Leaving Berlin was one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. I think that’s how I knew this city had become my home. Yes, I have a home in England that I live in, but Berlin is where my heart heaved a great sigh and felt at peace.
I felt more like a local in my last week in Berlin, which was probably not helped by the fact a lot of my friends and family came out to visit me in the last week so I turned into a personal tour guide. Below is my own personal recommended tour for those of you who want to see the key sites without paying for the tours offered.
My Top Tour:
Start in Alexanderplatz – Alexanderplatz is the capital of East Berlin – you will always be able to find Alexanderplatz no matter where you are in Berlin because this place is home to the TV Tower that is such an iconic piece of the Berlin skyline. Follow the green footprints in the square to Nikolaiviertel (which I discuss in my last Chronicle post). From the square you can get a bus (100,200) which will take you to outside the Berliner Dome – though you can just walk there too. It is then a straight walk down Berlin’s most famous street, Unten Den Linden (where you will pass embassy houses, old palaces and a statue of Frederick the Great), to the Brandenburg Gate. From there I would recommend going left which will take you to the famous Holocaust Memorial. If you cut through the beautiful stone towers to the other side, cross the road and cut through what looks like a car park for a residential area. It is exactly what it looks like, however under this car park is Hitlers Bunker where he and his wife took their own lives at the end of the war. Follow the road up and take the second left – down here is an amazing little ice cream parlour which serves the best sundaes in the city. Once you get to the end of the little street turn right and head up. At the first main junction you’ll get to the East Berlin Mural which was put up at the beginning of the Soviet occupation, depicting what people thought communism would mean. Mirrored on the floor is an image of the only protest that ever took place in East Berlin and the massacre of its people. Carry on up the same road and you’ll hit the Topography of Terror and a part of the wall. Cross the main road, go past the Trebbie museum and the odd hot air balloon that looks as though it is chanting for the world to die, and you’ll hit the famous Checkpoint Charlie, where for a couple of euros you can get a picture with some very attractive men in uniform. Just behind CC is an underground where you can pop back to the Brandenburg Gate stop and visit the Reichstag, Tiergarten and Victory Tower – which are all on the right hand side. You’ll find yourself back at the gate at the end of the day where you can hop on the underground again and pop over to Postdammer Platz where you can see the Sony Centre all lit up once it gets dark.
This is a very intense little day out but it is a good route to cram a lot in for free.
Other Recommended Spots
Just outside of the energetic city of Berlin lays the tranquil gem Sanssouci Park, which offers a perfect escape for anyone wanting to get away from the usual hustle and bustle of city life. The park’s purpose has not changed since its creation in 1745 by Frederick II, who intended for the acres of gardens, fountains and decedent palaces to be a retreat from royal duties. Be transported back in time by strolling along the wide boulevards, sitting amongst the wild flowers, or enjoying a picnic on one of the many sculpted lawns, as Prussian Empresses and Emperors had once done.
The park is home to over six palaces, temples, and a gallery. Start with the gardens of Charlottenburg Schloss, done in the style of a Grecian vineyard, before proceeding forward in time to the quaint roman bath house just around the corner with its still functioning water features. The Chinese House is also worthy of a visit, carved from marble and adorned with gold statues, it is an architectural wonder and leaves you in easy walking distance of all the parks palaces.
Then there’s the Soviet War Memorial. Built on top of the graves of over 7,000 Red Army soldiers who fought in the Battle of Berlin, the brutal granite statues and sculptured lawns are a heart breaking tribute to lost loved ones. This beautiful and emotional physical reminder of just what was lost during the Second World War was created by a team of architects, engineers and artists, including the famous Russian sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich.
The memorial consists of several statues of the men who died, gardens with well-kept flowers, and plaques containing the speech Stalin made after the war to praise the soldiers now buried here. The most domineering aspect of the memorial is the 12 meter tall statue of Vasily Chuikov who risked his life to save that of a young German child who had been abandoned during the Battle of Berlin.
I would also REALLY recommend checking out Mufasa Kebabs. I didn’t really believe the rumours that it was the best kebab in the world – especially when I saw the length of the queue (if I thought kebab shack queues were bad when you came out of the club in England I was wrong. I will never complain again, Oki’s). However, when we were passing one day and the queue was relatively short, my friend convinced me to try one and I have not been able to touch the slimy rubbish they serve us in our shops today. It’s like an explosion of tastes and sensations in your mouth (I never knew potato should go in a kebab but it definitely should).
I also managed to check out some of the other lakes Berlin has to offer. I’ve visited Mugglesee, which is by the far the largest lake in Berlin with its own beach and water sport area. You can’t actually see the other side of the lake from where you are standing, it’s so big. But there are pleasant – and cheap – little shops you would expect to find along the coastline around the edges of the lake. I also went to check out Wannsee which is not as clean as the other two lakes but is a lot quicker to get to, based right in the centre of the city. It also has this great fountain thing that you can swim out to in the middle, and you can dive off the edge of it. It’s great fun.
My Final Tips and Tricks of Berlin:
This is more for those of you living out there for a longer period of time, or if you don’t plan on eating out every night and have the benefit of staying somewhere with a working kitchen, but when you go shopping it’s like it is over here in that they won’t give you a carrier bag. It’s just a helpful thing to know before heading into the shop. ALSO, shops close on a Sunday, and not all of them are open on a Saturday so make sure to check out the local stores information before heading down on a weekend. Another tip to know about shops is that in Germany they won’t sell you medication in a normal shop like they do in England – even paracetamol. You have to go to the pharmacy (which are called Apotheke). The good thing however is that the people who work there are trained to a doctor level, so if you are really ill out there flash your health card and they’ll help you out in diagnosing you and giving you what you need.
There are meet ups happening all the time in Berlin for people who are visiting, so if you are looking to get to know Berliners I would suggest popping along to one of these. If you search online you’ll find them, there are multiple companies and events and they’re all fantastic. We popped along to one of the regular meetings that happen at the Anti-War Cafe, and another language class which happens in a pub near Alexanderplatz. Both were great ways to learn German and to meet people from Berlin and others who were visiting. I would definitely recommend finding one for the time of your stay.
That’s it really, guys! I hope you’ve liked this mini travel writing series. My next post will be about the project itself for anyone who is interested in trying it out.
With love, Berlin.