My urge to see Berlin had been strongly manifested in the past 5 years. Ever since I’ve visited Paris, New York, and London, I’ve been yearning to check out what my OWN capital is up to. Not enough that living in New York brought with many, well, err embarrassing revelations. “Oh, I love Germany. Berlin is such an awesome city” was the phrase of most Americans I talked to during dinner parties or normal bar chats. New Yorkers love to find something in common with you as soon as they find out where you are from. “Berlin? Yeah, I’ve never been there. How is it?” was my usual response to it in the beginning. As the time went by, I merely swallowed this last remark and played it simple by smiling and nodding whenever Berlin came up. After being back home for two times already and not being able to scoop in a trip to the Hauptstadt, I just knew that this time was the trip of all trips: Time for some Berlin fanciness and me bathing in it!
I was ready to devote 4 full days to my capital and chose those to be at the very end of my trip. So after taking a train up to Cologne and then flying over to Tegel, here I stood: Among the bustling vibes of one of the most notable airports in the German country. From Tegel I went on to Charlottenburg, which is a district that stands for new extravaganza, hipster restaurants, and the one and only Charlottenburg Castle (which unfortunately I did not get to see during my trip! Booh!).
Our first night out was a culinary experience at a simply delicious Vietnamese restaurant. SaiGon Today offered an array of healthy looking dishes and a variety of even healthier fruit drinks. Cocktail-inspired drinks containing no alcohol – they were yummy to say at the very least. And this is where the first surprise came in handy (or rather, no surprise, as I’ve heard of it before): Berlin is cheap! Dirt cheap! Food, drinks, necessities – you name it! Especially if you are into Döners (Turkish delicatessen with lamb meat), you can get these for as cheap as 2 Euros in Germany’s capital. Everywhere else in Germany you’d be paying 3 Euro and up (Trier’s infamous Kepabhouse sold its stuffed bread for a whopping €4.50 on a Saturday night). For a dinner with drinks we paid less than €10 – not bad, folks, not bad at all!
My first full day in Berlin was devoted to catching up with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in almost 5 years. The main reason this city was so much fun was because I got to see so many people I hadn’t met in ages – exactly what I needed at the end of my trip to Deutschland. Together we went sightseeing for the first two days or so. And our first stop? Breakfast at the Cafeteria Skyline right around the corner from the Tiergarten. It belongs to the Technical University of Berlin (TU) and goes all the way up to the 20th floor, where you have a great view over the entire city. What else is there to wish for than an excellent panorama showing it all? Thanks to my local friend, I’ve discovered this hidden gem and can only encourage you to go check it out and have a rockstar breakfast for €5 only (coffee and bottled water included).
We then continued our tourist day and visited the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), which is a rather posh store, reminding me of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s with a touch of Saks Fifth Avenue, right in the middle of the city. Of course we also had to walk up and down the Kurfürstendamm – the most popular street in Berlin as it hosts tons of souvenir stores for tourists but not much else, as I am disappointed to point out.
After buying a few souvenirs, we hopped on the subway, not without difficulty when searching for an ATM for my friend, who has an account with one of the biggest banks in Germany. For some reason, all of the bank ATMs were underground and looked rather shabby than trustworthy. At the Potsdamer Platz we were able to snap a picture of the oldest clock in that spot (probably from the 60ies, since the entire area is relatively new) before we took off to the Topography of Terror. This is a museum-like building right next to the remnants of the Berlin Wall. It shows the history of the Nazi-terror during WWII and the prosecution of the Nazis after the war. It also has some bits and pieces on the Roma & Sinti and other groups who were persecuted by the Nazi regime.
After spending an hour staring at the pictures and descriptions beneath and listening to tour guides discussing this dark piece of German history, I simply had enough. I think we certainly entered overkill mode on this topic when looking at the endless amount of outrageous and brutal pictures which were exhibited. Which made me come to the conclusion that Berlin is most likely the only city in Germany that displays this part of history so accurately. It has an array of museums, history pieces, and other exhibitions on Nazis and Jewish culture during WWII, an era seemingly forgotten in other cities of the country. Since 90 percent of the city was destroyed during the war, Berlin also has a relatively new flair, including buildings and culture. Other tourists consider this city very hip whereas I found it at times rather bland and unappealing than attractive.
[For more pictures on Berlin go to Days Spent in Berlin (I)]