My ABC's of Berlin

Berlin, the city is unlike any other in Germany.  It’s a cultural, trendy, artistic hub with a deeply rooted historical center.  The capital has a uniqueness that leaves a visitor with strong feelings one way or the other about the city.  I too had a love/hate relationship with Berlin, intrigued by it’s dichotomy of grittiness yet sophistication, being accepting of whatever yet feeling out of place.  Berlin is like that hipster, artistic friend that you see at a dinner party always up on the “next new thing” forever making you feel out of date.  She has a way of keeping you guessing and here are some of my ABC’s of what made me keep wanting to learn more.

Ampelmann

DSC_0506I couldn’t get enough of these little guys!  He may go unnoticed at first but the more you walk around the city he will come to your attention after patiently waiting at an intersection.  The Ampelmann is another daily reminder of the differences of East and West Berlin before their reunification, the unique traffic signal was created by a psychologist in the 60’s and used in East Berlin and today is still a quick way to tell which side of the city you are in.  The hat wearing walker was to be replaced with the standard figures but because of its cult following, Ampelmann is here to stay.  Can’t get enough of him?  There are even souvenir shops now dedicated to the East Berlin pedestrian crosser.

Biking

The way to get around town and see the sights while feeling more like a local is without a doubt, by bike.  Berlin on Bike offers some great tours to get to know your way around and learn more about the city.

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Currywurst

I’d become fascinated with the concept of currywurst while in Berlin, why is it so popular here and why is it so damn delicious?  You can find a vendor on almost any street and you can celebrate your fandom of the Berlin born delicacy by visiting the Currywurst Museum.  Get down to business with the sausage drizzled with curry flavored ketchup and find your own favorite but I prefer to snack at Curry 61 or Curry 36.  A couple of tips:  use that cute little fork, go easy on the sauce AND make sure to get the mayo, it’s an added treat!

 

East Side Gallery

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The kilometer long stretch of the preserved Wall that separated East and West Berlin is now a symbol of peace and an open gallery produced by different artists from around the world in the 90’s when the city was unified.  A large portion of the wall has been destroyed over time but efforts have been made to preserve the artwork and original graffiti on the wall.

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Friedrichstrasse

Go on your German shopping spree here.  This is one of the major streets in the city that has everything you need to make for a day full of purchases and over-swiping credit cards.

 

Gardens

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Visiting a beer garden is a must when in Germany.  It’s a fun social activity for locals and a unique tourist experience for visitors.  They are popular on summer days and it is a chance for you to take a break from sight seeing, grab a pretzel and a pint, and have a seat people watching.  There are several traditional biergartens in Berlin but I’d recommend visiting Prater (the oldest in the city), Cafe am Neuen See or Schleusenkrug.

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History

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Berlin is a city where your 7th grade world history teacher would go for vacation and loose his mind.  There is a story around every corner, so much to remember and if you haven’t brushed up on your WWI, WWII and European history then it can be a lot to digest.  We took The Original Berlin Walks and it was by far and away THE BEST tour guide I’ve had with any walking tour to date.  The morning was rainy but everyone stuck through the weather for an enjoyable and informative tour.

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Jewish Memorial

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There are several memorials throughout the city to commemorate the loss of lives throughout the cities dark history but for me the most poignant is the Holocaust Memorial by the Brandenburg Gate.  The 2,700 pillars of varying size are in a grid like pattern with undulating narrow alleyways allowing for you to walk through the confusing walkway in the mass of neatly ordered slabs.  Many people take away the feeling of an inverted cemetery but that is open to interpretation.

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Travel Tip: While seeing this monument & the Brandenburg Gate be sure to find the small door on the right side of the gate and pay a peaceful respect in the Room of Silence.  It’s a little known part of this popular tourist attraction but it is incredibly powerful.

Kreuzberg

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This is an up and coming neighborhood with some great spots for street art and brunch.  There is some fun street art if you are up for walking around and getting lost looking for it.  Be sure to hit up Burgermeister while in town, it looks like a dive, it’s under a train line but there is usually a line for a reason.  It’s delicious and sums up the scene of Kreuzberg; a little gritty but surprising.

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Museum Island

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Only in Europe would there be a whole island floating museums filled with wonderful artwork housed in beautiful buildings.  Five galleries are found on the Spree river, and it is a great place to go and spend a full day exploring world famous exhibitions.  Fan of UNESCO heritage sites?  This island is on the list, yet another reason to check it out.

Neue Wache Memorial

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Many of the memorials in Berlin are more simplistic giving the viewer symbolism that is often complex and thought provoking.  A lot of the visitors on our walking tour wanted a more traditional memorial but my brother and I appreciated the quiet complexity of the locations serving as a way to engage in a conversation about them which in some ways I feel is the best tribute.  This victims of war memorial is a perfect representation of the simple yet powerful images throughout the city.

Oranienburger Strasse

This is the street where we stayed, it’s in Mitte so that means it is close to just about everything.  The road is home to many shops and restaurants so you could spend most of your time just exploring your own city blocks.

 

Palace

Charlottenburg Palace was originally a summer home for the Queen of Prussia, with beautiful 18th century design along with some stunning gardens.  Be sure to get a day pass (consider a Berlin Welcome Card to save on admission fees) so you can access a majority of the property and go during a weekday!

 

Reichstag

One of the more unique buildings, the Reichstag, was constructed in the late 1800’s, destroyed by a fire in the 1930’s and was the official site of the German reunification in 1990.  The dome of the building is a beautiful mix of glass and mirrors and can be visited for free but make sure you sign up online for a spot, they often sell out and you need to secure a time slot since it is a government building.  Check out their site HERE for more information.

 

Tiergarten

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Berlin’s version of Central Park, Tiergarten is  a great way to get away from the city crowds and find a quiet, green spot to relax.  The zoo is adjacent to the park so on some of the walking and biking trails you can get sneak peaks at the animals.

 

Victory Column

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A unique birds eye view of the city, it really reminded me of the cityscape views you see from the top of the Arc De Triomphe in Paris.  The monument was dedicated to a Prussian victory in the mid 1800s and you can walk up the 285 stairs to a viewing platform just below the “Golden Lizzy” gilded angel.

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Thanks so much to Visit Berlin for providing us with a Welcome Card and other goodies helping us make our time in their city extra special.  I highly recommend purchasing a Welcome Card to cash in on all of the deals and discounts offered throughout the city.  As always, all opinions and reviews are all my very own.

 

 

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