5 million European victims of the Nazis. Just opposite our hotel there were parts of the Berlin wall standing on the pavement with information about the history of the Wall. We only discovered this on our last day. It was quite interesting to read more about the Wall and it also gave us an idea of the height of it. This part of the wall was located where the actual wall was 17 years ago. We did some more shopping and went to the Peugeot café again (I wanted another lovely sandwich! lol) Shopping in Berlin was different to any other capital cities I've been to. The souvenirs were a bit different and I think they were unique to the city. Berlin is not as expensive as some of the capital cities I've been to, which was a pleasant surprise. We travelled home on the Friday night after a very enjoyable week! I loved Berlin! It is a city filled with character and atmosphere and it is somewhere I would like to visit again in the future. There was some building work going on near our hotel so I think it would be nice to back in a few years an see how it has changed. The weather was nice considering it was October - we even took our coats off sometimes. It did get colder towards the end of the week so I think that we went at just the right time! Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed learning about my time in Berlin.
I am neither a historian nor a student of history but I like to know about the past of a place that I visit. Purpose of the visit may vary from business to pleasure but always try to know its past. My trip to Berlin was a pleasure trip and main intention was to look at the city after the fall of that iniquitous wall. Let me start with a brief history. Brief History of this Great City - This City has about 2000 years old history ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Slavic people used to live there. German emperor extended their border to cover this area. In 1200’s AD, the village Berlin started growing on the bank of river Spree. AD 1400’s – Berlin became an important town. Ruler of Brandenburg State made it as their capital in 1470. 30 years of War – Berlin experienced the burns of this war from 1618 to 1648 followed by epidemic. Half of the population was either killed or had to run away to save life. Era of Frederick William – 1640 to 1688. During this period Industry and Construction grown substantially. A Canal was built to connect two rivers Spree and Oder. From 1701, his son, Frederick I continued the good governance and made Berlin as capital of Prussia. In 1709, Berlin, Konll and some more areas merged and formed City of Berlin. Berlin continued to grow in trade and industry. It became nerve center for science and arts. Berlin was under the control of Napoleon I for about three years from 1806 to 1809. After that Berlin continued to flourish in all field as Capital of Prussia. German Capital - In 1871 after formation of German Empire, Berlin became its capital. Berlin continued to grow till early 1900’s. World War-I -------------- In 1918, German empire collapsed at the end of world war-I. Berlin remain as Capital of newly formed Weimar Republic. There was post war unrest due to inflation, strikes, riots. But Berli n continued to grow and in 1920, some cities, villages were attached to Berlin. Era of Hitler – Adolf Hitler captured power in 1933 by taking advantage of world wide economic depression in 1930’s, As a result world had to see the ugly scenes of World War-2 and Germany was one of the worst sufferer. Due to Air Raids followed by land battle from 1940-1945, third of the Berlin was destroyed and thousands of people lost their life. Ultimately in 1945 Hitler lost the battle and Allied Army divided Berlin in four parts. Forces of France, USSR, UK, and USA occupied and controlled shared these parts. Post World War II -------------------- Berlin was in Soviet zone and allied forces expected the Soviet Union allowed them to live in Berlin. To drive allied forces out of Berlin USSR blocked all rail, water, and road routes from the Soviet zone to the Western sectors of Berlin in 1948. To counter this Soviet move, Western nations launched Berlin Airlift. This operation was to supply essential commodities to West Berlin. During this US directed operation planes landed in West Berlin at the rate of one every minutes. The Soviets finally gave up and lifted blockade in May 1949. In late 1948, allied forces divided Germany, into four zones. East and West Berlin established separate governments with independent infrastructure. In 1949, Soviet occupied part became East Germany and parts with Western countries combined as West Germany. East Berlin became East Germany’s capital. Bonn was made West Germany’s capital. Initially, in 1950’s, there were free movements of people and as a result there were influx of refugees in West Germany. The Berlin Wall - Thousands of people started fleeing to West Germany to escape from communist rule. As a result, on 13th Aug 1961, East German police began building a concrete wall to stop emigration. The Berlin Wall was about 42 kilome ters long and about 3.5 to 4.5 meters in height. Hundreds of people lost their lives in the hand of East German police while crossing this wall. Unfortunately this wall remain there till Nov 1989 when East German authority lifted all travel restriction due to wide spread protest. Non-Communists won control of the government of East Germany in March 1990 after free elections. In 3rd October 1990, East and West Germany united into a single nation. My visit to Berlin ~~~~~~~~~~ I was lucky enough to visit this undivided city in the middle of May. Weather was very comfortable and fortunately there was no rain. Berlin is the capital and the biggest city of Germany. It is in the East of Germany. The local time zone is Central European Time (MEZ or MET, MEZ = GMT+1) with Daylight Savings Time in the Summer (MESZ = GMT+2). I reached Berlin at the middle of the night by train after traveling about six hours from another German industrial city Wuppertal. During the weekend this train, started somewhere from Switzerland, was jam-packed. Unlike some of the German cities, night was quite young at 2320 hrs especially near the railway station. My hotel was about 5 minutes drive from the railway station. Walking might also take equal time but could not do so because I was not traveling light. Next day, after breakfast I chose a half-day package costing about DM 35. Next day I went for Potsdam tour. Sites to visit ~~~~~~~~ Brandenburg Gate - famous symbol of Berlin, stands between the city’s two central areas (east & west). The gate’s huge stone colonnade was completed in 1791. Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – Was badly damaged during war. Was rebuild but bomb damaged tower preserved as a symbol of war. Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain) - An artificial hill in the Grunewald used for rock climbing, skiing, and sledging. It was built from rubble left after World War II . <br >Olympic Stadium - The stadium was built for the 1936 Olympic Games. Seating Capacity about 100000 spectators. Tiergarten (Zoological Garden) - One of the city’s largest parks, a former game reserve that covers about 250 hectares. The Tiergarten has a zoo and an aquarium. The TV tower – A huge transmission tower. I have not gone to the top but must be a nice place to see the skyline of Berlin. The Checkpoint Charlie – There’s museum that tells the story of the Berlin Wall and how people have suffered during communist era in East Berlin. Shopping – They’re huge shopping centers. Good place for window-shopping. Prices are comparable to other parts of Europe. Food – There are many hotels and restaurants to satisfy almost all type of people. I preferred to live on Turkish Kebab, Burgers, and Hotdogs because purse was not that heavy. Drinks – You will get thousands of varieties but I tried local beer. Somehow I do not like German wine, may be I missed the better one. Transportation – Berlin has two International airports and very good train & bus network. Many people understand English so traveling is not very difficult. There are many tours for sight seeing. Nightlife – Well, there are many attractions from Cabaret to Drama to satisfy different needs. Choice is yours. Hotel – My hotel was booked by the organization so could stay in luxury. However, this city can accommodate any one with a decent budget. One can book hotel from the railway station or airport. On the fourth day I flown back to Frankfurt with a lesson – ‘Enterprising People Can Keep Growing In Spite Of Trouble’
Last September we went on our first visit to Berlin, where we were invited to report on the shooting of the video for Rick Astley's comeback single. We had absolutely no idea where we would be staying and it was only when we landed that we found out that we were staying in a 5 Star hotel, with the bill being paid by Rick himself. This is not really relevant to the subject of this opinion, but I just wanted to name drop!! Here is some general information about Berlin for anyone planning a visit. CURRENCY. From January of 2002 the EURO is the only currency that will be used. The exchange rate at the moment means that £1.00 will be equal to about 1.61718 EUR. MOBILE PHONES In Berlin and Germany only GSM mobile phones with the frequencies of 900 MHz or 1800 MHz will work. Tip: Ask you local provider if your mobile phone will work in Germany. Ours didn't (we were with O2) and it was a bit annoying. TIME ZONES In Germany they have the central European time (CET) with daylight saving time in summer. This means there is a one hour delay between the UK and Berlin. Now onto my visit! We arrived in the early evening and got a taxi from Berlin Tegel Airport. There are three airports in Berlin, but Tegel is the main airport for European arrivals. It is located six kilometres (four miles) from the centre of the city and is accessible by bus, car or taxi. The 109 airport bus leaves about every ten minutes and costs 4 DM, but we weren't exactly sure where the hotel was, so we took a taxi which took about 25 minutes to get to the hotel. This was more expensive at around 25 DM, but it was easier for us with our bags and it meant that we arrived at the posh hotel in a little more style! We were staying in the Grand Esplanade Hotel in the Tiergarten area, near the river. It is one of the best hotels in the area and would not normally have been in our budget. We did feel like we had come to the wrong place when we got out of the taxi, but the staff were friendly and we soon felt at our ease....I must have been born to this Rock Star lifestyle!!! (I wish!) Getting around town is not difficult as the S-Bahn and U-Bahn have a wide network of routes across most of the city, operating from 04:00 am until midnight, with some lines continuing throughout the night. Day tickets are available for frequent use. All tickets should be stamped, before travelling, by a validating machine found on all platforms. The ticket can also be used for bus travel which is extremely efficient and one of the best ways to enjoy sightseeing. There are also some night buses, but we never used them. Most of our journeys were made either on foot or by taxi. If we had been there a little longer we may have used the U-Bahn a little more, but the video shoot was within walking distance and the weather was pleasant enough to stroll. There were four of us, so a Taxi was quite a reasonable option between us. The good thing about the taxis is that they have a list of prices for journeys, clearly visible, on the windows, so you know roughly what to expect to pay. As well as watching the video being made (all the shooting was at night so we had the days to ourselves) we were able to do quite a lot of sightseeing. This is where Berlin comes into its own...it is a magnificent city! There are good areas and bad, but this diversity reflects the history of the city and everything we saw was interesting. We went on a sightseeing bus, a trip that I would recommend because it is an excellent way to take in the attractions without getting too tired. There are quite a few different tours, all with different prices and routes. Ours was an open topped bus (it was raining, so they had covered the top) and had a commentary piped through headphones in a choice of about five languages (English, German, French, Japanese and I think the other was Russian). The bus went on a circular tour around the city calling at the main tourist areas. The good thing about the bus tour is that the ticket lasts for the whole day. Buses leave every ten to fifteen minutes and there are stops at all the main landmarks. Our tickets cost 35 DM and we were able to hop on and off the buses to take photos. Just remember to check when the last bus leaves, because it is easy to get stranded. We got on in the Charlottenburg area near to the Europa shopping centre. This is a wonderful area for shoppaholics and has a large variety of stores, restaurants and bars. The main landmark here is the Gedächtniskirche, a church that was partially destroyed in the Second World War and has been rebuilt to symbolise how terrible the conflict was. The bus moves on through the Tiergarten area, which was an area of parkland in central Berlin, and carries on through the amazing architectural features of the Postdamer Platz (big companies such as Sony and Daimler have built ultra modern offices here and other businesses are relocating here, to make it the centre of Berlin), through Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate. There is a museum at Checkpoint Charlie, but we didn't have time to visit. There is only one small section of the wall remaining and I was surprised to discover that this is now a listed monument. It was very poignant to see it and to remember that many people died trying to cross a border that we were now able to just walk across. The remainder of the wall is marked by a strip of cobbles, two wide, running along the roads and pavements. This was again a strange feeling to just step across and be stood one moment in the East and the next in the West. There are so many amazing buildings and many reminders to the past of the city, all of which was explained by the commentary. I couldn?t possibly explain all that is on offer and any opinion on Berlin will only scratch the surface. It is a city of c ontrasts: Amazing modern buildings stand next to building sites and the remains of the decaying old city. There are many museums (there is even a Museum of Erotica near the Europa centre), theatres, bars, cinemas and shops. The nightlife is as varied and interesting as the history that can be found in the day. There are no shortages of places to eat and drink, many of which open until the early hours of the morning. There is a wide variety of different foods available, for example we found an American Diner, McDonalds, Sushi bars and many others. There is no excuse for starving in Berlin! I would recommend a visit to Berlin. We were unsure of whether we would like it because usually we plan our holidays to warm sunny places. I'm really glad we had the opportunity to visit Berlin and I'm sure we will go back again in the future. Thank you Mr Astley!
Berlin is one of the most remarkable and fascinating cities in Europe. Reunited just over a decade ago, but still bearing the marks of its troubled history, it is working feverishly to reinvent itself as a cosmopolitan capital to rival New York or Paris. In 1961, the Communists ruling the GDR (East Germany) built a wall through the heart of Berlin, seperating 'East' and 'West'. It was a traumatic event for the Berliners and only in 1989 was the Wall finally breached - and then demolished - in a dramatic turn of events that few had anticipated. Many of the struggles to try to get over, around or through the wall have been documented in the fabulous museam at Checkpoint Charlie. This details the successes and failures of the people who attemted to cross the wall. There are still parts of the Berlin wall standing that have been fenced off to prevent people trying to take part of the now famous wall. Situated just behind the Berlin Wall is an outside museum (soon to be rehoused) which details the workings of the Gestapo and other similar organisations. This museum is called the Topography of Terror and consists of a large number of photograhs detailing the torture and torment that took place under the control of the Gestapo. The U-Bahn system covers much of the centre and the suburbs. Buses and trams cover most of the gaps left by the U-Bahn so therefore it is very easy to get around. The public transport is very quick, simple and ON TIME. All in all the public transport is excellent and very efficient. To some extent at least, German cuisine takes a back seat to international food when it comes to the city's restaurants. Greek, Turkish, Balkan, Indian and Italian food are well represented, with Thai and Vietnamese becoming very popular. Here you should indefinately be able to find something to suit your palate. Unfortunately as the Germans are big meat eaters they have very little to cater for the vege tarians of this world, but there is an increasing choice. Berlin's reputation for having some of the best nightlife in Europe has been fueled by George Grusz cartoons and films like Cabaret. It is still a city that buzzes at night with most of the more exciting venues located in the Western parts of the city. This means that you can always find something to do as the Germans also cater for more quiet lives with their selection of small pubs (particularly Irish ones!) and quiet bars. All in all the food is good, the transport is excellent and there is plenty to see and do. Well worth the visit, shall be returning as soon as possible!
Few cities have such an evocative history as Berlin. It grew to prominence during the Enlightenment under the sometimes enlightened, but more usually illiberal Hohenzollerns after centuries as an important regional and trading centre. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the most of the great European events have been played at or shaped by Berlin. From the 1848 revolutions, the unification of Germany in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian war, Bismarck’s tenure, the outbreak of world war one, the rise of the Nazis, the holocaust, the fall of the Nazis, the second world war, the division of Germany and the long years of separation Berlin has shaped world events and the events have themselves shaped Berlin. With the fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany in the nineties, Berlin was born again. From the three visits I have made to Berlin in the past year or so it is obvious that the city’s most enduring and attractive quality comes from its shattered past. Berlin has a unique opportunity to grow and reinvent itself and the atmosphere is one of a vibrant young city. Despite the terrible destruction of the world war and 45 years of post war division and instability, Berlin remains a very attractive city. Many people deride its grey drabness, especially in the suburbs but I don’t think it is any more shabby than London or Paris are if you cast a critical eye over them. Berlin most notably has grand sweeping boulevards and enormous green open spaces that we can only be envious of. It is truly an awesome ride from the victory column, through the Tiergarten to the Brandenburg Gate past the Reichstag and down Unter Den Linden. I was fortunate to enjoy the guidance of an eloquent English-speaking cabbie when I first took the ride on a grey Saturday morning. And every time I have visited since I have taken the opportunity to take this tremendously exciting ride. Not least because our German office is situated on the outskirts of the ci ty and it is the route into town. Down by the river spree in the heart of the city there remain many old and historic buildings, the old cathedral and other galleries are picturesque on their riverside setting and it is a pleasure to stroll across the ancient bridges admiring the vistas. The buildings on Unter Den Linden, including the Humboldt University buildings and government ministries remind us that one of Berlin’s golden eras was the enlightenment and many have a grand baroque feel. The palaces at Potsdam, and east daytrip away reflect this too. You mustn’t miss two other great Berlin attractions: the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. Both are close by each other at the end of Unter Den Linden. Norman Foster’s grand glass dome is a spectacular addition to the grumpy glory of the Reichstag and the Brandenburg gate, which dates from 1790, is as emotive a reminder of Berlin’s past greatness and optimism for the future. It is also worth reminding yourself of the recent past with a visit to the site of Checkpoint Charlie near Potsdamer Platz and fragments of the wall which can be found around the city. It is in the Potsdamer Platz and the area that Berlin’s other great attraction for me lies: the new architecture. You know the fuss we have in London or other cities when someone suggests a new or bizarre design for a building. In Berlin, such is the freedom and space for creativity that there a so many new and exciting building all over the centre of the city. The Sony Building and the DB HQ are both extraordinary examples of brave big structures. Foster’s Reichstag is beautiful, some of the new national Emabassies are astounding where in Mitte, the ambient cool quarter, there many beautiful but functional housing blocks. And of course the work has hardly even begun. Alexanderplatz is still being demolished prior to reconstruction and all over the city there are building sites being prepared for redevelopment . Enthusiasm for the new and exciting obviously doesn’t stop at the building exteriors but it has been embraced by clubs bars and restaurants. Airy, modern, stylish and minimalist cocktail bars are really in and where in London you would pay a premium for such a night out, in Berlin they are affordable and frankly so much more fun. I have spent many great evenings hanging out in Mitte with the other hepcats and drinking on the Oranienberger strasse. Obviously, being a splendid grown up country, Germany doesn’t have the restrictive licensing laws and there is boozing well into the evening. Eating out is also a pleasure because it is affordable and easy. You can have a bloody good feed with a few beers for about a tenner. And you really don’t need to know much German because the people are so friendly, although German is an easy language to grasp the basics of. Berlin is a great city to spend a weekend or a break in because of its broad cultural sweep and rich history. Whilst it may be a bit cold in winter, in the summer the weather is mild and sunny. There is so much I cannot mention here: I haven’t mentioned the art galleries, the superb transport system, the Love Parade, the gay scene, the shopping, the wonderful museums and the fabulous parks. But you can discover them yourself, because you must go.
Quick re-visit (and slightly cynical attempt to glean more reads off the back of another op that ties in slightly with this one) to mention that I've been back to Berlin recently, a great weekend and a visit to all the old haunts, for more details on what's what in Berlin - READ ON....... Berlin - city of the Gods if you ask me, I've been over there 3 times (twice with Lufthansa, once with BA - stick with Lufthansa, trust me) and cannot give it high enough praise it gets better each time you go! The City: --------- The city was broken up into 4 quarters following the end of World War 2, the US, the Brits, the Russians and the French all claimed a piece and set about making the areas into their own, this is very much in evidence when you visit Berlin. The Russian Quarter has it's own particular feel and is a great place to visit, you really get a sense of the poverty and backwardness of the East in the years before the fall of the wall in 1989. The little quirks and follies are all around to see and it is my favourite part of the city. There are a lot of specific foods which have come from the communist influence there, the Stalin posters and monuments are no longer in evidence but the roadsigns are interesting and.....look out for the pelican crossings, little men in hats waiting and crossing rather than the standard ones we get in the UK, a really great place to go. East Berlin is developing now, it's 3 years since I was there so it is probably a lot better developed thgan it was, the central point is Alexandraplatz, a great TV tower in the centre of a bustling square, modern shops and advertisment boards are all round and the feeling is that they are trying to make it into East Berlin's version of Times Square or Piccadilly Circus, they have a rotating restaurante at the top of the tower, panoramic views a-go-go and ice skating outdoors in the winter (you WILL need to wrap up warm). West Berlin is not quite so charming, they have a lot of nice bits, the zoo for instance and the central shopping district but, to me at least, it felt a bit too English/American (not surprising though as the place was held by us and the US for years) and did not have the feeling of the foreign exotic that the east did. Lots of McDonalds and Levis shops, H&M (ask my girlfriend - could not get her out of there) and the like, all stuff you'll get in the UK. Touristy stuff: --------------- No visit to Berlin would be complete without a trip to the Brandenberg gate, a real monument to the history of this city. It's not a lot of fun, nothing really to do there but a great place for lots of pretty souvenir snaps and well worth the trip. The Siegessäule (Victory Column), built at the order of Kaiser Wilhelm I two years after victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 is a great place to visit, a huge golden statue at the top of a pillar with a spiral staircase in the middle, you pay your cash over and begin to climb (not for the faint hearted) you get up and have a great view of the city, it's in the middle of a great big roundabout so you get 4 roads coming in on you and a lot of parkland to peruse. (I had the above info DEAD wrong before the wonderful MALU helped me out, pointing me in the right direction. It's a while since I was there and I didn't remember everything quite right! Thanks MALU) Fernsehturm is the TV tower in Alexanderplatz, the cost of the trip to the top is really little, they get you up in an express lift and you get to see the whole of the city from a height of about 300 metres up! Wow! I loved this one, a real "must do" for Berlin, the food was good, the prices steep (it's a posh restaurant) but it is well worth it. Not going up this would be like going to Blackpool and missing out on the tower. East Side Gallery - a HUGE section of the Berlin wall has been preserved for viewing. The grafitti and murals are spectacular and you can even see the areas of checkpoints. Little plaques give you info on the wall and it's non-too-great history, they're in about 4 languages so you'll be OK to read them and get a little lesson while you're there. Pubs/Clubs/Bars: ---------------- You can not go wrong here. Berlin is a city which really comes alive at night. The East with its little bars and cozy snugs alongside the crazy heavy metal and euro Thrash clubs is great and the West with its posher pubs, its "English" and "Irish" boozers alongside the teeny-boppers paradise type of clubs is just as good. The night usually begins at about 11.00pm, you would be mad to begin a night like in the UK as you'd be fast asleep by 10. The booze is that little bit different and REALLY cheap, you get a half litre for about £1 (or did when I was there last) and spirits are rediculously cheap and strong. The p[ubs cater for all tastes wit a great place based on the stock market in the East, your beer could begin the night at £2.50, rise with inflation to £7.00 then be struck by a crash and fall to £0.50 a pint - it's great. If you want good beer, go to Germany, it's that simple. The bars all serve a huge variety, cheaply, and stay open all night (until about 5am), only to open again at 7am for breakfast, which you can get a beer with if you like! Madness, but fun while on your holidays. Hotels/hostels: --------------- I stayed with friends while I was in Berlin so I can't offer any comparisons or details on prices, the place is so cheap and exciting though it would be well worth it at up to £100 per night (if only I could afford, sigh). Transport: ---------- The city's transport system is by far and away the best I've seen. You can get a weekly, monthly, daily, yearly ticket which l;asts for 24 hours a day. It covers all your travel throughout the city on Buses, Trams and the U-Bahn (underground) system. Everything is really well laid out as far as mapping the transport systems is concerned. I never once got lost and I'm the original dopey tourist when it comes to this kind of thing. The fares a re cheap (cost about £14 for all my travel for the week) and the services are reliable and well kept. The city has really got it right as far as travel is concerned and there's something a little bit special about riding about on a tram, great fun to ride, not so good when you see them coming towards you on the street. Getting there can be anything from £120 to £200 depending on your chosen airline, I much prefered Lufthansa to BA even though I had to transfer at Frankfurt - much nicer planes and staff and the flight just flew by (ooooooooh - bad pun, sorry). Overall: -------- Berlin has a lot of things to do, for a holiday or simple weekend break away it would be my firat choice. If you want history and culture it's there all around you, if you want to go out drinking all night and sleep all day - great, you'll fit in very well with the Germans out there. You can't get a city with more diversity and excitment, it's got a great deal to offer yet never gets a lot of publicity, I'd recommend it to anyone with a broad mind (lots of amusing sites for the naive in the East - red light district is HUGE) and a desire to have a great time in the best city in Europe. Get a weekend off and have a look! You'll thank me later. Roll on the return visit ;¬)
Who would have believed it? I never thought I would see it in my lifetime! The destruction of the infamous Berlin Wall and all that it represented, starting in November 1989. East Berliners poured into West Berlin, some to taste the expensive delights of capitalism and others to reunite as families. That breach in the dike opened up the floodgates. Many felt that Eastern Europe would never be the same again. COLD WAR ENDED Much more significant than the fall of the Berlin wall has been the collapse of the ideological wall that separated East from West. Suddenly there is virtually no Cold War. After 41 years of confrontation with the Soviet bloc nations the 16 Nato leaders paved the way for a new strategy and bade the cold war era a last farewell. The peace- threatening conflict has now moved from Europe to the Middle East, which brings with it, unemployment and adversity. There is another aspect of the fallen wall that attracts millions of people-the possibility of free association with their fellow religious believers in other nations.
This is the city was divided until October 1989 when the walls came tumbling down. The division between East and West officially ceased though looking around the city you will still notice some differences. SO what has the city going for it? One well-documented point on the city is its nightlife. It goes on throughout the night for as long as you can stand it. There is something for everyone – from restaurants to pubs and clubs. There are many well-known places of interest to visit too: · Kaiser Wilhelm Church – this is the symbol of the city, a mixture of the old alongside the new · The Brandenburg Gate – another symbol of the city which many will remember from TV pictures in late 1989 · The Checkpoint Charlie Museum – this museum tells the story of the Berlin Wall including tributes to those who died trying to escape from the East. · The TV tower – a lift will take you up to the top from where you will find some magnificent views of the city on a clear day. · The Olympic Stadium – it is well worth a trip here to see where the great Olympic athlete Jesse Owens performed watched by Hitler. · The Charlotte Palace – perfect place to escape the heat of a hot summer day and pass some time in the gardens. The city is easily accessible from the UK by air, rail and coach. The location of the city makes it a perfect destination for a short break.
This opinion will be continued. Berlin - the most interesting town in Germany. Why? Time to tell you something about Berlin's fourth dimension: history. The structure of Berlin can be explained from it's history. A few thousand years ago there was a river in the middle of that place we now call Berlin and in the middle of that river was a little island (today known als "Museumsinsel"). Them name of the District ist "Mitte" (=middle") today also. The Name of the river is "Spree". This place, the island, was a fantastic place for a king to build his castle the. He did so and the so called "town castle" of Berlin was there for 500 years, when Walter Ulbricht, chief of Eastern Germany, decided to nuke that castle, because it was too much "Kaiser"-like. Bachk to the kings: Mostly they had only two names: Friedrich (Fredreric) and Wilhelm (William, as Leonardo Wilhelm Di Caprio or as your famous prince). These two name were combined to names no pupil or student ist able to remember mor than 50 seconds: - Friedrich Wilhelm III. (when Napoleon occupied germany) - Friedrich Wilhelm IV. (builder of the Museumsinsel) - Wilhelm I. (Emperor, looking like uncle Scrooge, with chancellor Bismarck) - Friedrich III. (99-days-Emperor; died of cancer, when he was prince, his name was Prince Friedrich Wilhelm) - Wilhelm II. (World War I.) Not mentioned yet were "soldier-king" Friedrich Wilhelm I. and his french-loving son Friedrich II. in Germany known as the "old Fritz". One of all those Friedrichs decided to make this little village a littel more bigger, and he gave his soldiers the order to build new houses on the south-western side near the castle. A new part of the city with a wall around to refuse enemies ist called "Werder" in germany. So this Part of Berlin is called "Friedrichswerder" (werder of Freder ic) today. That is the reason why a church neareby is called Friedrichswerder-church (architect: Karl F r i e d r i c h (!) Schinkel. The buildings behind the Friedrichswerder were given the simple name "Friedrichstadt" (= town of Frederic, today you can shop ther in the "Friedrichstadt-Passagen" = Move through the town of Frederic). The borderline of the Friedrichstadt is the Friedrichstraße (=Frederic's Street). Now to the femme fatale: The wife of one of these Kings liked to get a castle of her own, and so the king built another castle outside the city for his wife with the nice name "Sophie-Charlotte" (wife of Friedrich I. of Prussia. Before he went king his name was Count Friedrich III. of Brandenburg). Since 1920 the Castle of Sophie Charlotte - Charlottenburg (= castle of Charlotte) is part of Berlin, because the town was growing and growing (guilty: Wilhelm I. and Bismarck). To reach his wife there was a great east-west-achsis constructed, called Charlottenburger Allee (today: Unter den Linden/Str. of June 17th) Lindtrees decorated the road, it is called "Unter den Linden" (=under the lind trees today). The Brandenburg gate was the gate to direction Brandenburg (ugly city in the country Brandenburg). You see - the Brandenburg gate was the exit of Berlin! To be continued.
Berlin is the capital city and one of the sixteen states of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is the heart of the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan region, located in northeastern Germany. With a population of 3.4 million, Berlin is the country's largest city.