I’m going to put it straight out there; Berlin is so
cool. You know that guy/girl that everyone wants to be friends with because they’re just so effortlessly awesome all of the time? Well, Berlin is the city that’s so cool all the other cities want to be best friends with it (which is kind of ironic considering its history…).
We stayed in the Park Inn on Alexanderplatz in what used to be East Berlin. Right opposite the TV Tower (Toothpick) – the GDR’s massice fuck-you to the West – it had great transport links and was only a short walk to Museum Island and the Brandenburg Gate, and the trendy district of Mitte.nHaving our hotel right under the TV Tower was great because if we ever got lost all we had to do was look up! 🙂 The best view in Berlin… and the worst bathroom…
…Basically just a glass box in the bedroom. Be prepared to say schuss to your dignity and get to know your roomate *very* well if you stay here!
We found our way down Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate – which was completely rammed with tourists, as you’d expect…
We came across plenty of the former GDR’s iconic Ampelmann. By the by, Friedrichstraße was where Berlin really roared in the 1920s and 30s – it was seriously damaged during the war, but this was the street that inspired Christopher Isherwood’s novels. I had Sally Bowles swigging Prairie Oysters in my head as we walked down it 🙂
Next we climbed the Reichstag, which is completely free but takes a little forward planning. If you go onto the Deutscher Bundestag website you can register to visit the dome on a chosen day and time. Then, all you need to do is turn up on time with some form of ID (we took our passports). You get a free guide and a great view of the city…
…but taking pictures of your reflection in the mirrors is also fun!
If you do nothing else in Berlin, make sure you take the New Europe free tour. I’m not normally that keen on doing the whole tour thing. I prefer to wander around and discover things by myself rather than joining a flock of other tourists to follow around a bloke in a tweed jacket holding an umbrella up in the air. But this was brilliant. Tours leave from outside the Starbucks at the Brandenburg Gate at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 4pm and they take about 3 hours each including a quick coffee break in the middle. The catch is, that New Europe tour guides work on tips only, so you’re only obligated to pay them if you feel like you’ve had a worthwhile experience and even then you only pay what you want to pay. But, be warned, if all the guides are as fantastic as ours was, you’re going to want to hand over your entire wallet. It’s definitely worth a few hours of your time, even in you’re only in Berlin for a day because you get a great overview of the city’s history and see all the places and sights that you would have otherwise missed.
White Trash Fast Food is definitely worth hitting up for dinner if insane burgers and “fuck you fries” are your sort of thing…
Look out for the Photoautomat at the top of the Alte Schönhauser Straße. These vintagey classic four picture strip photobooths are scattered across the city in different locations (there are others in different cities too, even London has one I’ve heard…), and for just €2, getting everyone to cram inside for a photo makes a great souvenir 🙂
One of my favourite places in Berlin was Mitte and the streets surrounding the Alte Schönhauser Strasse (where the photoautomat was located). It’s full of quirky boutiques, cafes, bars and other shops.
Don’t leave without eating Currywurst! Okay. It’s just a Frankfurter with chips drowning in curried ketchup, but not to be missed and there are stalls everywhere for when you’re in need of a pitstop.
…Alternatively just hit up Dunkin Donuts, which is possibly even better.
We stopped for a toilet break in Galleries Lafayette (note: if you’ve got a weak bladder be prepared to take along plenty of change, you usually have to pay to use the toilet in Berlin!) and gazed longingly at the 5kg (!) tubs of Nutella…
Don’t forget to stop by Checkpoint Charlie and The Berlin Wall.
German beer is obviously not to be missed, but Berliner Weisse (Rot) is seriously good. It’s a sour wheat beer that I’m told without the raspberry or woodruff flavourings would taste horrible. Its a bit like Cider and Black. It’s close, but much smoother and sweeter. Make sure you get it on tap though, it’s not as nice straight out of the bottle.