A Different City: My favourite places in Berlin (Pt 1)

Hello, Happy New Year, welcome back, etc etc. I hope you’ve all managed to get rid of your  hangovers by now and are looking forward to a promising and eventful new year. I’m not, but that’s a whole different story.

Since Berlin is probably my 2nd favourite place in Germany (after my hometown and only slightly before Leipzig; I love Leipzig and the three years I lived there were amazing, but in terms of things to do, Berlin just trumps any other place really), and every single Mancunian seems to have been to Berlin in the past year / has plans to go soon, I thought I might as well share my patchy inside knowledge with you lot. Due to the size of the post, I’ve split it up in two parts – food & other will follow in the next couple of days! And here we go, Sam’s patchy and highly subjective guide to “Things you shouldn’t miss when in the German capital – Part 1″. Part 2 – Food and other stuff – can be found here.

Art & culture

  • Schloss Charlottenburg – I do love them castles. Schloss Charlottenburg is a particularly lovely one in the western part of Berlin, and what makes it even better is the fantastic garden/park with a boating lake that reminds of Versailles. Well, a mini version of it.
  • Hamburger Bahnhof – This place used to be a train station (Bahnhof) and is now a huge gallery for modern and contemporary art. Unlike the UK, German art galleries and museums are usually not free, and this one in fact quite expensive. Totally worth it though.
  • Zoo (West Berlin) – One word: animals. Thanks to many glass windows rather than fences you can get incredibly close to some of the animals. There is also a panda, which seems to be asleep most of the time. For good panda views, go on a weekday when the weather is bad and check the feeding times when the carers trick the panda into sitting really close to the glass by putting his food right it front of it. Not that he’d be particularly bothered. Bless.
  • Bauhaus Archiv – Cause we’re all, like, totally arty and stuff. The Bauhaus Archive includes a nice little collection of Bauhaus related design, furniture and architecture, a gallery for temporary exhibitions (which are a bit hit and miss), and a shop with many pretty things that cost you many pretty Euros.
  • Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, Bernauer Str. – This museum and memorial for the German division is a good place to learn about German history without the silly “Ostalgie” (East German nostalgia) that is inherent in so many places in Berlin. I grew up in West Germany, I learned about the German division in my history A-Levels, then lived in East Germany for a while, where my friends’ parents told me about their lives, how they had to fight for their beliefs, how they claimed access to their Stasi-files after the DDR had collapsed*. And trust me, there is no room for nostalgia.
  • 100 Bus service – The 100 bus is almost like one of those hop on/off city tour coaches, but cheap. It takes you all around the city, along the most important sights like the Friedenssäule, Unter den Linden, the Reichstag…
  • Boat tour – They’re ace. Touristy, but ace. Seriously, you’re sat on a boat for an hour, someone tells you about the history of the city, and if you’re lucky, they even sell drinks on board. Order a “Berliner Weisse grün” (white beer with sweet woodruff syrup – bright green!) or a cup of coffee (don’t bother with tea. Germans don’t know how to do proper tea) and relax your feet. You can get on at the bridges near Alexanderplatz/Berliner Dom.
  • Film museum – A brilliant little museum in the Sony Centre (yawn) at Potsdamer Platz (YAWN). Not much hands on stuff, but props, scripts, models and costumes from some amazing films, alongside background information. Featuring a life size Darth Vader!

Phew. That’s it with art and cultchah from me for now. Check out part 2 – food and other stuff.

[Photos: Hamburger Bahnhof  – Regine Debatty]

* I’m getting well emo here.