Next Stop Berlin

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1. Posted by Hensku (Budding Member 71 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

We just booked a long weekend trip to Berlin in April :)

We don't have much plans but at least we are going to see the Berlin wall and some of the museums.

Have any of you visited there, how did you liked it and what did you do and see while your trip?

[ Edit: Edited on 16-Nov-2018, at 01:57 by Hensku ]

2. Posted by Old Man At (Budding Member 19 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

I have visited it on a weekend, but cannot be much help. It was nice enough, but apart from checkpoint charlie and the Kaufhaus des Westens, I don't recall us doing much except going to the zoo. Oh and being harrashed by a swingers couple at dinner. None of those things are bad, but none of those things left an impression on me worthy enough to recommend them to others.

Just head in blind and go for adventure?

3. Posted by Hensku (Budding Member 71 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Oh my, did the swingers just came by your table an introduce themselves as a swingers?

Well, we just might go there and see what we feel like doing so it might become a adventure

4. Posted by Old Man At (Budding Member 19 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Well, one was my collegea, it was on a company outing. Long story short, at diner he put an arm around my girlfriend and she put her hand on my inside thigh and said:"are you as bored as we are?". There was little left to guess after that.:(

5. Posted by Hensku (Budding Member 71 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Well looking at the bright side, you got interesting story to tell

6. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 755 posts) 3w 1 Star this if you like it!

I love Berlin! I wish I had got round to reproducing my old Virtual Tourist page on the city here, as it was very comprehensive (and, I am told, helpful ) I've dug out my text so here are some extracts about the sights I liked best, that may be useful to you (although bear in mind that this was all written five years ago):

East Side Gallery
There are several places in Berlin where stretches of the once infamous Wall remain. Some are left much as they were, one at least showing the signs of destruction caused by the assault by local people when finally they brought the Wall down (see my tip on the Topographie des Terrors). But here on the banks of the Spree near the Ostbahnhof is a stretch that has been restored and decorated with a series of murals by artists from all over the world, the East Side Gallery. And whereas in the period of the city’s division the decorative graffiti was confined to the western side of the wall, now it is the eastern side that is both colourful and, at times, political. The 1.3 km stretch was turned into this informal open-air gallery soon after the fall of the Wall, in 1990, and completely restored, with new art-works, in 2009 to mark the 20 year anniversary of that event. There are 106 works in total, and it claims to be the largest open-air art gallery in the world. Much of the art work on display will stimulate and remind you of the events of 1989, as well as raising some challenging questions perhaps about on-going conflict in our world – although a few pieces seem to be just for fun.

Holocaust Denkmal
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a memorial not just for Berlin, but for the whole of Germany, and struck me as a very open and honest response by that country to one of the darkest periods in its history. The memorial consists of two parts: the Field of Stelae, and the Information Centre. The Field of Stelae covers a large area in the centre of the city, not far from the Brandenburg Gate and the former Berlin Wall. It was designed by Peter Eisenmann and opened in 22005. It consists of 2,711 concrete blocks set on a slope, all of different sizes – no two are alike. They appear to flow and undulate in waves, especially if viewed from a distance. There are no plaques, inscriptions, or religious symbols on the blocks. You can walk between the blocks , and as you do so you discover that many are much taller than they seem to be from the edge of the monument. Soon you find yourself walking between blocks that tower over you. You feel lost in the labyrinth. Now and then your path crosses with that of another. Architect Peter Eisenman has said that he wanted visitors to feel the loss and disorientation that Jews felt during the Holocaust, and that was certainly my sensation – even to wondering if I would easily find my way out. Some critics have protested that the Memorial is too abstract and does not present historical information about the Nazi campaign against the Jews. But that is not its purpose – the Information Centre beneath does that job, and does it very well. Others though say that the Memorial resembles a vast field of nameless tombstones and captures vividly the horror of the Nazi death camps. It is certainly not a memorial in the traditional sense; no names are carved here, no details recorded. But if the purpose of a memorial is to make you stop and think, this one serves that purpose – and does it with supreme effectiveness.
The Information Centre beneath has an incredibly well thought through, well presented and very moving exhibit which will leave you in no doubt of the horror of the Holocaust. Its effectiveness comes, in my view, in the way it blends the big picture stories and historical facts with the stories of individuals and families.

Marienkirche
The Marienkirche (St Mary’s Church) is the second oldest church in Berlin (after the Nicholaikirche), having been built mainly between 1270 and the early 1300s. The neo-Gothic spire is however a 1790 addition. It is the only one of the city’s medieval churches to still be in use for worship. There is no admission charge and it is well worth going inside, if only to see the admittedly very faded Dance of Death fresco in the vestibule. This was painted after the plague of 1486 and shows plague victims from all classes of society dancing with Death, who appears not as a destroyer, but as the messenger of God summoning people to Heaven. The fresco was discovered under many layers of paint in 1860 and the church is planning to restore it.

Bernauer Straße
A little away from the tourist trail on the northern fringes of now-yuppified Prenzlauer Berg the past, as so often in Berlin, intrudes, but only to demonstrate how much the city has changed in a few short years. When we visited in 1985 Bernauer Straße was a curiosity for tourists and a tragedy for its own inhabitants – a street divided along its length by the Berlin Wall. Former neighbour faced neighbour across one of the narrowest strips of No Man’s Land. And this was also the site of some of the most famous escape attempts, including that of Conrad Schumann, a 19 year old GDR border guard who leapt the barbed wire here while the Wall was being constructed. Schumann made it safely but others did not, and today a memorial to some who died in the attempt can be found part-way along Bernauer Straße on its northern side (about halfway between Bernauer Straße station (U8) and the Mauerpark).

Mauerpark
The Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg is a great example of Berlin reclaiming the past and turning a once- traumatic site into a place for the pleasures of today, while still never forgetting what once happened here. A stretch of what was No Man’s Land, the so-called Death Strip, has been reclaimed and turned into a park. I found it both uplifting and a little poignant to see children now playing on the site of so much past grief. A section of Wall runs near to its western side and forms an official practice ground for budding street artists. On a Sunday this park is a magnet for locals and tourists alike, with one of the city’s liveliest flea-markets, buskers, ball games and picnics. If you want to see Berlin at play this is as good a place as any!

Prenzlauer Berg
After reunification several of the former East Berlin’s most neglected neighbourhoods were rediscovered and smartened up, and none more so than Prenzlauer Berg. It has no major sights, but it’s a lovely area for the sort of meanderings that take you here and there, with no particular destination in mind, but plenty of interesting corners to stumble upon. We spent a Sunday morning doing just that and had a great time. A good place to start might be the Käthe Kollwitz Platz, where we found a literary festival in full swing, with book-stalls and author readings. On another day it might be a farmers’ market (usually Thursdays and Saturdays) or maybe antiques. The square (actually a triangle) is lined with bars, cafés and restaurants so you won’t be short of refreshments either. In its centre is a statue of the artist who gave it its name. Nearby is the Wasserturm or water tower, built in 1873 and used as an improvised concentration camp by the Nazis. It has since been converted into flats which must have some interesting shaped rooms! Away from the square many of the streets are lined with tall terraced houses, some painted in pretty pastel shades, others still bearing the graffiti and other scars of less affluent times. We especially liked Oderberger Straße. The cafés spill onto the street, some in an interesting assortment of old sofas and armchairs, others with more conventional café seating, and there can’t be a better place in the city to while away a lazy Sunday than here in Prenzlauer Berg. It’s worth noting though that apparently not everyone is happy to see the “gentrification” of this area, as we saw several “yuppies out” messages scrawled on buildings in and around the Käthe Kollwitz Platz. I guess the newcomers are driving up process and either forcing old inhabitants out or changing the nature of the shops and the cost of living here. That’s a shame, but for the rest of us this must surely be one of the city’s most appealing neighbourhoods. If I were to live in Berlin, I think I might choose Prenzlauer Berg as my home.

Scheunenviertal
Another of the neighbourhoods we really enjoyed exploring, again in what was East Berlin, was Scheunenviertal. This is rather more central than Prenzlauer Berg and consequently busier, and it also has a few more obvious “sights”, but like its neighbour to the north east is a great place just for a wander too.

Sorry this is so long - it's easier for me to cut and paste than edit! Do ask if you have specific questions :)

7. Posted by Skandinavisk (Budding Member 27 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

I too really loved Berlin.

Sarahs texts on Berlin was healpfull, I can attest to that, but now that VT is gone we will have to work on this site.

As I'm not going to dig up my old tips, I'd thought I'd just ad to Sarah's list in list form and let you google their name.

1. Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. Wich is a ruin the locals lovenly call der Holzahn meaning the hollow tooth. It's flanked by the new church and spire they call der Lippenstift und Puderdose. If you speak a little German you will understand why.

2. MuseumsInsel. This little Island holds the cathedral, but also a whole lot of really interesting museums such as the Pergamonmuseum if you, like me, are interested in history.

3. Gendarmenmarkt: Two opposing churches and a really nice place to just walk about for half an hour.

4. For being such an icon I was rather dissapointed about Brandenburger Tor, but it's still on my must see list.

8. Posted by Andrew Mack (Respected Member 512 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

If you've seen the film Cabaret (Liza Minnelli) which was based upon a book called 'Berlin Stories' by Christopher Isherwood, telling a storey based around the hedonistic club nightlife of Berlin in the late 1920/30. There are a few 'cabaret' style shows but unfortunately I didn't get to see any of them when I was last there but I'm told they're very entertaining.

[ Edit: Edited on 21-Nov-2018, at 09:20 by Andrew Mack ]

9. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 755 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Quoting Skandinavisk

For being such an icon I was rather dissapointed about Brandenburger Tor, but it's still on my must see list.

  • Waves to Jon*

For me the Brandenburger Tor was really iconic, because on our first visit in 1985, the Gate was completely “off-limits”, stranded as it was in the middle of No Man’s Land between East and West. So it was something a bit special to be able to walk through it on our return :)

The 'tourist trap' (to use the old VT terminology) for me was Checkpoint Charlie. On VT I wrote:

'During the period of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie was one of two crossing points for visitors between East and West (the other being Friedrichstraße Station); in fact it was both border crossing and destination in its own right. We went there in 1985, as I imagine all tourists did, to photograph the famous signs ("You are now leaving the American Sector"), to see what the border and its barriers looked like, and of course to cross. Returning now to a no longer divided city I was a little surprised to learn that Checkpoint Charlie still exists, but today only as a tourist attraction. We hadn't planned to visit, but finding ourselves very near one afternoon, curiosity drew us there.

The Wall and Crossing have of course long disappeared but the sign remains, though only as a replica (the original is in the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum, which is worth a visit) and slightly relocated. And the border guards' hut is still here, with "guards" outside it. But these are not soldiers but actors, here to pose with eager tourists for a photo that to them will symbolise Berlin. Remember though that no real border guard would be likely to pose like this, especially on a border so heavily sealed as the Iron Curtain. Your Checkpoint Charlie photo will be a false image of Cold War Berlin, and an inaccurate one of today's city. Do it if you must, but for me this was the one place where I felt the city had taken a wrong turn in its efforts to commemorate the past respectfully and appropriately.'

[ Edit: Edited on 21-Nov-2018, at 09:26 by ToonSarah ]

10. Posted by Hensku (Budding Member 71 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

ToonSarah, it was nice to read your text so i didnt mind the lenght at all! :)
East Side Gallery we will visit for sure!
Our hotel is in Charlottenburg, do you know anything about that neighbourhood?
It is quite far for some of the main sites but i think the public transportations are good in Berlin?

Skandinavisk, i don't know any german so the joke is lost in me but Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche looked still worth visiting! :)

Andrew, i havent seen the film nor read the book, though cabaret show would be nice to see, i think :) will have to see what my travel companions think about it :)