Guest post : A brief introduction to Berlin – complete


Complete Guest post at Alyssee Riordan’s blog. Please see her amazing blog as well: she does travel photography and takes wonderful pictures.

When discussing about a guest post with Alysse Riordan one thing soon popped into my mind: Berlin. The city I feel most at home in so far- well, after london but whatever.
Berlin is amazing. Berlin is to me one of the coolest european cities, making it similarly possible to walk around with your hubby on a leash, a goldfish bowl on you head, a rainbow afro combined with flamboyant clothing or all three together- without anyone batting an eye. I am not even sure if anyone would notice that at all… Sometimes I feel like if the city is inhabited by a philosophers wild dreams- or by people who escaped out of a clinic for mental health issues… But anyways: Berlin is amazing- the people (as Germans in general) may seem somehow grumpy at some occasions and even I look really really pissed off on some days when walking around the city BUT talk to them for a second when you are lost or don’t know what to do- they’ll (mostly) get friendlier immediately. We tend to be a bit reserved at the start but it gets better as soon as we talk to someone…

Knowing Berlin a bit as I do (and without claiming to be the ultimate expert) I tried to make up a list of spots to visit in Berlin and Potsdam- so you get around a bit in less than 3 days and have time for some shopping as well- I included a little tour for you  and when in doubt stick to the google map attached 😉

You going to start off by going by public transport.

Keep in mind: The Berlin public transport can be confusing. If you are staying for two, three or five days, try to buy the ‘BerlinWelcomeCard’ which is valid for the chosen period after you bought it. During this time you may go wherever you want to by Bus, Suburban, Tram or Underground. No matter where, you get along. It is less expensive than day passes and includes reduced entrance fees for some mayor sights and museums…

When choosing the designated area keep in mind that Berlin is divided in three fare zones- you can buy AB which includes everything within the Berlin ring (city center), the mayor sights and some of the suburbs, BC, wich includes everything EXCEPT the Berlin Ring and I wouldn’t recommend this fare type for you and ABC which includes the whole of Berlin and Potsdam as well- as potsdam is included in this tours as well it might be nice to get an ABC one- but never mind- you may buy the designated fare separately. When in Doubt stick to AB and buy an ‘Ansschlussticket’ for the travel to Potsdam. (you’ll get help at the Central Stations ‘Kundencenter’ (customer support))

First stop: Go by public transport to ‘Tiergarten’ (serviced by S7/75/5) or Hansaplatz (serviced by the U9) and walk towards the Siegessäule. The Siegessäule or ‘Goldelse’ is one of the most common sights in Berlin. You’ll be able to get there by walkways and pedestrian tunnels- try to capture the column while walking towards it on the staircase- it is one of the best possibilities for a great shot. I haven’t done it myself yet but I wanted to do that for ages 😉

DSC_1065After the Siegessäule you get back onto the sidewalk and head torwards the brandenburg gate. Walk down the ‘Straße des 17. Juni’ and you’ll soon get to the brandenburg Gate- there is a lot of information about the German separation, the 3rd reich and many other perts of German history around that place. Take your time, walk through the gate to the ‘Pariser Platz’ and stop just before the gate to do a shot like the one on the right.

The Pariser Platz is heaven for tourists an pickpockets- keep an eye on your belongings because even if there is some police around criminals may take a chance. No open handbags, no unattended Rucksacks or similar things. Keep an eye on your belongings because due to the current security situation everyone is really really scared of unattended luggage and you don’t want to be the cause of a mayor police intervention because they think your luggage is some kind of bomb…

After you did all the shots you want to at the Pariser Platz and Brandenburg Gate, please head back towards the siegessäule but turn right, directly after you passed through the gate and walk towards the Reichstag.reflection

In case you want to visit the famous cupola, you’ll have to reserve some places. It is for free but the authorities want to know who attends… Reserve your ticket here, book at least three weeks ahead to get safe places, if you want to have a tour, book ahead even sooner. I’d recommend something around two months (which is the last date to chose on that page) . When you booked but don’t get any kind of confirmation, print out the mail with the reserved time and go to the information at the entrance- they’ll look if you got your place (and which time they took you) and will tell you when to be there for admission. Remember to bring along your passports or national ID cards. They’ll briefly scan your bags and a guide will take you to the Reichstag. But the sight from up there is amazing… I think its even better than from the Fernsehturm…

you’ll get around one hour of time on the roof terrace, maybe a bit more but they don’t really check when you get off that place. Just leave when you feel like it but consider that you won’t be able to go up there again. Audioguides are available in a vast mass of languages. I think they have most common languages in the Eu and some specialities like Chinese as well… The pictures to take inside the cupola are great, just have a look. week 36After you got down again, head towards the Kanzleramt, walk around there and then get back the way you came. Walk towards the gate again, then past it. Pass the American Embassy to see the Holocaust memorial. (Turn around for a nice and different view of the Brandenburg gate.)

 At the memorial are some possibilities for quite candid shots- depending on the people walking around or the ones you brought along._DSC2513_Fotor

The Memorial was erected in 2003, inaugurated in 2005, 60 years after the end of the second world war.

Due to the fact that the German history, as every nation history, has some dark spots, and the third reich was one of them, we try to keep this in mind, teaching and warning the younger generation- like mine- that something like that should never (NEVER!) happen again and is inexcusable.

Some say that the concrete blocks resemble tombstones, some say that they resemble the dead. I don’t know which interpretation is ‘right’ though I see them a tombstones. A huge sea of them, warning everyone walking by and showing the cruelty of those days…
There is an information center with relics and information (oh dear, really?) and reports of witnesses and so on. I have never been there because the information from school were already quite detailed and well… I know what they did, I read the papers and fight with more contemporary issues at the moment… But- you may have a look, I think it should be for free as well.

Now walk past the whole thing (to that side which is NOT near the American Embassy) and down the Französische Straße.

_DSC4275_FotorYou’ll walk past the famous Friedrichstraße (its on later in another part of the tour) and reach the well known Gendarmenmarkt.

There are many things to see at this place.

The fountain in the middle is wonderful, there are artists and people and when its crowded there are loads and loads of possibilities for candid and unique shots.

Ensure you bring some time, sit down and enjoy yourself. If you brought along something to eat, you may feel like sitting down on one of the benches and enjoy your food- there is not that much around to get cheap things but if you are willing to pay a bit ore (or a huge bit more) the food might be actually good. But I have no idea where to go…

Get back to the street you came from, it is behind the shady benches beyond the trees (when in doubt use the map) and walk

week 22

on. just move in the same direction as before- no not coming to this place but leaving it.

You will now walk past the Bundesaußenministerium (ministry of foreign affairs) which is only included due to its wonderful glass facade, its really nice to play with the reflection… I like it quite a lot and it might be nice for you as well.

When you walk on, just go straight ahead. Maybe walk right after you passed the second bridge to visit the Nikolaiviertel- a really beautiful place with many nice spots to eat something or just relax in the sun (when there is sun while you are there)…

Foto 07_FotorYou’ll walk past the “Rotes Rathaus”, another famous spot in Berlin. It is the seat of Berlins current mayor and senate of the federal state of berlin. The house was named after its red facade, and was in times of the cold war the seat of east Berlins government. Have a look, it is worth it.

As you might have already noticed: we reached the end of this part of the tour. You walked from the Siegessäule all the way to the Alexanderplatz which is literally halfway through the city. You might be exhausted now. You’d have every reason but you’ve already seen a lot of the city of Berlin.DSC_1121

All the mayor sights are ‘done’ and we may move on. Anyways: In case you are into shopping: there is TK Maxx (they have reduced prices on designer stuff), Primark and a few meters away the Alexa Shopping centre, go there if you want to buy something (they have most of the shops you’d like to visit) or just have a stroll through the food court to get something to eat (for reasonable prices,)

Depending on the time you started and your experience in long walking tours you might go on from here or just start over on another day. But if you started early, you might as well go on- its possible!

When you decide to go on, please hop in the S7/75/5 servicing towards Spandau, Westkreuz or Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, via Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Berlin central station). Travel one station and get off at Hackescher Markt. Get out of the station on your left side (towards the marketplace and the MUJI, not towards the tram and “Who killed bambi?! store” (which is nice but no ‘must see’

Walk across the road and into the Hackesche Höfe, take your time, its nice there. Maybe do some shopping- whatever.

If you have to do some shopping (if you are living via AirBnB or something similar) there is an Edeka across the road- it’s next to the Rossmann and has a huge sign. You’ll get anything there. If you need to buy an Apple or something to drink, you’ll get it there rather cheap. you might go back here after the last stop on this part of the tour or just go back to the friedrichstraße… It doesn’t matter.

I’ve marked my favorite spot for falafel on this map as well- in case you are hungry, go there and order a Falafel- it is really really cheap and tasty.

_DSC2604_FotorWalk back to the station, then along its side- toward the park- So if you face the station, walk right.

Follow the way to the park, go to the Spree and along it. You’ll soon reach the Museumsinsel- a place to visit the museums of
Berlin.

The Bode is nice for its architecture – inside and outside- the pergamon is always amazing (but reserve tickets or brace yourself for 5h of waiting- they actually have signs telling you how long you’ll have to wait from your spot in the line.)

You might take pictures like the ones left and right- I like the Museumsinsel.

If you visit the Dome and National Gallery as well you might take pictures like this:

_DSC2467_Fotor Kopie The left one was during the festival of illuminations- a wonderful festival in fall. The whole city is illuminated but anyways, the dome is wonderful from in and outside. I think you’ll have to pay to get inside but might get a discount with the Berlin welcome car- but I have no idea though I was in there at the “Nacht der Museen” – an Event where all the museums open all night, making it possible to go for a stroll in the late or early hours, enjoying the museums and some workshops or performances inside… I really like it.

In case you are interested in Events- I’ll patch a list with dates and useful information on the end of this post.

alley
The Galleries gardens are nice for playing with lines or letting someone walk between the rows of columns. I used the symmetrie for playing with that crystal ball I bought… I have never been inside- though I were only in a few Berlin museums and don’t know much about the exhibition itself…

But anyways, visit this place to get an impression…

When walking on please head to one of the bridges and cross the river. Turn right and walk along the Spree, you’ll soon reach the Friedrichstraße, a good location for shopping and relaxing. If you want to buy any kind of book, go to the Dussmann, If you need to get a toilet go there as well. Anyways- go there! The assortment of books is huge, in the basement (main entrance, all the way through the entrance hall, then down the stairs) there is a nice café for eating and drinking stuff with a vertical (!) garden. They are expensive (when being on budget travel) but all they serve is great.

The toilets are free of charge and even thought it looks like they are customers only: they aren’t! Just go down the stairs and head left, through a bunch of doors (there are signs so you don’t get lost) and there you are… They are clean and tidy on most days and the style is different from what you normally see…

At the Friedrichstraße just take your time.

DSC_0932If you want to go to the Synagoge at the oranienburger Straße, take S1 to Oranienburg, S2 to Bernau or S29 to Henningsdorf. Go one station to Oranienburger Straße. (If the destinations I named above are not on the information signs there might be some kind of construction work. they point out whether the train goes via orationburger most of the time. You can’t miss it. If you head the wrong direction just get off and try again 😉 )

You see the Synagoge as soon as you get out of the station, its big, inside there is a museum, the inner space was destroyed nearly completely, only the facade was kept… go inside, there are some exhibits from its former glory, information, stuff like that. I was inside it. You may as well go inside the cupola BUT its not that spectacular after all. You don’t see that much. Maybe do it, maybe don’t- it isn’t necessary thought its not different to the rest of that architecture inside anyways… I was up there, it was OK, I haven’t taken any pictures… It clearly isn’t necessary if you were on top of the Reichstag or the TV tower 😉

The tour end here. You might go back to the Hackescher markt, eat something round the oranienburger or head to one of the spots I marked on the map… They are all amazing 😉

Second day/ Later:

If you want to see the famous KaDeWe – a premium shopping paradise which always has WONDERFUL and amazing christmas decoration (the ground floor always looks wonderful)  go to the U bahn Station Wittenbergplatz. It is serviced by the U1, U12 und U3. From the KaDeWe walk away from the subway station and follow the Tauentzienstraße. You will walk past the Kaiser willhelm Gedächtniskirche, next to the Bahnhof Zoo is by the way the Museum for photography. It has a special exhibition about Helmut newton and changing exhibitions from other artists. I have been in there (its free with a student pass or if you are below 18) and it was totally worth it. It is not that big, so plan about one hour of time, it might be more but should be less.

I would not recommend this area after dark. The KuDamm is ok, the Station is Ok but especially this street isn’t. As it is some of the main spots for prostitution of young boys, theft, drug dealing and the mission for homeless people is near. Normally I wouldn’t say anything but as the situation in Berlin seems to be a little explosive at the moment… Well. I would not go there after dark. i would not recommend it, do what you like to. The police is quite often in this area. And anyways: I am really relaxed normally and spend time in Berlin but this was the only area I ever felt uneasy in.

When you leave the Museum through the main entrance turn left.

_DSC4989_FotorWalk straight ahead, cross the road and walk along the Theater. Until you get to the Kantstraße. follow the kantstraße on its left side. You will get to the Savignyplatz. This spot is my overall favourite in Berlin. You’ll get some of the best food in Berlin around here. The restaurant Ashoka will give you some very cheap and tasty indian food, if you love austrian cuisine, go to jules verne (both marked on the map). Its a little bit pricey but totally worth it. The backhendelsalat (backed chicken with corn crust on salat) is as good as in vienna. I love it.
If you are searching for something to eat for lunch and want to go to a restaurant, the Petrocelli will suit your wishes. The last time I looked it up you could get two courses for meal around 12€ wish is quite good actually. The food is wonderful there. You will find it when you walk from the Suburban (exit savignyplatz) to the right. Cross the road and it should be on your right.

Anyways- if I list every spot to eat around this place it would take ages. So: have a look at the map, I marked some nice spots. I have eaten at all of these myself and would recommend them to anyone in Berlin.

Other spots to mention:

  • East side gallery: Located in Berlins eastern part (take the S7/5/75 to Ostbahnhof or the U12 to Warschauer Straße) is a strip of the berlin wall, decorated by street artists. Some quite special shots can be taken there. it is quite nice. Around the warschauer Straße are many clubs and bars, the Berghain (really famous club – expect not to get in there and google for the dresscode) is close to Warschauer Straße as well. If you want to celebrate go there but leave your valuables at home. (theft)
  • Markthalle Neun: Located in the eastern part of berlin as well (take the U12 to görlitzer Bahnhof) is one huge market for street food and other amazing stuff. Every thursday they celebrate the Streetfood thursday with amazing food and a wonderful atmosphere. I marked it on the map. The area is nice with some bars BUT consider that the Görlitzer Park is one of the main spots for drug dealing in Berlin. Please don’t go there. you don’t want to get into trouble. If you don’t know the way torwards the Markthalle ask any of the officials around there. There are always a few VBB officials around (crime prevention) and are happy to help you out. Even if all of this sounds somehow strange: Go there, its worth it. I have been there with Amelie from Thiswildnature (she is like a little sister to me) and can recommend this place even if you take children with you.
  • Jüdisches Museum: The jewish museum is one of the most impressive in Berlin. (Take the underground to Hallesches Tor U6/U1 or the U6 to Kochstraße) You will have to enter through the city hall located next to the museum (there ought to be a sign telling you) because the museum itself has no separate entrance.
  • Eberswalder Straße: Another spot for amazing food. (Serviced by the U2) I would recommend a visit. Some quite alternative shops, little bars, restaurants its very nice.

Potsdam

As I mentioned before: Potsdam is also included on the map. The city of potsdam is serviced by the VBB via the Suburban line S7 towards Potsdam Hauptbahnhof.

It departs every 10 minutes.

When you buy a VBB ticket for the fare Zones ABC the public transport in the city of potsdam is included.

In Potsdam there are many possibilities for photography. You will get to most of them by tram ( as this is the best possibility to get around the city). I market a few spots, if you are still willig you could make your way around by foot, using the map as orientation, or, as the tram stations ought to be marked in the map as well take the tram… Anyways: I won’t do a special tour for potsdam as its quite limited in its space and should be explored without any kind of ‘plan’ you won’t get lost, I promise

Ask at the information in the train station for a city map- they mostly hand it out for free. The marked spots are just suggestions, giving you some mayor sights. Enjoy your time, the city is beautiful.

General Stuff:

  • keep an eye on your belongings. Theft is as common in Berlin as anywhere else. Also leave no luggage unattended at no time during your trip.
  • keep your national ID card with you. Federal law in Germany says that any citizen should carry an ID card with him at any time. If you want to stay on the safe side keep yours with you as well.
  • Legal age in Germany is 18. Unless otherwise stated it is OK to drink alcoholic beverages in public (parks, streets, etc.) but I think they prohibited alcohol from the VBB so keep your eyes open for signs. Please don’t be totally drunk, the police isn’t happy if they find you lying around somewhere and you might get fined in this case. its ok to drink, but not to be drunk enough that you can’t take responsibility for your actions.
  • if you want to buy alcohol there are two restrictions: No ‘hard’ alcoholic beverages beyond 18 – you may buy beer, wine, sparkling beverages and light alcoholic drinks from 16 on. From 18 on there are no further restrictions. The cashiers are forced to see your ID card to prevent getting in trouble themselves so keep it with you.
  • Keep your VBB ticket with you when traveling with the public transport. controls may occur at any time, but are quite seldom. There are automated selling points at any station, a bunch of them at bigger ones. Note: If the vending machine is not working due to any issues take a picture, get off at the next stop and try again. 60€ fine otherwise.
  • photography is somehow regulated: street photography is fairly legal but you might be fined anyways. don’t picture beggars, homeless or dunk people. It is illegal. Don’t picture children without a parental permission.
  • Festival of illuminations: 30.09.2016 – 16.10.2016
  • Night of the museums: 27.08.2016
  • Tourist information depending the VBB/ Public transport issues and other: Hauptbahnhof/ Central station, second floor
  • Emergency calling: 110 for police, 112 for an ambulance or the firefighters. You might have to call several times due to personnel cuts especially in the area of Berlin but you’ll definitely get serviced. Call anyone for help on the street, German federal law forces citizen to help if they are called directly and most will do it anyways…
  • Shop opening hours are usually between 10 am and 8 pm on weekdays, some shops close around noon on saturdays, shops are closed generally on Sundays.
  • If you are in need of something to drink, to eat or a newspaper on sundays or beyond the normal opening hours due to any reason, head to a Spätkauf or ask anyone around where to find the next ‘Späti’, they will help you out for reasonable prices. If possible don’t go to a gas station, they are more expensive. shops in the central stations are mostly open 24/7, there is a kaisers supermarket in the Berlin central station (-1).
  • Please find my google map enclosed here
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