Berlin: Germany’s city of contrasts

If you have never been to Berlin, you owe it to yourself to come for a visit.

0
3719

BERLIN, January 27, 2015 — Berlin is a phoenix rising from the ashes and reinventing itself. Decades of war and oppression are being replaced by trendy boutiques, sidewalk cafes, retail shopping areas, and renovated historical monuments and museums.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Since World War II much of this Germany capital was in ruins following intensive bombing. Then, for more than 28 years, it was a divided city with a barbed wire fence being erected under cover of night and eventually turning into a permanent concrete barrier and an adjoining death zone.

As 136 people found out, crossing it usually meant death. When the wall fell, the rush of freedom and new hope was almost inexpressible.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved. Taken at Checkpoint Charlie Museum
@Ron Stern All rights reserved. Taken at Checkpoint Charlie Museum

One of the impressive things about Berlin is that this city doesn’t hide its dark past. Instead, it’s put on display in the hopes that future generations will never forget what happened here.


The Checkpoint Charlie Museum, for example, is one of the most popular spots for visitors. Inside are displays, newsreels and artifacts from those who successfully escaped. Some hid in hollowed out gas tanks, others tried to swim and one family constructed a hot air balloon and floated their way to freedom in West Berlin.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

There are many other public displays around Berlin with photos of people who lived under the brutal regime. You can also visit the former Gestapo headquarters; the Stasi (secret police) Museum; and the departure hall for the border checkpoint at Friedrichstrasse Train Station, known as Palace of Tears or Tränenpalas in German.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Since the 1960s Berlin has seemingly been on a building spree and in some areas the city skyline looks like an eerie sci-fi film made out of construction cranes. But the locals and visitors don’t seem to mind as tourists can get around all that on foot, by subway or by bicycle, with the latter appearing to be the most popular means of getting around.

You can rent a bike at various places around the city and you can take a variety of tours (including the Berlin Wall Tour) at Berlin on Bikes where local guides take you around and give you the fascinating local history, covering a lot of ground in just a few hours.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Berlin is a place where you can see the old and new side by side. Some of the original building facades, riddled with bullet holes from German and Russian fighting, are intentionally left intact as another reminder of the historical past.

Architectural buffs and photographers will have a field day here as there are enough churches, government buildings, bridges, and modern designs to last for a month of touring.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

In West Berlin, there are several streets lined with shops, restaurants, a zoological garden, and statues galore. Seeing some of the sidewalk cafes with people having a glass of wine or beer while enjoying the sunshine might remind you of Paris but on a more affordable level. One of the more interesting shops is the Kaufhaus des Westens or KaDeWe for short.

Located on the sixth floor of this department store is a massive gourmet gallery and food court, the likes of which is hard to imagine under one roof. Here, you can find chocolates, cheeses, meats, sausages, tea, coffee, fish, and just about anything else you can imagine. This is a good place to have a meal or a drink before heading out for, well, more shopping.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Once you figure out the underground and train systems, it is easy to go from the West to the East. At the right stop, you can walk to the Brandenburg Gate, the World War II Memorial and the Victory Dome.

There are also hop on, hop off sightseeing buses that take you around the city for a headphone narrated tour. You can buy the tickets at many hotels and tourism offices around town.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Berlin is generally more affordable than other cities of its size, which is what attracts many to come for a visit, and some never leave. A number of people end up staying permanently due to the affable culture, art, food, and friendliness of the people.

Indeed, many locals have a fondness for Westerners and remember the Berlin Airlift where American aircraft dropped care packages for Berliners during the war rather than let them starve.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

As you’re greeted with a sincere guten tag by friendly residents who call this city home, you will probably find that you feel quite comfortable and welcome here.

If you have been to Germany but have never been to Berlin, you owe it to yourself to come for a visit.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Where to Stay:

West: Hampton by Hilton Berlin West- Nice quiet rooms located close to the main shopping areas.

East: Winter Hotel- The Wall at Checkpoint Charlie: There are three of these but the one at the wall is just steps from Checkpoint Charlie and close to train and shopping areas. You can find deals in the winter for as little at 49 euros on up.

FTC Disclaimer: Promotional considerations for this trip were provided by VisitBerlin and the Winter Hotel.

 

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 Communities Digital News

• The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or management of Communities Digital News.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities Digital News, LLC. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

Correspondingly, Communities Digital News, LLC uses its best efforts to operate in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine under US Copyright Law and always tries to provide proper attribution. If you have reason to believe that any written material or image has been innocently infringed, please bring it to the immediate attention of CDN via the e-mail address or phone number listed on the Contact page so that it can be resolved expeditiously.

SHARE
Previous articleIs Bobby Jindal really running for president?
Next articleBergdahl: No terrorist left behind
Ron Stern
Ron Stern, aka: The Global Gumshoe is passionate about excellence in hospitality and tourism. He writes full features with a focus on luxury, cuisine, hotels, resorts, tourism and travel destinations. His articles have appeared in national and regional magazines such as Shape, Cruise, Frequent Flyer, AAA Motorist, Visit Los Cabos Guide, Destinations West, Key Biscayne and La Jolla Today. Other articles have been published in newspapers (print and online) such as The Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sun Sentinel, Bismarck Tribune, The Jamaican Observer, the Coloradoan and travel trade magazines. Ron’s other contributions have been noted by PBS, Mobil Travel Guides and his photography has been used extensively by entities such as tourism boards and public relations firms. He has traveled extensively and is the author of five books. Ron's motto: "uncovering the sole of travel" humorously captures his spirit of walking the world travel beat as a gumshoe detective, always looking for a story.