Last summer got us travelling quite a bit. In one month’s time we visited four different cities: Nuremberg & Berlin in Germany and Rotterdam and Amsterdam in Netherlands. Berlin was always on our list, but the conditions were never right for the trip. When my cousin said she was getting married, a plan hatched – after the wedding we will visit closeby Nuremberg, fly from there to Berlin and then back home. A nice little Germany trip. All we had to do is take a longer break and relax.
Our travelling period were the last days of July and first days of August. The weather – scorching hot. In the city centre full of asphalt it was difficult to breathe. This sightseeing couple always wanting to do more and giving it all on holidays had many more rest stops and chill out time than ever before. I even said no to taking some photos in favour of looking for a cold brew that would disappear within moments of touching my lips. Nevertheless, we persisted and saw plenty.
Some quick Berlin tips:
- Public transport is a really good and quick way to get around but can get very hot in summer. I would still recommend it. A day ticket valid on all transports is €7 per person for zones AB – covers most of Berlin. If visiting Potsdam you will need Zone C.
- The beer is quite pricey, especially in the centre. I ran into many people thinking beer is like water and can be found for pennies. It cannot, it is close to central London prices!
- Currywurst might sound completely wrong, but it is actually really tasty!
- As bear is the symbol of Berlin, you’ll see many colourful bears all around town. They can be quite cool photo props for some touristy shots.
- Reichstag building – to enter the dome you need to book a slot. You can do it online, but the confirmation is not clear and can in fact mean you’re on the list but not confirmed. The other way of booking it is going to the white container office by the parliament on the Tiergarten side; they have way more time slots free and once booked, you are definitely good to go. Visit is free of charge
Day 1 – Highlights of Berlin to start with
We started on Alexanderplatz with the popular world clock and the TV Tower Fernsehturm (never went up, queue was too long and the price too high). It is also packed with tourists. However, it is a good place to start – it is well connected to outer parts of Berlin and is walking distance to many “tick of the list” parts. Out hotel was in Dahlem, close to the Botanical Garden, by the University – a decent 4* hotel that was cheaper than hostels in the centre; we were about 25 mins from Banhof Zoo with public transfer. For bibliophiles, Banhof Zoo is the train station from book Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F. by Christiane F. herself. I gotta say, I do not like the English translation of the title as it takes away from the original which is “Us children from Zoo station”.
Berlin is quite compact when it comes to the tourist bits. From Alexanderplatz, we walked to the museum island and then down the big Bundesstrasse to the Brandenburg Gate for the obligatory selfie. We passed the opera house, some old fancy buildings and the empty library on Bebelplatz which was a tiny bit of a disappointment; a small glass plate on the floor looking down on empty bookshelves. Yes, it was to the point and had had an impact but the way all the guide books described it, I expected more. BTW, I currently have The Book Thief on so mentioning the empty library is quite appropriate. Behind Brandenburg Gate we popped to the parliament and booked ourselves in for the next day to see the great dome of the Reichstag building (booking instructions above), then skimmed the eastern part of Tiergarten and stopped by the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – quite daunting and eerily quiet even though it is by a road in the middle of the city. Leaving it behind us, we walked the wall line down to Potsdamer Platz. Along this road you can see small plaques on the pavement with names of people who died trying to get across the wall. They are small and inconspicuous which I think makes them all the more memorable once you notice them.
From Potsdamer Platz it’s an easy stroll to Checkpoint Charlie where, for a fee of course, you can have your picture taken with the dressed up soldiers (during busy periods) standing in front on the tiny hut. To make sure you know what side you are leaving, the big sign is still there (I think I read somewhere it is a replica), just in front of KFC, across the road from McDonald’s. It’s not really that impressive but there is a little corner called Charlie’s Beach that surprisingly was not full of people. It is a cornered off area with a couple of bars with beach lounges and benches and the ground is all covered in sand to make it a beach. It’s a quiet zone in the middle of the centre where you can relax and enjoy before continuing your exploration.
Right down the street is the Topography of Terror Documentation Centre. The topic makes it heavy and disturbing and leaves you gasping for air at the sight of atrocities done during the Nazi regime by both Germany and other fascist run countries (my own mentioned). It is surrounded with some of the original Berlin wall as well.
East side Gallery
The longest running stretch of the Berlin wall covered in about 101 graffiti, one of which is the “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” or the “Fraternal Kiss” by Dmitri Vrubel, a famous socialist kiss between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker (featured image of this post 😀 ) The wall stretches for 1136m, it is a project of 118 artists and today it is the longest open art gallery in the world. One piece of advice for photography enthusiasts – if possible, get a wide angle lens for the shots of the wall. The only thing separating it from a busy road is a normal size pavement and a row of parked cars which makes it difficult to take a photo of the full height of the wall or the full extent of the art piece. If you cross the road, you will have parked cars and dozens of tourists taking their own pictures in your shot. I used my little wide angle phone camera and it worked perfectly fine.
At this point we were getting really tired and hot and just wanted to go somewhere cold and not move. We decided to walk over the Oberbaum Bridge and grab a tram from there. That’s when we stopped in front of a small, unremarkable bar thinking about beer and realised it was actually a Ramones museum!! For €6 we got a bottle of ice cold beer and were allowed to take it with us and roam the small rooms full of Ramones paraphernalia. The museum was covered wall to wall with photos, posters and bits of scrap paper with lyrics, there was the famous leather jacket and the converse trainers which were huge!! I would like to point out here that the supposed correlation between the size of men’s feet and their penises was disproved in early 2000s. Shattered wet dreams aside, this little museum is a good worth for your money even if you are not a massive punk or Ramones fan.
After the first day, we decided it was best to keep to the shades.