- 30 Jan - 05 Feb, 2021
When in Berlin
- 24 Aug - 30 Aug, 2019
- Travel Diaries
A city of museums, history and a rich café culture, a milieu every travellers needs to capture and explore a city in its true essence. Berlin is that city where you need comfortable shoes, a backpack with enough clothes to keep you going and an eye to capture everything. Pop in at museums and go missing for hours at a stretch or lounge for long hours in one of the roadside cafes sipping back to back espressos or let the vibes pull you in the insane night life of the city. Here’s the scoop on what to see and what to do when in Berlin.
The largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall is known as the East Side Gallery. The wall is fully covered in murals after over 100 artists from all over the world were invited to come and paint it after the fall of the wall. Take your time to walk its 1.3 kilometre length and see the colourful memorials. The most famous of which is the portrait by Soviet artist Dmitri Vrubel depicting the Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev kissing East German leader Erich Honecker – a Soviet sign of great respect. The mural is captioned with “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love”. The East Side Gallery gets progressively busier throughout the day. The only other people here at before 9am were runners. Aim to arrive around the same time to have this historic place to yourself.
Famous for its spectacular collection of art and antiquities from Turkey and the Middle East, the Pergamon Museum is one of Germany’s most visited museums and part of Berlin’s UNESCO-listed Museum Island. Highlights of the Pergamon Museum include the gorgeous Aleppo Room built during Ottoman Period. The room was the reception in a broker’s home in Aleppo, Syria. If you’re any kind of fan of Ancient Egypt, then you have to visit the Neues Museum. They have a well-known bust of Nefertiti, queen of Egypt on display that you have to see! Unfortunately, you can’t take photographs of it, but that’s okay, it just makes you savour the moment more and study every detail of her beauty. The Zeughaus was once an arsenal for weapons, today it’s one of the most important Baroque buildings in Berlin and houses the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM). The permanent exhibition has images and artefacts from the past 500 years of German history. In the courtyard is a chilling display of 22 hanging “Heads of Dying Warriors”. Each face shows expressions of pain and suffering, which is a more truthful representation of war than simply showing victorious statues. Every Saturday and Sunday a popular arts and crafts market runs along the east side of the Zeughaus, you might not want to miss it.
The Marx-Engels Forum is one of Berlin’s last reminders of its Communist past. Named after Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, these larger than life statues are of the authors of The Communist Manifesto of 1848. Both are considered two of the most influential people in the socialist movement. There was a bit of public controversy surrounding the statues after Germany was reunited in 1990. Some locals wanted them to be removed entirely as they considered them as an unwanted reminder of a regime they opposed. Others argued that they had both artistic and historical significance. An argument which eventually prevailed.
Neue Wache Memorial
Germany is infamous for its political history throughout the 20th century. From the rise of the Nazi regime to the splitting of East and West Berlin then the reunification in 1990. The Neue Wache Memorial is a place of remembrance dedicated to all the victims of war and dictatorship. Inside this neo-classicist style building is a large empty room with a pietà-style (a mother and her dead son) sculpture placed directly under the oculus in the centre of the room. Being placed here exposes the statue to the harsh Berlin climate, symbolising the suffering of civilians. It’s a must visit for every traveller and also, to pay your respects here.
Located just north of Brandenburg gate is the impressive Reichstag building with its iconic multi-tiered glass dome – this is Germany’s home of Parliament, known as the Bundestag. An essential part of any visit to Reichstag is climbing the dome’s spiral walkway for the stunning panoramic views of Berlin. The rooftop terrace has a restaurant making for a great place to sit back and relax. The dome may seem out of place with the rest of the building architecture but its architect designed it to symbolise the goal of establishing political transparency, shedding light on the internal workings below. Quite the sight it is, and even better a perspective to reflect on.
For the World War 2 aficionados, the most sobering experience you’ll have in Berlin will be during your visit to the Holocaust Memorial, dedicated to the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Covering 4.7 acres (1.9 hectares), the memorial is made up of 2,711 rectangular grey concrete blocks rising and falling in a grid formation. Its significance and symbolism has been interpreted in many different ways, as was intended by the architect. He didn’t want to create a typical memorial, but something a visitor could derive their own meaning from. Which is why it is a must-visit, no matter how bone-chilling it might be. After spending some time walking amongst the concrete blocks, we recommend taking a private or small-group Berlin walking tour to gain further insight. Also on site is the underground Information Centre which includes moving exhibitions including the Room of Names, the Room of Dimensions, and the Room of Families.
What better way to close out your first day in Berlin than with a panoramic view of Berlin atop Kollhoff Tower. Panoramapunkt is viewing deck located on the 24th and 25th floors of the Kollhoff Tower in Potsdamer Platz. Located in the 24th floor is the Panoramacafe and a spectacular rooftop terrace on the 25th floor. Whizzing you to the top in just 20 seconds is Europe’s fastest elevator. From up here you can see Brandenburg Gate, the Victory Column, and Bellevue Palace. For a small fee, enjoy a 360 degree view of one of the most happening cities.
Checkpoint Charlie on Friedrichstraße
Located on Friedrichstraße, Berlin’s main shopping street is Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous crossing point between East and West Germany during the Cold War. It’s name, Checkpoint Charlie comes from the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie) where Checkpoint Charlie was the third checkpoint opened by the Allies in and around Berlin. Located opposite on the corner of Schützenstraße and Zimmerstraße is the open air exhibition BlackBox Cold War which tells the story of those who failed and succeeded in escaping from East Berlin. As you can imagine, being an important landmark and located on a major shopping street, the best time of day is to visit either early morning, or late in the evening.
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