Sunday, March 1, 2015

A short guide to Berlin

Berlin is a city that is absolutely bursting with history. I feel like Berlin and Germany as a whole is one of the most underrated places in Europe. If you tell someone you're going to Venice or Paris they sigh with envy, but when I tell people I'm going to Germany they tend to react more like, "ah that's nice...have fun...". I guess part of the reason is that places like Italy & France have the romantic edge. German is not a very romantic language and somehow the German people have been stereotyped over the years as being quite harsh and unfriendly. I have to agree that the language isn't very pleasing to the ear... schweinefleisch anyone?? (That's pork by the way) 

But in terms of the people, they are nothing like how they have been portrayed in media, which I think is so unfair. They are very polite and helpful, and although they aren't as emotional as Italians or the Spanish, it doesn't mean that they are rude. They are very logical and orderly people (as a whole), so they tend to talk in quite a direct manner. You want a spoon? Here is a spoon. They don't need to delve into conversation about what kind of cereal you are going to eat with that spoon. I really like the Germans as I think my inner organisational freak kind of likes the extreme orderliness of the people and the country. I have been back to Germany more times than any other country in Europe, which I think says something about how much I love it!

Although, I have been told off for stepping on the grass there more times in Germany than I care to count...

Moving on to Berlin now! Like I said above, Berlin is just packed full of history. The city has seen its fair share of tumult over the centuries, and no more so than in the last century. I was really interested to learn about more of its history, and was so loaded up with facts and historical dates by the end of the week I think I could have qualified to be a German history teacher!

Where to stay

Berlin is quite a large city and there are a few spots that would be good for seeing all the sights. The area of Mitte holds the majority of the tourist attractions. Your own personal interests will determine which sights you want to see, so the best way to pick where to stay would be to decide the top things you want to see and pick accommodation near there. I stayed a 10 minute walk south of Potsdamer Platz which was not too far from Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate & Topography of Terrors. Museum Island (which holds the Pergamon museum) was about a 40 minute walk away, so if you want to see lots of museums I would recommend staying closer to there.

Potsdamer Platz

What to do

There is loads to see and do in Berlin, most of it of course involving history. I took a fantastic "free" walking tour (you give what you think the tour was worth) which included the main sights such as Brandenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Hitler's Bunker. As well as these top sights there is the Jewish museum (which I unfortunately didn't get to), Museum Island where the Pergamon museum is, Topography of Terrors and the East Side Gallery. I also didn't manage to get to the East Side Gallery which I regret now, but I did manage to see lots of segments of the Berlin Wall throughout the city, some with art and some without. 

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Part of the Berlin Wall at the Topography of Terrors

If you decide not to do a tour, I would highly recommend reading up on Berlin's history before you see the sites, because it really is interesting. From the history of the Brandenburg Gate, to the events that happened during World War II, and more recently the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany. I'm showing my age here, but before I visited Berlin I had no idea that Germany was divided just over 25 years ago! What did those Australian schools teach me, hey?

If you are not into history, then fear not! Have a wander through the Tiergarten or Grunewald (forest) or look upon the city from the glass dome of the Reichstag. You could also head to an art gallery or simply eat some delicious German food and beer!

A pond in the Tiergarten
Glass dome in the Reichstag

If you can't stand crowds, then Berlin is the place for you. After getting used to the crush of London, it was refreshing to not be pushed around the streets. I can imagine of course that it will be more crowded in summer, but I still don't think the crowds would be too bad. There is a lot of space in Berlin, large areas to walk and lots of squares to mill about in. I would love to go back and enjoy Berlin when the trees are green and I can spend more time walking through the parks and forests. It was just too cold to do that for long in February!

1 comment:

  1. Berlin looks like such an interesting city! I really want to visit one day. Thank you for sharing this.