I visited Berlin for the third time in October 2014, around 12-13 years after my second. My first trip the year before then. What to make of Berlin.. The first thing to realise is that there are many beautiful towns and cities in Germany. Among those I have been to are Heidelberg, Weimar, Munich.. Berlin is not.
No longer a beautiful city but containing isolated beautiful buildings. Bucharest comes to mind. But Berlin was and still is so far my favourite city in Germany I have been to.
It is probably better to describe Berlin is like a scruffy but cultured individual, enjoyable to spend time conversing with.
What you will find Berlin is nice parks, history, culture and atmosphere. The annual museum night is a good time to come when buses transport sightseers, mostly students around the museums late at night. As well as an efficient transport and cheap prices. Each district in Berlin has its character and there is much to do. My last trip was done repeating some I had done in my first few trips.
One place that is probably on every tourist itinerary here is of course the Berlin Wall. But it is endangered. Most of the wall was torn down of cause. However on the East Side Gallery is a section of wall containing art works, and sometimes political statements. The section is under threat of being dismantled for apartments. It would be a tragedy not just for the art itself which is variable in quality but for history.
Berlin requires a lot of planning, there really is so much to see but transport is great and extensive. It is pretty much sufficient in everything London lacks – particularly in regard to price and reliability.
One of the places which most impressed me previously to Berlin was Treptower Park. It was the first time for me to see Communist area architecture. The park contains plenty of monuments with quotations from Stalin. I personally don’t have any liking for the ex-dictator though. The main monument contains a memorial to 12,000 soldiers. Built to celebrate the ‘liberation’ from the Nazis it has a 12m Russian soldier holding a child and his sword crushing or slicing a Swastika. The statue is imposing and the layout of the park is beautiful. This is a place in Berlin that is all-seasonal and well worth the visit. You may need to ask for directions from the station. It is not immediately obvious although not a long walk (and across a road dividing the park).
People have described (on the internet) as Germans being unfriendly. One of the few dislikes of Berlin. On my first trip I have witnessed bad customer service but I have to say especially from my last trip to Berlin I found only the opposite – friendly, helpful people – who on several occasions offered help in finding directions.
The Wall was built by the communist East Germany to separate the city from the west and highly policed. East Germans attempting to get over the wall were shot.
However by the late 80s the political landscape was changing and on one night – November 9th, 1989 the wall came crashing down by the will of the people.
East Germany had decided to open the wall for private travel. Hastily prepared by the SED Politburo, the opening was intended for the next day. But the spokesman Günter Schabowski, was given the task to brief the press had not been fully informed. Announcing that restrictions were to be lifted he was asked by a reporter Riccardo Ehrman when would the changes come into effect.
Having not being fully briefed Schabowski assumed immediately replying “As far as I know effective immediately, without delay” and confirmed this included opening the crossing to West Berlin. This caused huge crowds to gather at the wall.
A potentially dangerous situation was occurring and the border guards deciding that firing upon the crowds as not an option, and without clear leadership from superiors had no alternative but to open the crossings and so began the re-unification of East and West.
As for German food, it won’t be too everyone’s taste. However on expense price was always reasonable and they gave lots too much. One popular food is currywurst. A hotdog with a curry sauce and / or ketchup.
If history is your main interest particularly from World war II, then there is so much to see. The city may have been badly damaged in the War but a lot of historical places were either restored, or left in their state.
Brandenburg Tor is one of the most famous sites. The Arch is where Hitler drove through accompanied by the military as a war of announcing his powerful entry on to the scene to tragic consequences of course.
Nearby there is the Reichstag. Partially destroyed in the war it was rebuilt with a glass dome and designed by Norman Foster. the famous British architect. I entered the Reichstag previously although not during this visit.
Other historical places worth seeing (pre and post World War II) include the beautiful Charlotteburg palace, and the TV Tower. When in Berlin I went to liturgy and Vespers at one of the several Orthodox Churches in Berlin. The ROCOR cathedral.The priest and parishioners were all very welcoming and I hope to be back.