Berlin, The Grey City
Finally, I managed to see Berlin, after years of wishing to go, So, on a Friday morning, I stepped in the city. Berlin is a city that can complain about anything, except of course its history and war. I always wanted to see and experience the place where it all began. The beginning of a life-changing experience for me and for a million other people in Europe.
From the ruins left after the war and the cruel split for the period after it, it appears to be a Boheme city, a bit rebellious I would say…a city that lives differently!
Do you actually know how the Berlin Wall felt? One day there was a press conference since people were getting more and more anxious about the wall and the communists were trying to calm the spirits. The representative started to read the press release, which was asking for patience and that things will happen soon and when he was asked “When?” he looked at the paper and the only date on the paper was the date of the press release (9 Nov 1989) he replied “NOW!” so everyone just started to jump the wall.
In a similar way the wall was built; the communists decided that they will build a wall to split East Germany from West Germany, which literally meant that will divide Berlin in half, so one day they start to do it and if you on that day were visiting a friend in the East, but your whole family, house, and job was on west, you had to say goodbye to your life.
Enough with the history lessons, what can you do in Berlin? A lot, at least from my experience.
First thing first, what I always do on my trips, find a Walking Tour and start the sightseeing with some tips and tricks from those amazing people. A few things that are mentioned in the tour, is a parking lot under which Hitler’s bunker supposedly was, the explanation of the little tiles you can see in front of many buildings in Berlin and many more. All these, are information that normally you can’t find them out unless you are with a local.
How did I start my city break in Berlin? I booked a visit at the Reichstag, the Berlin most important governmental building, which is a very impressive modern architecture on top of a century building. Not far away from it, you can see the Brandenburg gate, the place where history has been written for the whole Europe.
From there I walked throughout the park and visited the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (‘house of world cultures’) at night and pose next to the neon lights that illuminate the building. It’s something different and very close to Reichstag.
The Holocaust Memorial, dedicated to the Jewish people who died during the Second World War. It's at a minute walk from the Brandenburg Gate and stands out into your eyes, like a maze of huge concrete rectangles (like you're in The Maze Runner!) with different sizes. Apparently, there are over 2,700 of such rectangles and underneath all the madness of concrete, there is also an information center, where various things can be found about the victims of the Holocaust.
Don’t forget the most awesome park Berlin has, Tiergarten and get lost photographing or just enjoying the lush lawns and small creeks for you to feel among the concrete city jungle.
The most touristy place in Berlin was on my list – Checkpoint Charlie. So, if you are interested to know how the city was divided, you can find a fascinating story right there. Do you want to get your passport stamped with all the stamps from the Cold War, like when you had to move from one side to the other of Berlin? You can do it for 5 EUR, but bear in mind, that this will most likely invalidate your passport. TIP: go as early as possible, otherwise it will be so crowded, you not be able to see anything.
If you went to Berlin but didn’t Instagram a photo of the Berlin Wall, were you actually there? The wall provides endless photo apps, so make the most of it, the only sad thing I noticed while walking along the wall, it was the number of selfies people tend to take, which obviously made me think if anyone still remembers what that wall represented for almost 40 years and the fact that people lost their lives near that wall.
The next spot will be the Museum Island – basically, you have 6-7 museums all in the same place and you can see a lot if you decide to go inside.
Sony Center is another place, which I have to admit I was very skeptical about visiting, but it was recommended to me by so many people: “Go during the morning!” “Go during the evening, even night if you can!” “Go inside!” “Go and see it from outside” Therefore, after so many GOs, I went and look up at this epic building and indeed I got to see spectacular views.
TIP: Point your camera at the sky and get snapping for great shots, you will thank me later, when your Instagram feed will be on fire.
Don’t forget about Molecule Man, one of Jonathan Borofsky’s iconic aluminum sculptures near the Oberbaum bridge. At 30m high, it makes an epic subject for a photograph, it’s one of the great Instagram spots in Berlin.
Berlin is also known as the urban art space, with more than 400 galleries and art museums, graffitis and a lot of artists presenting their very creative projects. If you are around Kreuzberg neighborhood, you should have a delightful tour of graffiti art (like Banksy, Pure Evil or Boa)
The Berlin parties are very well known worldwide. As a tourist or local you can start in one local pub and move around from club to club until morning. Cassiopeia – It’s a consistently good club on Revaler Strasse; R&B and hip-hop nights are the most popular and the beer garden courtyard and rock-climbing are perfect in the summertime.
Three important things I really want to mention about traveling to Berlin: go to Carillon Berlin, where especially in the summer it’s really beautiful to listen how Jeffrey Bossin performs. You can climb up into the tower and have an amazing view over the Reichstag with only 4 EUR. You can register for a tour.
Another must do in Berlin in my opinion, and it was something on top of my to-do list, visit the interior of a bunker. Unfortunately, most of the bunkers have been destroyed, but a few of them have been saved by NGOs and are used as a way to remember the dark period that Berlin managed to pass. Since you can’t reserve tickets, I would suggest being there at least 30 minutes before, as tickets are sold out most of the time. I was lucky enough to get the last ticket, 15 minutes before the tour and believe me it’s impressive what you get to see and experience. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any pictures, but the history and the feeling of being inside there, years after the war, will make you realize how cruel mankind used to be. I will not spoil with details, but I think it’s a must while in Berlin.
The last thing I want to tell you about, my dear reader, is that during my journey, I decided to visit the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, 30 minutes outside Berlin, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I wanted to see with my own eyes, the place where mankind created one of the darkest and saddest periods of human existence. Unfortunately, our past will be something that can never be eradicated and will continue to haunt us as long as humanity continues to exist.
I can’t even describe how it made me feel while thinking what happened between those walls, it was one of the most emotionally intense experience I have ever had, but I think we should all be aware of this and even if it will not be the happiest moment in your life, I would suggest visiting. On a different note, I would like to add, that if for some reason, you see in Berlin, or as a matter fact anywhere in the world, a sign with “do not take pictures” or “do not film”, please show some respect. The reason I ask all of you out there that when reading these words to respect the signs, no matter how much you want that photo, is that something totally incredible and infuriating happened and in my opinion, you should respect history and try not to repeat it.