Sunday, 6 May 2018

Hallo Deutchland! (Or: Four Days in Berlin)

Me and a friend decided to break the routine and take two days off to travel somewhere. We  ended up choosing Berlin, in Germany, because neither of us had been there yet and the flights were cheap compared to the other options. We booked the flights and the hotel and last Saturday took off to Germany's capital and stayed there for four days.

So where did we stay while there? We chose the H2 Hotel Berlin-Alexanderplatz via and I seriously couldn't recommend it enough because it seriously exceeded our expectations. It's marketed as a two-star hotel but it definitely doesn't look like it! It's very clean, the staff was very nice and the breakfast had lots of food to choose from. Besides that, it's a five-minute walk from Alexanderplatz so you couldn't be more central and the bus from the Tegel airport (TXL) goes straight there. You can also find a supermarket behind the hotel and, if you feel like eating typical german food, do visit the restaurant next to it. It's called Hofbräu München Tavern and it's where we, on our last night there, ate a delicious sausage the size of my arm, the Hofbräu Currywurst.

Let me now tell you about what we did. We got ourselves in the 9am flight with a stop in Munich and landed in Berlin at around 15h. We got into the first TXL bus we saw (after buying a 7€ daily ticket), which took us to Alexanderplatz, dropped our stuff at the hotel and left immediately for the Tv Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm), a symbol of the communist power of the German Democratic Republic, where we looked at Berlin from 203m high. We then caught the S-bahn, Berlin's railway system, to the East Side Gallery where we walked around 1km following the remnant of the Berlin Wall covered in art from artists all over the world.

On the second day, we took a bus to the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) and walked to the Reichstag. We initially wanted to visit the Reichstag's dome as we heard it has a very nice 360º view of Berlin. However, it is only open to visitors with prior registration (which we didn't have) so we looked around for a few minutes and walked back to the gate towards the Holocaust Memorial. After that, we kept walking until the Potsdamer Platz and caught a bus to Checkpoint Charlie and from there, caught another bus to the Jewish Museum. I was honestly a bit disappointed with the museum, since the permanent exhibition is under reconstruction and we could only access the basement of the Libeskind Building, the Garden of Exile, and the Voids. While the Memory Void is pretty powerful, the basement is mostly abstract art. After the Jewish Museum we went to the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom), climbed to the top (it's a lot of steps, be prepared) and then decided to take a boat trip on the river. We went on the one in front of the DDR Museum (which we decided we weren't really interested in, since it was 10€) and it had a really nice and funny guide, I totally recommend.

On the third and last full day we went all the way to Charlottenburg Palace (Schloss Charlottenburg) but we decided not to go inside since the tickets are around 20€. It's about 45 minutes from the center of Berlin and we took the S-bahn and then the bus to there. After that, we took the bus to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the Victory Column but we didn't climb to the top, walked to the Bellevue Palace and then took a bus to the Topography of Terror (Topographie des Terrors) which is a free outdoor and indoor history museum in the former headquarters of Gestapo. On the last day, we slept in, ate a big breakfast and decided to walk a bit around the Alexanderplatz to check a few places we hadn't yet: The Neptune Fountain (Neptunbrunnen), the Red Town Hall (Rotes Rathaus), the St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche) and the St. Mary's Church (St. Marienkirche).

As last thoughts, Berlin isn't very a pretty city but it's mostly full of history and you can totally get the hang of the city in four days, like we did. We found the transportation system (at least the S-Bahn) a bit confusing since we never knew which side to stand on and buses were easier to understand and very reliable. It's easier to buy the 7€ daily ticket than walking everywhere because it's a big city, and it's totally worth it if you're planning to take at least two trips in the day. Do validate your ticket if you buy it in the S-Bahn/U-Bahn stations instead of the bus because you will get caught by the controllers and they will fine you (60€), even if you're a tourist and don't know you need to validate. Trust me on this, it's not very pleasant (and neither are they).

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