Ich bin ein blogger | Berlin

16:37:00

We're already well into February, where is 2017 disappearing to? After taking January off, I'm getting back into my blog, starting with our recent visit to Berlin.





On a whim (and availing of the RyanAir sale) we booked our trip to Berlin late last year. I'd never been and truthfully, never really thought of visiting. I'd heard good things but there was no major draw for me.




We landed in Berlin Schoenfeld airport on the morning of 31st January to a brisk and breezy 0 degrees. We had been checking the forecast prior to visiting with cold and potentially wet weather expected for the duration of our stay. I am usually overly warm so a crisp and cold climate was welcomed.  If you are heading over any time in Winter/early Spring, be sure to pack a LOT of warm clothes, it hit -6 degrees while we were there with a hefty snowfall on our last night.


The cosy wool jumper from White Stuff  I got for Christmas was a wise choice.
My hat was £1 from Primark women's department with homemade bobble.

I'm pretty good when it comes to packing. A cabin sized suitcase and my new Knomo Dale backpack got me through 5 days. Just think of versatile clothing that can be combined for different looks on different days, reducing the need to bring more!
(The feature on my Knomo bag coming soon)


With 5 days in the German capital, I was determined to make the most of our stay but at a comfortable pace; eager to not miss anything but also not to run myself ragged trying to pack it all in!
The first few days we did our own thing, exploring the city according to our own itinerary. Having created a little list of cafes, bars and shops I wanted to visit helped but we did this in no particular order or pattern.

On Saturday we took the free walking tour - something I can't recommend enough. Not only is it free, but it gives you a great lay of the land and a condensed history of one of the most politically charged and dynamic capitals in the world. It's best to reserve a spot about 24hrs before you go although I chanced it and booked my tickets while grabbing a coffee 5 mins before the tour started. Leaving from Brandenburg Gate and taking in the former boundaries of the Berlin Wall, the  Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the former site of Hitler's Bunker, Checkpoint Charlie and much more, it's a fact filled 3 hrs of photo ops.





The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a vast, stark arrangement of imposing concrete blocks, designed to force the visitor to make their own interpretations and meaning.

We joined the Alternative Berlin tour later that same day, another walking tour which focuses on the more off-beat sights of the city. Visiting graffiti lined passages, the East Gallery (the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall), YAAM camp (a cross between a commune and a market) and dozens of hidden street art pieces, it was an interesting and exciting insight to the artistic revolution which still resists the gentrification and commercialization of some of the more bohemian districts of Berlin.




The East Gallery is the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall and is now a monument featuring art from around the world.





On Sunday, we took a trip to Oranienberg on the outskirts of Berlin to visit Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Perhaps not the most joyful of activities for a holiday, but I thought it important to visit such a place if you have the time and means to do so. Sachsenhausen was the model for the Nazi concentration camp programme and it was here than many of the processes and methods were devised. A bleak and sobering place, you'll understand why I respectfully didn't take pictures within the camp grounds.

WORK SETS YOU FREE

The only thing I had booked prior to visiting was a tour of the dome of the Bundestag, the German parliament building. Booking in advance is essential as you have to pass security clearance (passport, xrays, the lot) but it is worth it for the feat of architecture that overlooks the city and the views you get from the top. We visited in the evening, just as the snow was beginning to fall. Magical.

The dome covers a glass-ceiling parliament with the thinking being that if German politicians ever have to remember who they work for, they only have look up.


On our final day, we were agenda-less and took the day easy, exploring and venturing. Here's a random assortment of snaps from my wanderings.


Going underground, breaking in my new Vans in the U Bahn

Look out for Buddy Bears across Berlin, Inspired by the Berlin coat of arms, he's supposed to be open for a hug rather than rearing for a fight...

Take your time and look down once in a while and you might come across stolperstein (stumbling stones) Paving stones have been replaced with brass plaques, engraved with the names of Holocaust victims. A small but poignant memorial.


Notes & Tips:

  • Get yourself a Monzo account. It works like a prepaid Mastercard so you can use it in shops but also withdraw cash without ridiculous charges. I found it better to go without the conversion at ATMs, saving up to £10 per transaction. You can top up your Monzo card on the go from Apple pay or your debit card.
  • If you are heading for a shopping spree, be sure to check out The Mall of Berlin for all your favourite European high street brands. If you are looking more boutique and niche stores, visit Bikini Berlin or head into Mitte or Kreuzberg.
  • The public transport system is fantastic with the UBahn underground running up to 3.30am on Saturdays, you're never more than 10 mins from your next train. Pick up a 5 day A/B ticket to cover you for (almost) all of Berlin.
  • Be prepared to walk. We covered over 30 miles in 3 days just pottering about and on tours. Bring comfortable boots or trainers!
  • There is an annoying habit of charging for the bathroom, even in places where you have paid for coffee etc. Bring change!
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I'm already experiencing withdrawl symptoms and we have looked into flights to revisit in the summer - watch this space!





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