It was with rather high expectations that I made my trip to Berlin. When people tell you “Oh, you’re going to absolutely LOVE Berlin,” then you’ve got a lot to live up to. The guidebook sung its praises as “energetic” “irreverent” etc.
Well, maybe they were right.
Berlin is one of those BIG European cities. It takes you hours to walk between the main attractions – which are invariably grand architectural marvels – along the wide boulevards. If Big European Cities are your thing, you’ll love Berlin.
That said, Berlin has a lot of small details to look out for too. I’ve always held an interest in the Berlin Wall, probably because I was born the year that it came down: that makes it my token “Important Yet Relevant Historical Event”, Communism and the remnants of the Second World War become immediate history, and weirdly linked to me.
…I expected the Wall to be thicker. I guess more like the Israel-Palestine border wall, which we still see on the news. The Berlin Wall is quite thin, crumbling and threadbare at the various Memorial sites. It looks flimsy. But with the armed guards and “Death Strip” between the GDR & DDR border walls…I guess it didn’t need to be too solid.
For major nerd points, I stayed at the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy-themed Heart of Gold Hostel in central Berlin. I certainly can’t fault the place: the location is excellent, the rooms & bar area immaculate, the staff cheery…
The highlights from my Three-Day trip included:
1. Watching the sun rise over the Brandenburg Gate and nearby buildings on the Unter den Linden. I got off the overnight DB train at 7 am and discovered that Berlin is rather nippy by November (Switzerland, I take back everything bad I said about you. You’re WARM). I spent a lot of time on my trip drinking coffee & hot chocolate just to keep my body temperature up. Still, I reckon I survived.
2. The Pergamon Museum. I think that being a nerd makes you pre-dispositioned towards everything Ancient. I kept on with my Classical Studies for quite some time at secondary school (taking it over Higher Physics, which just goes to show…something); the allure hasn’t faded yet. So, you can imagine how looking around a museum specially devoted to large buildings from Ancient Greece and Babylon might excite me somewhat. Jaw-dropping, that is what it was. Berlin has quite an array of stellar museums on its Museum Island, as well as the Deutsches Historiches Museum and DDR Museum in the nearby area. I reckon I used my time in Berlin to get up to scratch on German history and culture quite well…
3. The Reichstag at Night turned out to be a great experience. I could only reserve an appointment to view the German Parliament and its glass dome at 8 pm on the night I was set to board the train home. Fuelling up on chocolate I ventured into the biting winter darkness to do the exploration. Totally worth it.
I’d like to come back to Berlin in the summer when temperatures are more favourable. There are plenty of riverways, parks (and a Schloss!) to explore, while Potsdam supposedly makes a lovely day trip. After exploring the dividing line of the Berlin Wall, I’m also rather eager to head out into Eastern Bloc territory…