A modern metropolis mixes with urban streets to form an individual city scene in this German city. Shopping malls can be found among the business district for all the city-lovers among you. In contrast, the industrial feel to the streets outside of this sector make for some unusual sights and sounds, with communities residing in dwellings built from corrugated iron, wood, scrap metal and anything else are hidden within the lesser know streets of the city. These areas tend to be fenced off to outside wanderers, but a variety of people enter and exit these inner-city villages. The biggest surprise being the small stream of men in suits that came flying madly out of the gates each morning on their bicycles to work.
Our first stop of the morning was one of the many cafes that are found in the city squares. Opting for a quieter spot, we chose an outside table discovering not only patio heaters but also blankets draped on the chairs. Believe me, on a cold October morning this is a much appreciated thought. The food in Berlin is delicious and the many dishes we tried here were no exception. I would heartily recommend the Kaffeestube im Nikolaiviertel to anyone who finds themselves hungry and looking for some real German fare. (For more info, see my Top 10…foods to try in Berlin).
Having arrived in the middle of Oktoberfest, many of the squares and parks were decorated and full of market stalls and live music. Oktoberfest was born of a horse race held in 1810 to celebrate a royal wedding. The race was considered such a success that the decision was made to repeat it annually, gradually expanding with the addition of beer stalls and rides evolving into the festival that we know today. A popular attraction during Oktoberfest are the Hofbrauhuis’s, beer havens where friends meet to eat, drink and sing the night away. As we soon discovered, dressing up in traditional German outfits is an essential part of the Hofbrauhuis experience along with regular “Proust”-ing with others. If you are looking for a light-hearted evening of fun & entertainment, you cannot go wrong here and we spent the evening chatting away with the Berliners at nearby tables.
The next morning we woke up ready to explore the rest of the city. Train is probably the easiest way to navigate the city and the transport links are timely and reliable here. However if you have the time, walking is a more interesting way to find your way around Berlin. With street art around every corner, and the Berlin Bears and sculpture dotted among the streets, you’ll find a lot to look at while you stroll. The riverside walk by the Spree is a popular spot for sculpture, bars and cafes giving you ample choice for a warming drink.
Locally know as Museum Island, the museum area in the city is a hotspot for tourists and understandably so with many outstanding treasures housed in the buildings here. My absolute favourite is to be found in the Pergamon Museum. The Ishtar gate reconstruction, one of the inner gates to the Ancient city of Babylon is just one of the rare exhibits on display and well worth the time and money alone to see.
We found ourselves wandering from sight to sight like this for the rest of the day and the one that followed with us stopping for a photoshot at Checkpoint Charlie, staring up at an old cathedral remains to look at the bullet holes on the outside walls from WW2 and finally at the Berlin wall. The remaining section of the Berlin wall is colourfully decorated by artists from around the world with messages of peace, rememberance and hope. The Wall museum is inexpensive and also worth a visit if you would like more background information about the wall’s history. The feel here is not to forget but to educate and move forward into newer and better times.
Berlin was and remains one of the most unusual cities I have ever been to. The blend of history, traditions, business and visitors give Berlin its own unique flavour and I feel that if you were to come here ten times over you would still have something new to see and learn.