Posted by: Kristie | October 2, 2009

Berlin Snapshot

Traveled Sept. 15-18, 2009

Click on the photo to view all of our Berlin photos

Click on the photo to view all of our Berlin photos

Our Observations/Info

  • The city is large and expansive. We definitely did not have enough time here since we spent most of the first day and last day travelling. I would recommend at least three full days.
  • Berlin has the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey. We unfortunately didn’t get a chance to sample anyTurkish cuisine, but something to look into when you’re here.
  • Their main train station is new and incredibly huge. It has a whole mall in it. Brett called it the Deathstar. It was a bit overwhelming.
  • Berlin is home to 170 musuems. That’s a lot of museums. Which is another reason to spend several days here. You could spend a week and not get bored.
  • People seemed extra friendly. We were a little bit lost at the train station and a man asked us if we needed help. Even though we didn’t know much German beyond Spechen Sie English, people were willing to help us out and translate menus.
  • We downloaded a great (and free!) app for the Berlin subway called Berlin Metro 09. It doesn’t require an Internet connection so you don’t have to use up your data. It feastures an interactive map and route planner, which includes the number of stops, line names and approximate travel time. It was extremely helpful for getting around the city.

How We Got Around

  • Train from Amsterdam. Used Eurailpass. Roughly 6-hour trip.
  • Walked to and from train station to our apartment.
  • Once in the city, used the S and U Bahn. Their ticketing system is the honor system, so twice we got away with not paying. I know, we’re bandits. Nobody checked for tickets the entire time we were there.

Where We Slept

“Wela Dos” Apartment rented via Homeaway
Contact: Manuela Dittmar
€52/night + €35 cleaning fee
Recommend

+/-

  • Great location. Easy walk from the train station (not the main train station). Very close to the U and S Bahn.
  • Located outside the city which was nice because it had neighborhood feel to it.
  • Excellent value. Cheap, very spacious and clean.
  • The main contact who we arranged the apartment through (and spoke English), had her assistant handle turning over the keys, but she couldn’t speak English. This was a little frustrating because if we had known, we would’ve been more prepared. It made me a little nervous attempting to do business with someone when you can’t communicate with each other. The assistant also didn’t seem to know beforehand that we didn’t speak German.

Where We NomNom’d

  • We actually didn’t eat a whole lot of memorable food in Berlin. Not saying there wasn’t any, we just ate a lot of takeaway and bought food from the grocery store.

What We Did

  • Fat Tire Bike Tours – This was an awesome tour. Our guide, Ingo, was super knowledgable, entertaining and easy on the eyes (bonus!). We did the general city tour, which was roughly four hours and packed with a lot of information about Berlin’s history, focusing mainly on history surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a great way to start off a visit because it provided a context as well as orientation of the city.
The beginning of our bike tour. The bikes were super comfy and the tour was relatively flat so it wasn't too strenuous.

The beginning of our bike tour. The bikes were super comfy and the tour was relatively flat so it wasn't too strenuous.

  • Berlin’s Little Oktoberfest – Ingo actually recommended heading here as a practice for Oktoberfest. We met up with him and some of his colleagues and had a blast. The event consisted of just one tent, a tent much smaller than the real Oktoberfest tents, but it still had a great atmosphere and the roast chicken was incredible.
The tent may be smaller but the music and people were great, plus the beer was cheaper.

The tent may be smaller but the music and people were great, plus the beer was cheaper.

  • Checkpoint Charlie Museum – One of the hazards of my previous job is that it’s made me pretty selective about the musuems I visit. I have been to enough crappy museums to last me a lifetime. Due to our time constraints in Berlin, we only picked a few sites to actually explore outside the bike tour. That being said, this museum frankly pissed me off. It was so incredibly unorganized, cluttered and frankly confusing. But it wasn’t the lack of organization that frustrated me so much, I’ve been to plenty of chaotic musuems, it was the fact that it could’ve been an excellent musuem. The information they were relaying was fascinating. It highlighted the numerous stories of the escape attempts over wall as well as profiling the people who helped smuggle East Germans to West Germany, often to their own detriment. They had excellent historic photos and I truly wanted to read the intepretive panels with its way-too-small text and take in as much information as I could. Yet it was such a clusterf**k that you could barely wrap your head around the stories. The flow didn’t seem to have any ryhme or reason to it and they kept repeating information. At one point Brett even got lost and missed a whole section. The extra frustrating thing is that its one of the most popular sites in Berlin and it has the nerve to charge €9. Take some of that money and fix your shit museum so you can properly tell your important story.
A replica of the original Checkpoint Charlie is located outside the musuem. The photo of the U.S. soldier designates that you're entering into U.S.-occupied West Berlin.

A replica of the original Checkpoint Charlie is located outside the musuem. The photo of the U.S. soldier designates that you're entering into U.S.-occupied West Berlin.

  • Topography of Terror – This was a free and interesting outdoor exhibit located next to the area that held the headquarters of SS. It chronicles the story of the rise and fall of the Nazi regime and includes numerous interpretive panels with clear, concise and organized information (take note Checkpoint Charlie Museum), plus it showcased some seemingly rare historic photos. It actually had so much information that we ran out of time because we didn’t get there until about 7 p.m. and it started to get dark. I would allow at least 1-1.5 hours for this site.
  • East Side Gallery – This is the longest remaining section the wall, stretching for nearly a mile. After the wall was torn down, this stetch became an outdoor gallery where people from all over painted murals depicting their view on the reunification of Germany. For the upcoming 20th anniversary, the original artists are coming back to restore their murals.
Just one of numerous murals in the East Side Gallery

Just one of numerous murals in the East Side Gallery

What We Bought

  • Nothing!

To view all of our photos, check out the Berlin Gallery.

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Responses

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