Reflections about Berlin
For many years I have been drawn to the south of Europe, to the Mediterranean area. The hot sun, the stunning landscapes, thousands of years of history and the magnificent architecture of southern European countries like Spain and Italy just always appealed to me. Recently I have become much more interested in other parts of Europe. Having been born in Austria, I grew up next to a series of former Eastern Bloc countries, and my trip to Prague in 2009 really opened up my eyes to other regions of Europe.
As a history buff, one city that has fascinated me for a long time is Berlin. I have a very personal connection with the Second World War as my father fought in it and I have always tried to learn about this turbulent and horrific period in European history. And what better place to learn about it than Berlin…
I had the good fortune to have visited Berlin for one day in August of 1989, three months before the Wall came down. Although I only spent a very short time in this fascinating city, I got to see the Western neon-lit consumer paradise of Kurfürstendamm and the drab grey monotony in East Berlin on the other side of Checkpoint Charlie. I still remember that I could “feel history” during my one day trip to Berlin in 1989. Naturally I was absolutely curious how Berlin had changed in the more than 20 years after German reunification.
Well, I wasn’t disappointed. Berlin sure has been one of my most interesting and fascinating travel experiences to date. During my four and a half days in Berlin I got to see many of the well-known tourist attractions: I got to ascend the magnificent dome of the Reichstag / Bundestag, built by star architect Lord Norman Foster. A hop-on / hop-off sightseeing tour gave me a great overview of the city as did a boat tour on the River Spree. Naturally I visited attractions in Western Berlin such as the Kurfürstendamm and the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), Europe’s second largest department store.
I absolutely loved Berlin’s public transit system and constantly hopped on the S-Bahn (the elevated train system of Berlin) or the U-Bahn (which runs mostly underground). Coming from North America I was impressed by the coverage and efficiency of this public transit system that whisks you virtually anywhere in just minutes. The Berlin Card with its combination of transit pass and museum access / discounts also helped me explore the city in a very cost-effective way.