It took me a while to get to grips with Berlin. The truly tangible and often awful nature of its recent history, coupled with its sheer size, meant for a while a real sense of the city evaded me. Slowly it started coming together, as my feet found the Brandenburg Gate, or I recognised a U-bahn connection. By the end of my four days, I knew one thing for sure – I would have to come back. Four days was too short, but here’s 8 Awesome Things I Did during my time in Berlin.
1. Trace the Berlin Wall
Whether it’s the highly visible and much visited East Side Gallery, the wall remnants at Potsdamer Platz and the Topography of Terror Museum, or the cobblestones that march down the old line of the Death Strip, the Berlin Wall is easy to find. I found the simple tracing of where brick and mortar used to divide families and countries just by stumbling over it near the Brandenburg Gate. It’s haunting to imagine how different these streets once looked.
2. Visit Museum Island
Museum Island in the centre of Berlin is home to five museums of international repute, each showcasing a different period of German or world history. In addition, the beautiful Berliner Dom (above right) Cathedral is also located on the island. We wandered the island admiring the beautiful architecture of the museums, but then headed just over the bridge to the DDR Museum. This incredible collection of artifacts, news clips, daily life objects and interactive displays is like no other museum I’ve visited! It shows what life was like in East Germany, from driving a Trabant to running a factory to wearing the “latest” fashions. Definitely worth a visit.
3. Reflect at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
There are few words that I can summon capable of expressing the true horror perpetuated on the Jewish people during World War II. Given this, I was impressed and deeply moved by the simple but profound memorial located in central Berlin. 2711 concrete stelae of differing heights are arranged over sloping ground. Walking through them is disconcerting and confusing – you’re up, then down. You glimpse someone passing in front of you, then they’re gone. This confusion was intended by the architect to represent a supposedly ordered system that had lost touch with human reason – a fitting concept.
4. Head High for City Views
Berlin’s centre offers a number of chances to survey the city from above. I chose to take in the magnificent views of the Reichstag Dome, but I also looked at scaling the lofty height of the TV Tower, or the park views of the Victory Column. Next time!
5. Explore the Topography of Terror
The Topography of Terror is an incredible museum built on the site of the Gestapo and SS Headquarters during World War Two. It traces the events leading up to and of the war through photographs, interviews and reports, and is incredibly affecting. You circulate through the displays, reading and taking in as much as you’re able, before moving on to the next. As a whole, I found it fascinating but almost overwhelming – particularly some of the photographs. This is not a children’s museum, but it will give you a much deeper appreciation of the events of this time, and the characters who perpetrated them. Outside, more remnants of the Wall stand, along with excavated remnants of the cellars of the Headquarters.
6. Spot Street Art on Every Corner
Street art is everywhere in Berlin, from tiny scribbles to huge artworks covering the sides of buildings. I spent a day spotting all sorts in the Kreuzberg district – check out my post here.
7. Marvel at the Incredible Architecture
From the ornate beauty of the New Synagogue (top) to the castle-like Oberbaum Bridge (middle left). From the beautiful almost-symmetry of the French and German Cathedrals in the Gendarmenmarkt (bottom left and middle) to the extravagant monument to shopping of Ka De We. And not forgetting the incredible St Nicholas Church, the oldest in Berlin. Everywhere I turned, I was charmed by Berlin’s incredible architecture – and that’s without even mentioning icons like the Reichstag or the Brandenburg Gate!
8. Sample a Delicious Range of Cuisines
As if I could finish this without mentioning some of the delicious food I ate in Berlin! Of course I had to get my pretzel fill, delicious rye bread, and tasty spatzle. But I was also blown away by the great fusion and variety of cuisines, especially the fantastic sushi at Kuchi and the delicious seafood bowl at hipster heaven Dudu!
Of course, I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of Berlin, and I’d love to return in summer for a different perspective of the city. Do you have any recommendations for my return?