Berlin Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Wednesday 5th November

We had a ridiculously early flight to Berlin at 8am which we made with plenty of time after waking at 3am. My hand luggage was deemed (in my eyes wrongly) too large for on board luggage. I was then forced to pay an exorbitant sum for this bag.
We had a relatively uneventful flight and arrived at Schoenefeld airport to the south of the city. We purchased our Berliner Card (museum entry and transport included) and jumped on the city train and changed to Frankfurter Tor and found our hotel a short walk from the Metro. We then went to a local café had a coffee and pastry then decided to hit the sightseeing trail.

Found our way to Märkisches Museum, exhibition history of light, We jumped on the Metro to Markische Museum station and a short walk saw us arrive at the history of light a museum that was formerly a church. The museum highlighted the development of Berlin with electricity and power grids. The Markische museum came into existence in 1908 after having been the Brandenburg Provincial museum in 1874. The tower is modelled on Wittstocker Bishop's Palace in the district of Potsdam, and the south-facing traceried gable is reminiscent of St Catharine's in Brandenburg. In front of the entrance on Wallstrasse stands a 1905 copy of the 1474 Roland statue from the Town Hall in Brandenburg. 80% of the building was destroyed in WW2. There was also a small section that provided views of Berlin with optical illusions.

We headed back to Potsdamer Platz for a giant steak sambo and soaked up some atmosphere while we devoured the sandwich. We decided against the Government buildings at the time due to the substantial queues.

We then headed on towards a major remnant of the Berlin wall and found the topography of terror which acted as the SS HQ in Berlin used for planning and torturing dissidents between 1933 and 1945. The building next door still displayed bullets holes from the war days. Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8 was the head of the NSDAP police. The site was littered with stories of torture and activities that were planned from the building and it is all to familiar with Nazi history. Just next to the centre was a giant balloon you could ride for views of Berlin.After the torture centre we headed to checkpoint Charlie ones of the world famous sites of Berlin and then we headed on to the Story of Berlin museum located at Uhlenstrasse which details the history of the museum from ancient settlement through WWI/II and on to the present moment where it stands a city of 4 million people. Berlins existence was first acknowledged in 1237 and by 2008 it grew into one of the world major cities this despite been war torn several times in its history at the centre of the German Prussian war machine. The museum extended over multiple levels and was well worth the entrance fee. A more comprehensive review of a city I have yet to see. Ironically when looking for the entrance we mysteriously found our way to their offices 3 floors up and a block away.

Two hours of reading and studying made us hungry and we found a budget German pasta diner just a short walk away and for 10 euros we got a plate of pasta and a cold drink well worth the price. We were by this point knackered and jumped on the tube back to the hostel for a well deserved rest.

Thursday 6th November

We had a minor drama here whereby my booking stated no breakfast but the website I booked through did. I heavily persisted and they found it fair that I should not be unduly punished for the websites mistake.

We headed into the city and jumped on the intercity to Potsdam a small town about 20 miles South West of Berlin. We arrived at the central train station and went on for a walk into the town. We had no map so where walking blind. The town was quite historic and was home to the Prussian kings until 1918. the city is situated on the river Havel and is home to the biggest World Heritage Site in Germany containing a series of interconnected gardens and parks known as Sans Souci. The most popular attraction in Potsdam is Park Sanssouci, 2 km west of the city centre. In 1744 King Frederick the Great ordered the construction of a residence here, where he could live sans souci ("without worries", in the French spoken at the court). We walked through the main street and came to a old Turkish style water pump which was built by Frederick the Great himself. A 30 min walk further and we found a cafe had a coffee and finally entered the park. The grounds were hundreds of acres in size. Full of gardens and various palaces we found the stunning Neues Palace Sans Souci (history). We then walked the grounds and moved onto an old wind mill the Belvedere. Here we took some photos and headed back to Potsdam town. We grabbed lunch at the station and were soon back in central Berlin. We then headed to the Charlottenburg Palace in the west of the city. Another grand palace in fact the biggest in Berlin, we enjoyed a walk through the grounds which date back to the 17th century and found our way to the metro. The building was designed in the baroque and rococo styles. We then headed to the world famous checkpoint Charlie museum. The museum Mauermuseum was founded in 1962 by Rainer Hildebrandt. It initially only contained two rooms before expanding in 1963 into an island of freedom. Many escape attempts and intelligence gathering occurred here due to its strategic location. The wall had been built on August 13th 1961 by armed units of the GDR. The GDR in November 9th after 28 years announced ‘travel abroad for private reasons may be unconditionally applied for’. This resulted in crowds so huge that guards were unable to man the area effectively and thousands piled through to the western side and freedom!! The wall totalled 155km; measuring 3.6m tall. Over 220 people attempting escapes and in August 17th 1962 Peter Fechter was famously shot before the eyes of the world in the first major incident. The wall was a symbol of oppression and its destruction is one of history’s great moments. We then crossed the road to a pleasant little Italian across the road and enjoyed a lovely meal and looked to wind down the night. We went for a walk through Parisier Platz at night to see all the symbols, the gate the Reichstag and Unter Den Linden shining under nights glow.

Friday 7th November

We decided to expand our ever growing knowledge of Jewish/WW2/Nazi era history and thought the new museum a good start. The museum is as famous for its design as it is for its content. It was designed by Daniel Libeskind a Polish born Jew (1946) who moved to Israel and then onto New York, he himself a survivor of Nazi persecution. The building was built in 2000 and others have since been erected on his design in California and elsewhere. Large parts are empty rooms with small amounts of natural sunlight let in through angled windows. This is to represent the complete void of Jewish presence that now exists in modern Germany. Ironically now Jews make up the fastest growing component of Berlins population. One room merely contains shape faced metal blocks that represent the faceless victims of the war.

We walked on to the river Spree and approached Museum Insel which is literally Museum Island. It contains 5 museums and is renowned for its classical architecture. The site is located between the river Spree and Kupfergraben. The buildings on the island accommodate the archaeological collections and the art of the 19th century. The Altes Museum, built in 1830 after the design by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, was the first building on the Museum Island and the first public museum in the Prussian state. It was followed by the Neues Museum (1859), the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery, 1876), the Bode Museum (1904) and the Pergamon Museum (1930). During the Second World War, up to seventy percent of the museum buildings were destroyed. Even today, the buildings still suffer from the results of war damage. The Masterplan Museum Island, adopted by the 1999 meeting of the Council of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage), aims at the restoration of the buildings as well as the return, reunification and reorganisation of the collections which after the war had been divided between East and West. Afterwards we grabbed some lunch at a baguette stand at Alexanderplatz a major transport hub in the city centre. We then jumped on a tube to Hausvogteiplatz to get to Gendermenmarkt which is a huge square with the French and German cathedrals lined at opposite ends. In the middle is the Konzerthaus a famous site for classical music concerts. The Deutscher Dom pentagonal structure was designed by Martin Grünberg and built in 1708 by Giovanni Simonetti and modified in 1785 after a design by Carl von Gontard, who added the domed tower. The Deutscher Dom was completely destroyed by fire in 1945. It wasn't rebuilt until 1993 and reopened in 1996 as a museum with exhibits on German history. The French Cathedral (German: Französischer Dom) is the oldest of the two cathedrals on Gendarmenmarkt, a beautiful square in Berlin. It was built by the Huguenot (French Calvinist) community between 1701 and 1705. We headed back to Potsdamer Platz my favourite xmas markets to get a chocolate banana a German treat we discovered at Oktoberfest back in Sept 07. It truly is marvellous. We were getting a little tired at this stage so headed home picking up some beer and champers at bottle shop. One which is should inform you had every flavour of beer under the sun cola/orange and tomato flavours. Tomato I learned to my detriment in Amsterdam is rank. We downed some booze at the hostel and headed into the suburbs of east Berlin were we found a delightful Thai restaurant and sat down to our stock standard pad thai and pad see ew with some beer and wine. Two hearty meals and drinks came to the measly sum of 17 euros. Amazing value for money in my book especially vis-à-vis Paris or Amsterdam. We then found a quiet pub with outdoor seating and enjoyed a beer under a gas heated lamp.

Saturday 8th November

This morning we slept in as the drinks caught up with us!! We headed pack to Pariser Platz walked past the holocaust memorial. We arrived at the government house and joined the queue which was about a 45 min wait, the building is famous for its Norman foster designed glass top where you can see right into the debating chamber. When we finally got into the roof area it offered stunning views of the city though I must admit Berlin is not stunning in the way a Paris or London with their skyline scattered with world class buildings and historical sights. The Reichstag building in Berlin was constructed to house the Reichstag, the first parliament of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Reichstag until 1933, when it was severely damaged in a fire supposedly set by Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe, who was later beheaded for the crime. That verdict has been a subject of controversy over the years. The National Socialist German Workers Party used this event as casus belli to begin a purge of "traitors" in Berlin and to ban the Communist Party of Germany. The building remained in ruins until the reunification of Germany, when it underwent reconstruction led by internationally renowned architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, it became the meeting place of the modern German parliament, the Bundestag

We again had lunch at the markets and sought to discover the Sony Centre a huge domed building like a futuristic spaceship. It contained the film museum and some retail stores so we admired the building and moved on. Next we found the Berlin shopping district their version of oxford street. We hunted out the KaDaWe at Kurferstendamm their equivalent to Harrods and every bit as pricey. We found some sales but nothing to enticing even with the free champers being offered in some stores. The Protestant Kaiser William Memorial Church on the Kurfürstendamm in the centre of the Breitscheidplatz. The original church on the site was built in the 1890s. It was badly damaged in a bombing raid in 1943. The present building, which consists of a church with an attached foyer and a separate belfry with an attached chapel, was built between 1959 and 1963. The damaged spire of the old church has been retained and its ground floor has been made into a memorial hall. We found the DDR museum at the hakershermarkt. It offered details and extracts and items dating to the rule of East Germany by secret police. Life did not seem all that bad except everything was so insular all outside influences were considered to pollute the minds of the young. Still there was a huge underground black market from the west in goods such as clothes, music and cigarettes. Essentially the regime broke down when officials lost the will to keep enforcing their ruthless regime. It is the only GDR museum in the world and is very hands on with interactive features such as an old Trabi you can sit in. Back to Alexanderplatz we went for a pleasant walk through a restaurant district and found a traditional German place. It offered big pork ribs and smoked sausage. We had a plate of hearty meat and veggies and some good old German beer to match. We enjoyed a short walk through narrow street to find a café still open for dessert so some cheesecake and blackforest gateau later we were fulfilled and ready for bed.
Sunday 9th November

We woke very early checked all our gear was packed and then headed out to the train station. Some revellers were still drinking at 6am true German style. We found a pastry outlet at the airport and I devoured that in record time. We boarded the super-slow train and our last journey through East Berlin as we contemplated yet another hugely enjoyable and enriching experience of one of the world’s great cities.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Sponsored Links
photo by: CFD