Short weekend in Berlin (pt.II)
On the second day of our short weekend in Berlin the weather gods smiled upon us again and gave us a sunny, warm day perfect for city sightseeing. Our first stop was the Potsdamer platz, another modern square. The reason for our visit was the Berlin Wall. I’d seen photos of this square with remains of the Berlin Wall. There’s an information panel about the wall at the square but what surprised me were the chewing gums at the remains of the wall. On the other side of the square you can see a small Korean temple and another block of the Wall as a sort of reminder that Korea is still divided in half just like Germany used to be.
There are many tall skyscrapers at Potsdamer platz including the Sony center with the cinemas, shops, restaurants, conference centers, flats and offices. But we didn’t waste our precious time in there. We did, however, have a quick look at the film stars at the Boulevard of the Stars. Having never been to Los Angeles it was fun to see this mock-Hollywood red strip with German film stars (I did see the hand prints of the international film starts in Cannes).
During our walk from the Potsdamer platz to Checkpoint Charlie we passed by several museums and many beautiful buildings. Obviously, we came upon some criminal incident because we saw the police van and some police officers blocking off a part of the street. Who knows what happened! Later on, we saw the police closing off even bigger part of the street but we did’t feel unsafe.
Checkpoint Charlie is the former border crossing between the American and the Soviet sector of Berlin during the Cold War period (the West and the East Berlin). Its name originates from the NATO phonetic alphabet (for example A for Alpha, B for Bravo, C for Charlie). It’s the only place in Berlin left where you can see how the border crossings used to look like. Now there’s a big museum and several souvenir shops and free open-air exhibition about the people who tried to escape from the East to the West. We had a look at the free exhibition and took some photos of Checkpoint Charlie but I didn’t want to pay to have my photo taken with the actors posing as the guards. I’m not sure if it’s befitting or somewhat strange to see McDonald’s and Burger King here. My husband had a bit of a laugh at the souvenir shops trying on different military caps. You can also see men selling military uniforms at stalls around several tourist attractions.
Even though we purchased the day ticket for the public transport (it costs only 7€ and it’s valid on underground and overground trains, buses and trams! ) we continued walking from Checkpoint Charlie to the beautiful, old Gendarmenmarkt square. On the way to the Gendarmenmarkt we came across the Christmas shop (be still my heart! but everything was so expensive so we left empty-handed) and several well-known chocolate shops. And no, I didn’t buy any chocolate! As a memento I took photos of the chocolate Berlin landmarks at the Rausch Schokoladenhaus shop.
Unlike Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer platz, Gendarmenmarkt was rebuilt in its former condition after the war. There are two churches at the square but neither is used anymore for religious worship ( Deutscher Dom and the Französischer Dom). In front of the neoclassical Concert Hall is the statue of the German poet Friedrich Schiller. I read there’s a Christmas market at this square in the winter. Oh, I love Christmas markets! It was getting really hot so I suggested to my husband to have a cold drink at the square and to relax a bit. Mind you, for a pregnant woman I walked quite a lot. I liked Gendarmenmarkt square a lot and I’m so glad that I included it in my Berlin to see list.
After some rest we continued walking towards another historical square, Bebelplatz square where you can see the State Opera house, the luxurious Hotel de Rome, buildings of the Humboldt University and many other old palaces. Whilst we were at Bebelplatz I noticed a small group of tourists gathered around some sort of a glass window in the floor. It was the place of the infamous book burning when the Nazis gathered many books deemed decadent (such as works of Thomas Mann and Heinrich Heine) and set them on fire. When I was a child I read several books by Erich Kastner who actually witnessed one of his books being burnt here (not one of his children’s books).
The Bebelplatz leads right into the main street Unter den Linden which goes straight from the Brandenburg Gate to the Alexanderplatz square. The next item on our agenda was the Berliner Dom (cathedral) on the Museum Island on the river Spree. Unfortunately, we didn’t visit any of the splendid museums on the Museum Island (the Pergamon Museum is a definite must for our next visit to Berlin) but just saw the Cathedral and the Altes Museum from the outside. You have to pay to visit the cathedral which I disapprove. There should be a free entry to a church. There were a lot of people on the grass in front of the cathedral. In Berlin it’s legal to have a BBQ on any green area in the city unless there’s a sign specifically forbidding that. Later in the day, we saw some locals having a BBQ picnic by the river close to the East Side Gallery. It’s also perfectly acceptable to drink in the streets e.g walk around with a beer bottle in your hand which isn’t the norm in most European cities. We found out all this from our hosts. Of course, we were close to the famous TV tower now too but it was time for our lunch.
I’m still quite old-fashionable when it comes to travel planning and rely more on travel guide books than blogs or Instagram. So, we went to a beer house that I found in the guidebook. It was an excellent choice. Brauhaus Georgbraeu is situated by the river in the Nikolaiviertel neighbourhood. There’s also a brewery and a souvenir shop. We had our meal at the sun terrace not inside. My husband ordered their Brauhaus hit for only 13.40€ and he was very satisfied with the quality and quantity of the food. The only complain was that the schnapps was a bit weak (unlike Croatian rakija which has more alcohol). I was very happy with my meal too. You know what, I haven’t had any dessert in Berlin!! And we meant to try Berlin’s famous currywurst but it just didn’t happen (another reason for a repeat visit).
After the lunch we did some shopping at the Alexanderplatz and passed by the red City Hall and an interesting teddy bear shop with a talking monkey toy. Much to my husband’s delight the monkey toy appeared to repeat our words so he spent good 10 minutes saying things to the toy and laughing like crazy. Yes, I have a toddler and a very childish husband 😉 We finally used our daily ticket and took both the underground and the overground train to the East Side Gallery. Before we reached the wall I had a very delicious ice-cream at the train station. The East Side gallery is actually a collection of murals painted on the former Berlin Wall after the reunification of Germany. The artists from all over the world painted on this 1316 m long wall. We didn’t walk the whole length of the wall so I didn’t see that famous kiss mural. We were both quite tired so we went back to our neighbourhood and bought a board game in a board game shop before we joined our friends.
Throughout Berlin we spotted several big bear statues. Now, I knew that there’s a bear on Berlin’s coat of arms but these bears were colourful and looked more like cartoon bears. Later, I read about an artistic project the Buddy Bears . Those bears even went on a world tour and now they are likable symbols of Berlin.
We spent our last night in Berlin with our hosts. We went to dinner with them to Prater beer garden which is a better option for warm summer nights. We had sausages and bread and a pretzel and I drank some herbal lemonade. We had a busy day of sightseeing and we were pleased with everything we saw (and ate) in Berlin. Of course, there’s still much more to see in Berlin (like the Holocaust memorial and many museums and the Charlottenburg palace among others). I really liked Berlin and sincerely hope to visit again.
Berlin trip was our first city break (and babymoon trip) without our 18 month old son. I missed him but I also really enjoyed exploring a new city with my husband not having to worry about our son’s needs. 🙂
Have you been to Berlin? What did you think about it?