Berlin is a beautiful city filled with history. I really did not expect to love Berlin as much as I do. I think my overall experience was made great by the people I met as much as the city itself.
First of all, If you ever plan to go there make sure you have a way to get plenty of cash. Don’t plan on relying on your credit card. Many businesses only take cash. Also, ATMs are scarce. Berlin is behind on that. However, I love that all of the trains have Wi-Fi. So, basically once you figure out the train system you can connect to the BVG Wi-Fi. The trains are more complicated than I thought they would be. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn are hard to understand at first. Also, there are a lot of trams that you can take, but they are not very reliable like the metro in Paris because of traffic. So, I walked A LOT in Berlin. I found it easier and sometimes it was the faster route.
Visiting Berlin is very intense. Everything you visit is beautiful, however I had this feeling of sadness when I looked around. An example is the Brandenburg Gate. It is the most famous monument in Germany. When I picture it, I also have a picture of Hitler marching through it in my mind. Also, it is a symbol of freedom in Berlin. It is still an iconic symbol of the Berlin wall coming down.
Another thing I noticed is the architecture of Berlin. Most of the buildings in Berlin are fairly new, which is strange for Europe. A lot was destroyed in the war. So the architecture of most of the buildings is very plain. Then you will see something like the Berliner Dom that is absolutely amazing. There is so much history in every monument that still stands.
The history of Berlin and the Holocaust was very interesting and sad to learn. It’s not easy to take in. It’s something that I think everyone should do. I visited Sachsenhausen, a Nazi Concentration camp. There are tours for this, but most of them were for 6 hours total, with two hours of travel. I like tours, but I think if I would have spent 4 hours there it would have been too much. Entrance to Sachsenhausen is free. If you have an ABC train pass you can go outside of Berlin and it is only 3 Euro for the audio guide. you can then leave whenever you are done. Walking to the Gate was very strange because there are houses right next to the gate. Picture a small town row of cute houses with Sachsenhausen as the dead end. People are living in these houses. This was unsettling to me. However, the town Oranienburg is very nice.
I took a free walking tour and that was the best thing to do. I saw things I wouldn’t have gone to and returned to some that I wanted to see again. It is a tip based service. I gave him 5 Euros, and felt like it wasn’t enough because the guide was awesome. I didn’t have anymore cash because Berlin is the city of using cash for EVERYTHING.
We visited Checkpoint Charlie which was the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. It was fun to learn about some American History that happened here too. There was a stand off between Soviet and U.S. Tanks over the travel documents of a U.S. diplomat. The tour guide also showed where the CIA and the KGB would have been stationed at the time to lookout at the checkpoint. There is also a place to take a picture with some “American” soldiers in uniform. It’s really just some German guys dressed up like American soldiers. It was very entertaining to watch people pay for photos with these guys.
I also saw some Nazi Architecture. Which was not on my list to see, but I’m glad I did see it. The guide took us to the former headquarters of The Third Reich. The building is like a prison, grey and cold. He also told of us Hitler’s plans for The Grand Dome (Germania). The Dome was to be 16 times bigger than St. Peters Basilica in Rome and to fit 150,000-180,000 people. Anyways…Hitler was FN crazy and on meth towards the end. He was planning to completely destroy Berlin as it was. If the war had ended differently, Germania was his plan. Thank God there is not a Germania.
Ok, enough about Nazi’s. They suck.
Berlin was actually a lot of fun! As much as the history sucks, the city is great. This is a classic case of your past doesn’t define who you are. Berlin has taken that and ran with it. I didn’t know that Berlin is a huge party city. The clubs and nightlife are a big part of the culture. There are clubs that people wait hours to get into. I know what you’re thinking. Why? Well, these clubs are open from Friday to Monday. I met one German girl who said the longest she stayed was 20 hours.
My favorite things about Berlin were the people I met. This was my first hostel and I had the best time. I met so many people that made this trip wonderful for me. The Berliner Dom was one of the highlights also. The interior of it is amazing and the view from the top is a 360 of Berlin.
Walking along the Wall at The East Side Gallery had to be the coolest thing I did. All of the art was interesting and beautiful. I remember seeing one that was a person going over the wall. You could only see a leg with a hand holding the foot. A friend I was with said to me “Do you think the hand is pushing them or pulling them down?” I was thinking pushing, but I will remember that painting forever. I took pictures of some of my other favorites.
The food in Berlin is also really good. I like that it is not ridiculously expensive. We went to a Pizza restaurant in Mitte where you could get a pizza for 4Euros. The German food was very good and the best beer I had was from the Brewery at the Circus Hostel. And weirdly enough, I learned that Berlin has a big Vegan population. So, for anyone with diet constraints this is the place to go. There is a large variety of good restaurants everywhere. I had awesome German, Thai, Vietnamese, and Italian.
Overall, Berlin was amazing and I would visit again if I didn’t have a list of about 300 more places to see. Next on the list for Germany: Oktoberfest in Munich.