Europe: Berlin

 

Blurb

I’m back! Literally reversing time as I went across Europe last year with my cousin, unfortunately Bev didn’t have the funds to do a Eurotrip so I asked my cousin Dave to join me. This was actually Eurotrip part deux, as we went to Switzerland, Holland and Italy before but I was not satisfied with that trip, so we did it properly this time and without an interrail pass. What? Controversial, don’t you need an interrail pass to do a Eurotrip? It was something I did consider but if you are like me, you probably researched individual costs and it was actually £80 cheaper to book one way trains and flights.

Why did I think Berlin was a good city to visit? Well, to me I felt that it had a lot of culture and history. I really wanted to visit the Berlin wall and also experience some of the history it had to offer. Why should you visit? If you like history and museums then Berlin has plenty, it had some other cool things to offer too but if I am honest it didn’t have a wow factor. None the less, a very interesting city!

Room

So this was a budget trip and I did research some options. However we thought getting a backpacker experience wouldn’t be complete without bunk beds and a mouldy tap.

  1. Hotel
  2. Hostel
  3. AirBnB
  4. B&B

For the whole trip, we decided to go for AirBnB, it is arguably cheaper than a hostel and we get our own private space. However, a popular choice is to go with hostels and meet people while travelling, I think this is a good idea and definitely a way to meet people but my main concern when travelling is always to see as much as possible and I don’t really aim to meet people even though I am sure they’re nice.

The Airbnb we chose, was a really budget room. As I mentioned before there was some sort of mould growing on the tap and the bunk bed was dangerously close to the ceiling. If I was to do it again, then I would recommend may considering a hostel near the centre even if you have to pay a little bit extra. It would make getting around a lot easier. I believe we stayed at Excellent apartments and it was ok, probably wouldn’t describe it as excellent but it was fairly centrally located in Alt-Moabit.

Getting around

Me and Dave don’t really complain much so we will just walk and walk for miles. So that’s what we did. There were a couple of options:

  1. Bicycle
  2. Metro
  3. Bus
  4. Walk

I would have preferred the bicycle option but I wasn’t too sure where to get a bicycle from, but we decided to exclusively use the metro and walk. The metro layout is very good and we would hop onto the metro then walk to our destination. The bus again is pretty good but unless you have good knowledge of the sites then I might not recommend it, we only used the bus from Berlin Hauptbahnhof as we knew our bus number and direction but other than that we hardly used the bus.

Sites

  1. Berlin Wall
  2. Reichstag
  3. Brandenburg Tor/Gate
  4. Holocaust Memorial
  5. Topography of Terror
  6. Pergamon Museum
  7. Gendarmarkt
  8. Berlin Cathedral
  9. East Side Gallery
  10. AlexanderPlatz
  11. Checkpoint Charlie
  12. Berlin Hauptbahnhof
  13. Victory Monument
  14. Natural History Museum
  15. Potsdamer Platz
  16. Berlin Fernsehturm
  17. Novelty Museums

Reichstag  – Berlin Hauptbahnhof

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Reichstag

I always wondered what the Reichstag was, I thought it was some super top secret building housing something cool. I later found out it was the german version of the houses of parliament. So government would congregate there and make very important decisions. I like my idea better but it is actually a very popular site, mainly because of its glass dome roof.

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Epic Pano of inside the glass dome!

I was so excited that I wanted to make sure we could get in and if you are thinking of going to the Reichstag/Bundestag then I would advise booking tickets beforehand, as it is quite busy.

The ticket is free and you can roam around the spiral ramp to view Berlin from the top which is pretty good. However, maximum spending time there was about 30 minutes as there isn’t much to see at the top. However if you get the audiobook, you get a detailed breakdown about the history of the Reichstag and some of the surrounding architecture. Best to go early then plan your day from there.

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Bottom of the spiral platform leading to the top of the Bundestag

The Berlin Hauptbahnhof is a magnificient structure, literally looks like wire and glass panels put together. It is located very closely to the Reichstag, we literally walked from one entrance to the other side and the Reichstag is 10 minutes’ walk from there on.

Berlin Wall – Holocaust Memorial- Topography of Terror  – East Side Gallery

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Portions of the berlin wall remain as a memorial. The Berlin wall separated East and West Berlin during the Cold War due to differing ideologies between the two areas. West Germany represented democracy and East Germany represented communism. As you can imagine, West Germany was more liberated and East Germany was almost like a prison, anyone attempting to cross the wall would be punished or killed. It was very interesting and there were a lot of museums showing 3D images of what the wall looked like and detailed what happened during this period. My favourite was the checkpoint Charlie museum, very cool displays and history.

The Holocaust memorial is quite large and consists of numerous marble columns and contains names of murdered Jews in Europe. It is quite a peaceful area and you will see people walking amongst these columns but it is best as a quick view rather than spending a long period there in my opinion. The topography of terror is an outdoor and indoor area which showcases the way things were under Nazi ruling, we didn’t go into the museum but we did look at the outer display which was quite interesting. In all fairness, I couldn’t soak up all the information as it was quite dense, for history buffs, this might be your thing!

The East side gallery was located quite far and features painting and graffiti from various artists, the wall is almost never ending and a very interesting site. I would highly recommend it and of course the most famous piece is where two known leaders are seen kissing and embracing; it is actually titled “Oh god, help me survive this deadly love” or “The deadly kiss”, it is based on an actual photo of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker. The wall is a great piece of art and reminded me of Banksy.

Brandenburg Tor – Victory Monument – Potsdamer Platz

Brandenburg Gate is another popular place and actually I think it has been built or rebuilt a few times as it was destroyed in wars. Don’t ask me which! It is another popular landmark site and very impressive to look at, I would recommend visiting during the night. Similarly Victory column or monument is located in the heart of Berlin and it is possible to climb to the top and get views over the city but it requires a ticket to do so.

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Brandenburg Gate

If we move along to Potsdamer Platz, it is a busy cross section of streets and public square. It isn’t really a site but holds a lot of different shops and museums in this area. If you are going to a site and pass Potsdamer platz then you can pass along the area and see what it has to offer.

All these sites are more landmark sites, where you would pass by and spend may 15 minutes taking snapshots, I would definitely recommend going to Brandenburg gate and possibly Victory Monument. However if you are trying to spend your time wisely then I would consider just going to Brandenburg gate and then to an observatory to view the city as we went up the Tv tower and could see Victory monument quite well.

Alexanderplatz- Berlin Tv Tower

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Alexanderplatz is a square or area in Berlin and I believe it was fairly close to the Tv Tower. In terms of site seeing, it doesn’t have loads to offer but it is a busy part of Berlin, there are many shops and places to eat. The place itself offers a lot of history as it has been changed many times, it also boasts many trams (S-bahns) and there are U-bahn stations located there.

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Tv Tower!

The Tv tower or Fernsehturm is pretty cool, make sure you prebook! It kinda looks like the oriental tv tower in Shanghai. The Tv tower elevator boasted it being the fastest elevator in Europe travelling at some ridiculous speed as we went up. The view of Berlin is really good and I liked how it outlined each site really easily, in some of the observatories we have been in, it has just been some tacked on pictures whereas in Berlin they labelled it on the window and also had screen pads.

Berlin Cathedral – Pergamon Museum

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Berlin Cathedral

I remember we casually walked from the tv tower to Berlin cathedral, again it is a very beautiful structure and you can actually go in and sit down and listen to a service. The most distinctive things I could remember was that it had this gothic structure and green dome, located next to the river and there was a hot dog stand right next to it! We probably spent about 30 minutes roaming around as you can walk up to the roof and look out on Berlin, you have to go and look at the dome inside as it is fantastic but I think people who are quite into their history and architecture would spent hours here.

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Ishtar Gate – Cousin Daves head also in there too

We then walked across to the museum area, there are 3 or 4 museums located right next to the park and the queue for Pergamon was huge! I would highly recommend going early and then you can roam around afterwards or try to research the least busy time as I think we queued for about an hour. Unfortunately we didn’t visit the Neues museum but you can buy a pass to visit all the museums in the area. The main reason I wanted to go to Pergamon was because of the famous Ishtar gate from  ancient Babylon, the museum itself offers a lot of interesting structures and relics and I would highly recommend getting an audio book when roaming through.

Checkpoint Charlie – Museums

This famous site was probably one of my favourite sites, I thought it was really cool how they kept the checkpoint in the area! Most of you already know that Germany was divided and this was the point where people left from East to West Berlin. There are plenty of things to do in this area, so you can spend all day or even two days here if you had the time. I think there are a few museums in the area and we went to Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which was decent. It showcased how people fought against the oppression and also the lengths people went to, to leave communist Berlin, such as hiding inside a boot compartment or inside a car seat. Mental!

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Luckily we got out

 

Eating!

Unfortunately as me and Bev didn’t go on this trip, we didn’t sample anything special. Me and Dave were pretty easygoing and I think I cooked a few times to save costs on the Eurotrip. However the one thing we did try was the currywurst!! It wasn’t bad and it’s actually a decent snack.

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Currywurst! Rich rich tomato sauce and curry powder

Top tips

  1. Don’t spend any longer than a week in Berlin, there isn’t masses to do but try and smash out sites which are close together as the sites are quite together
  2. Highly recommend the Tv Tower and Reichstag but you have to prebook!
  3. Spend abit more on getting a nice room/hotel as the experience we had in Alt-Moabit was abit traumatic, cheap but I guess that is what we aimed for.
  4. Sample more of the foods, I don’t remember Berlin being expensive but unfortunately I thought it was quite difficult to sample local German food as there were loads of different cuisines available to cater for everyone.

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