Berlin

Berlin Travel Blog

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Adam in the park near our guesthouse

After a decent bus trip from Prague we arrived in Berlin at the Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof. With our usual budget constraints we stayed at the cheapest pension available and received the cheapest service as a result. The Hotel Pension Messe failed to tell us that they had two locations and as a consequence after a 1km walk with our loaded backpacks their woeful staff informed us we'd walked past the building we were to be housed in so we had to lug our bags almost all the way back towards the station. The room was adequate although the walls were basically made of paper so you get to know your neighbours pretty well!!!

As usual we decided to take a long stroll to acquaint ourselves with the neighbourhood and get our city bearings.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or Holocaust Memorial
Berlin is on a bigger scale than most places we have visited on this trip and the walk towards the centre was further than we anticipated but the sunshine and new surroundings made it pass by quickly. We got hold of a Berlin Welcome Card, another excellent tourist scheme which allows free use of public transport and discounted entry into many museums and attractions. We opted for the 72 hour card which cost just 21.50 Euros and by the time we left Berlin we had probably saved ourselves double that outlay so we strongly advise visitors to Berlin to use the card. Past experience told us that we needed to book onward travel in order to get the tickets we wanted, so we joined a long queue at the station and booked our tickets on the overnight sleeper to Krakow before getting down to enjoying Berlin.
Brandenburg Gate

The weather was too tempting to ignore so we headed back towards a beautiful park near our pension, buying picnic goodies at a supermarket on the way and enjoying the sunshine among the locals who seemingly all had the same idea. One of the nicest things we have experienced during these travels around Europe is the gusto with which spring and the nice weather is grasped. It must be something to do with long cold winters as it seems that everyone is straight outdoors as soon as the sun comes out.

We had picked up the usual collection of leaflets at the tourist info office and as we went through them we decided to take a bicycle tour of the city with the Fat Tyre Bicycle Company. We figured it was an easy way to cover lots of ground and see most of the major sites in one day then return to see those that peeked our interest in more depth later; and so it turned out.

The park near our guesthouse
We arrived good and early for the tour which does not need booking as it's turn up and go. After a short talk from the exhuberant guides we chose our bikes and set off following our guide Mike. Our group was about 20 people strong and there was no need to worry about the exertion required as the day was very gentle and we stopped frequently for Mike to give us the low down on Berlin's statues, squares and buildings. Just over halfway about two and a half hours into the tour we went through the Tiergarten past the nude sunbathers, requiring a steady hand on the handlebars and easily the most dangerous part of the ride due to the distractions. We stopped at a lovely beer garden/ cafe in the park and had the usual couple of 'weiss beers' and the post beer part of the tour was an altogether more jolly and spirited ride.
TV Tower
The whole group was laughing and joking and a good time was had by all. In the past we have tended to avoid these type of tours but we can thoroughly recommend Fat Tyre and would definately do it again.

Having got off the bikes and being a little saddle sore we found the most amazing restaurant called Dolores which serves Burritos, Nachos, etc; all made to order with your choice of fillings, salsa and rice. It was so good that we ended up finding an excuse to visit everyday.

We had been told that on Thursdays many of Berlin's 170 museums offer free entry for the last few hours of opening so we went in search of a good deal but discovered it is only the state museums that offer the deal. So we decided to go back to Checkpoint Charlie which we had seen on the tour and check out the museum.

Adam, Marx and Engels
It is probably one of the most rambling museums we have visited as they have allegedly just kept adding new information without ever undertaking a wholesale reorganisation. That said it was fascinating to see the lengths that people in the communist area surrounding West Berlin had gone to to escape. It was also very sad to see the lengths the communist government had gone to to imprison and murder its fleeing citizens.

Another site we later revisited was the visually stunning but ultra controversial Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Contoversial because the 6 million Jews murdered during the holocaust were in fact just one of many groups the Nazis persecuted and the other groups are not currently commemorated with such expensive and high profile monuments.

Adam on our bike tour, with our tour guide (Mike) on the bike to the right of him
The memorial itself is magnificent although the maze like quality does seem to inspire many of the younger visitors to treat the site as a playground which we felt was slightly inappropriate. To add further controversy the blocks that make up the site are a tag artists dream and to make the removal of graffitti easier the blocks were sprayed with a chemical. It was later discovered that the company which provided the chemical is none other than the same company that manufactured the Zyclon B poison that was used to murder the Jews in Hitler's gas chambers. Ooops.

Talking of Graffitti we headed out to see the longest section of still standing Berlin Wall which was painted by hundreds of artists in the days after the fall of the wall. The East Side Gallery as it is called was a major disappointment as the art works are now mostly covered over with other tags and graffitti which is a real shame.

Check Point Charlie
The wall is constantly in your mind as you travel around Berlin, as everywhere it once stood a line of double bricks is embeded in the road or pavement. It was such an icon of political failure and now you have to wonder what the Israeli's are doing building a new one!!!

Two museums we would recommend are the Story of Berlin and the Neue Gallerie Art Museum. We were really lucky with our timing at the Story of Berlin as as soon as we arrived an English speaking tour of the Nuclear Fall out Shelter below the museum building was taking place. Apparantly during the Cold War Berlin was thought to be the most likely flashpoint of any nuclear conflict and the government built 18 shelters around the city which were  designed to house 1% of the population in the event of a nuclear bomb being dropped!! The shelter we visited accommodated 3,600 people in very cramped conditions for two weeks.

Steph standing both in East and West Germany
There were no allocated places as it was first come first served and they had their own kitchens a few showers and toilets and a very basic infirmary. We can't imagine what conditions would have been like if they had ever had to be used!! Our tour provided one of the funniest quotes we've heard on our travel and our hats are off to the American gent in his 50's who asked the poor guide if the shelter had ever actually been used for real??? Er, which nuclear war was that in then buddy!!

The Neue Gallerie houses the sort of modern art you either love or hate and we were split exactly on those lines. There was some shockingly bad stuff but also some pieces that were thought provoking and interesting. It was all housed in a great modern building and the layout and organisation was very good.

An original stretch of the Berlin Wall
Even better the cafe next door had a great outside patio area and served up some of the most delicious beers we had in the whole of our Berlin stay.

To sum up we both absolutely loved Berlin and can easily see ourselves coming back for more. It's a place we'd totally recommend and has something for everyone.

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Adam in the park near our guesthou…
Adam in the park near our guestho…
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of E…
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of …
Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate
The park near our guesthouse
The park near our guesthouse
TV Tower
TV Tower
Adam, Marx and Engels
Adam, Marx and Engels
Adam on our bike tour, with our to…
Adam on our bike tour, with our t…
Check Point Charlie
Check Point Charlie
Steph standing both in East and We…
Steph standing both in East and W…
An original stretch of the Berlin …
An original stretch of the Berlin…
One of the wall guard towers
One of the wall guard towers
Hitlers Bunker, now a car park
Hitler's Bunker, now a car park
The unknown Russian Soldier
The unknown Russian Soldier
Sunset picnic in our park
Sunset picnic in our park
Steph and our beers at the Museum …
Steph and our beers at the Museum…
Adam and a beer at the Museum of M…
Adam and a beer at the Museum of …
As Kennedy said, I am a jelly don…
As Kennedy said, "I am a jelly do…
Adam and his burrito at Doloros
Adam and his burrito at Doloros'
Adam on the sleeper train from Ber…
Adam on the sleeper train from Be…
Steph and our mid-bike tour beers
Steph and our mid-bike tour beers
Us and our Flat Tyre bike tour in …
Us and our Flat Tyre bike tour in…
Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie
One of the paintings on the East S…
One of the paintings on the East …
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of E…
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of …
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche (T…
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche (…
Nuclear Bomb shelter, one of 18 ar…
Nuclear Bomb shelter, one of 18 a…
East Germanys iconic Trabant
East Germany's iconic Trabant
Adam enjoying a picnic in our park
Adam enjoying a picnic in our park
Berlin
photo by: CFD