4 Days in Berlin, Germany

Monday, August 27, 2018

The edgy German capital was the last stop on our Europe trip and frankly, I had a small hesitation that I’m simply not cool enough to fit in with the artists, musicians and tech geniuses it’s known to breed. 

To be honest, I don’t think I was entirely wrong. I certainly wasn’t a fit for the funky crowd on the streets, but the attitude in this part of the region to misfits was a far cry from the rest of the country. The people were friendly, quirky and even within a few hours, I already knew this was the most diversity I had seen on our entire trip.  

Personally, as a history and art lover and someone who doesn’t mind places that are a tiny bit rough around the edges, I had a ball in Berlin. While there was plenty of contemporary architecture and fun hang out spots – the city carried it’s scars proudly and didn’t let you forget for a second the devastation that brought in this new wave of contemporary architecture.  

And it’s not just the buildings that say, “Look at what we survived,” it’s a spirit that’s there in the people too. I sense a large part of the accepting culture, the diversity and the general warmth in people comes from these daily reminders of why acceptance is so important. 

Here’s everything we got up to on our final leg before heading home.

Walk through Museum Island 
Before exploring the more contemporary history, get a taste of Berlin's most immaculate buildings by taking a stroll through Museum Island. It's home to the Berlin Cathedral and amazing art museums like Neues Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie to name a few.

Stroll through Gendarmenmarkt
Berlin has it's fair share of public squares, each with their own unique vibe. Gendarmenmarkt is easily the grandest of them all, housing the Concert Hall, French Church and German Church. The area was completely destroyed in the Second World War, but you can barely tell as the entire vicinity has been meticulously restored.

The Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie 
A must-see for anyone visiting the city, The Berlin Wall was destroyed in 1990 but a section of it remains. You can still see a one-mile stretch, the East Side Gallery, which carries a range of beautiful murals which you can explore in the open air. It’s also the home of the iconic Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing mural, which tourists from around the world imitate daily. Formerly East Berlin, this part of town has a very distinct look and feel that differs from the rest of the city. For a more in-depth look into the history of The Wall, head to Checkpoint Charlie and the open-air museum around it. For the history-lovers there are plenty of boards and artifacts there to read up on. 

Holocaust Memorial  
Another must-have item on your list should be the Holocaust Memorial. The site consists of 2711 slabs of concrete and an underground section of the museum contains the names of 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims.  

Explore the museums 
As I mentioned before, Berlin has impressively documented its difficult history, through the city itself as well as the tonnes of free museums within it. If you want to further explore the history of the Second World War then a good place to start is the Topography of Terror. The museum is both indoor and outdoor and has hundreds of incredible WWII artefacts. Another one we headed to was the Palace of Tears (Tranenpalast), which was formerly the border crossing where East Germans bid goodbye to those heading back to West Germany. We recommend giving yourself plenty of time to explore both in depth. 

Panoramic views from Reichstag  
Owing to the war, Berlin’s architecture is a jig-saw of the old and the new and worth taking in from a panoramic view. The German Parliament building, Reichstag allows tourists to go to the roof for free and the way up there is worth a look too. The building is ultra-futuristic to say the least. We headed there late one night and while I can’t vouch for the day, with the city all lit up, the view was fantastic. 

Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburg Gate 
This shopping and nightlife hub has more history to it than what you might find in other such districts around the world. Potsdamer Platz was turned to ruins in WWII and left untouched during the Cold War. Watching the area in all its vibrancy today, is a sharp reminder of how the city has bounced back. This is a great spot to check out a restaurant or if you’re in the mood to walk, head to the next key sight: The Brandenburg Gate. This one’s a taste of a different time in German history – the Prussian Era. The neo-classical monument looks good all day long but the effect was particularly striking at twilight. 

Curry Wurst  
I’ve said this on here before, no one seems to do vegan sausages as well as the Germans. Curry Wurst is to the Germans what meat pies are to Australians – a beaming culinary icon of all that is great about their culture. While traditionally it’s made of fried pork sausages with curry ketchup, there are quite a few vegan options available too. Curry 61 and Yellow Sunshine are two places that offer the vegan variety and it’s until date one of the best things I’ve eaten – EVER. 

Dali Museum  

Okay so self-confessed art lover over here decided to visit the Dali Museum in Berlin. It was a highly anticipated visit and well, I was very very disappointed. Granted, not every Dali museum and exhibit will carry his greatest masterpieces – that's fair and reasonable. But for the museum to carry an extremely underwhelming collection that consisted primarily of sketches, seemed particularly hard to digest. I’d say I’ve been to fair share of exhibitions by now and this one is smack bang on the bottom of the list due to its lack of variety.  

Tajikistan Tea Room 
I don’t want to leave you lamenting over my disappointing museum visit too long. So, here’s the absolute highlight of the itinerary – one incredibly quirky tea hideout that summed up the entire vibe of the city for me. It’s situated in a slightly dingy corner and when I walked in, I wasn’t expecting to be greeted with a slice of Asian opulence. My favourite thing about it? Apart from the tea, the warm people and the beautiful décor, it was the mix of people. It was the perfect hangout place for the eclectic artsy group at school. And for a few hours as I reclined on the comfy floor set-up with my Turkish apple tea, I felt like I’d joined the gang too.   

Another lively public square, but an entirely different vibe to the others. We landed on Alexanderplatz in the middle of a snow storm and sought refuge in the area’s popular Die Mitte shopping mall. We recommend marking this among your places to shop, stroll and explore. Oh, and be sure to check out the World Clock while you’re there. 

Mall of Berlin 
If you want get a food court meal, Berlin style or get some last-minute shopping done, head to the Mall of Berlin. We generally try to hit up at least one food court in every country because it’s the clearest indicator of the kind of food that’s popular with the locals. 

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