Berlin has so much to offer to the traveler. Just make sure you don’t do what we did and leave your guidebook at home. It can be a challenging city to get around without enough information, and the frequent rain can put a damper on your plans but if you can plan out your days ahead of time, you’ll be able to squeeze most of it in.
Even tough the guidebook was sitting on an end table in our family room during our trip, we still had a great time and saw quite a bit. We did the obligatory trip to Kadewe — a mega, luxury department store, but we also did the traditional museum route.
What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the amount of art that was hiding in its museums. The Pergamon gate was perhaps the most impressive sight that we saw. In the 1880s this gate along with the street leading to it were removed from Turkey piece by piece, tile white tile, brick by brick and brought to Berlin where they were reassembled in housed within a museum. It was absolutely amazing to see this. In a way, it’s good that it’s no longer in Turkey because it probably would not have been appreciated and even destroyed over the last hundred years. But they say that the mayor of Pergamon today wants it back. So we’ll have to see if he gets his way.
Another site we didn’t realize was in Berlin was the statue of Nefertiti. My daughter is a huge ancient Egypt fan and a particular she loves nefertiti. She was really surprised and elated to see the original sculpture of Nefertiti which was the inspiration for the bust she has in her room.
One problem of getting around Berlin and in particular with museums, is that it’s not very tours friendly. When you get to museum island, the museums are not clearly marked. In fact we walked past me to get counter several times before realizing that it was not a special counter only for large groups. I don’t think you can buy tickets at the door in any of the museums. So you’ll have to find a long line of people in the middle of a bridge in the center of museum island and that’s the ticket counter. Before leaving the ticket counter, make sure to ask clear directions to the museum you want to go to first because they have specific entry times and you don’t wanna get lost on your way there.
I’m actually not sure if there is even tourist office in Berlin. We got most of our information about things to do was see from the management office for the apartment we stated. They supplied us with lots of maps, directions for getting around town, the best places to eat and shop, and even coupons for entry into the museums, the zoo and several restaurants.
You must make sure to see a DDR museum. This museum tells the story of what life was like a former east Germany. In a way, it feels like propaganda when you’re there, but the reality is that life was not fun for most east Germans. The gov’t supplied them with plenty of food to eat, but most of it was bread. In fact they had so much bread that a fed it to the pigs. What they didn’t have was the freedom to choose their jobs, their music, where they went, or even their clothes to some extent.
As you move through the museum, you eventually begin to learn of politics that were used to keep people in a place. That way they felt people were less likely to revolt. Of course, that wasn’t totally true because in 1989, the wall came down. And even show a timeline of the last few months and in particular the last few hours that led to East Germany earning its freedom. I was living in Spain at a time of the wall came down an annual was important, but reading the history seemed living conditions, watching the videos of interviews with former east Germans, the significance of these events came alive. It is very moving.
We tried to get to checkpoint Charlie, a kind of museum in itself to commemorate the many checkpoints that were located throughout the city during the city’s separation, but the evening we had time to get there, we missed getting a passport stamped. I didn’t realize before going there that Berlin was divided into four separate sections, not just two: one occupied by East Germany, another by West Germany, one by the Brits, and the last one by the United States. So there were checkpoints all over the city. I can’t imagine living like that.
Berlin is certainly an eye opener which makes one grateful for the freedoms we have. If nothing else, Berlin makes you happy for what you have.