Ruins like the Anhalter Bahnhof train station or the St. Michaelskirche that was partially destroyed during WWII, are a constant reminder of Berlin’s tortured history. I also visited the 1936 Olympic Stadium that remained virtually intact throughout the war. The monumental and austere architecture of this former Nazi showcase is still evident, but after extensive renovations today this stadium is once again a popular sports venue and home to Hertha BSC, Berlin’s popular soccer club.
Cold War history is also plainly visible in Berlin, with some sections of the Berlin Wall remaining. The East Side Gallery near the centre of Berlin is an outstanding memorial to the hated structure that kept East and West Berliners separated for more than 28 years. The Checkpoint Charlie Museum illustrates many of the successful escape attempts from East Germany, while the DDR Museum provides insight into day-to-day life in the former German Democratic Republic.
The absolute highlight of my Berlin trip were my two cycling trips with local guides from Berlin on Bike. During my first trip, local expert Stefan Danziger took me through the Friedrichshain neighbourhood of the former East Berlin. We saw the Bornholmer Strasse bridge that used to connect East and West Berlin and was the first border crossing to open when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Then we headed towards the cool area around Boxhagener Square and not far away to a complex of former railway sheds on Revaler Strasse that have been turned into a hip artist’s and entertainment district.
My second bicycling trip with local expert Judy Anderssen took me into the colourful neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, formerly a run-down area next to the Berlin Wall and since reunification one of the most popular artist and entertainment districts in Berlin. Kreuzberg is also home to many immigrants and has become one of the cultural centers of the reunified Berlin. We cycled beside the scenic Landwehrkanal to the old Görlitzer Bahnhof that has been turned into a park. Exploring Berlin on two wheels with local experts was a wonderful way of getting to know the less famous nooks and crannies of this utterly fascinating city.
It was great to meet these two young Germans, both well travelled, multi-lingual, culturally interested, cosmopolitan and open-minded people. Interestingly enough, both of them are not originally from Berlin, Stefan is originally from Dresden and Judy hails from Lower Saxony and they both have come to love Berlin. This is a true testimony to the vibrancy of this city and the people that it attracts.
When I look at this summary I guess I saw a lot in my four and a half days in Berlin. But I sure know that the list of things I didn’t see this time around is even longer. That’s reason enough to head back one day to this intriguing German metropolis.
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For more information for planning your trip to Berlin, check out Visit Berlin, the city’s official tourism organization.
Berlin Photo Albums:
Favourite photos of Berlin 2011
Berlin: Hackesche Höfe and Spree River Tour
Berlin: Nikolaiviertel, Brandenburg Gate & Bundestag|
Berlin: Alexanderplatz & a City Tour
Berlin: Spandau & Olympiastadion
Berlin: DDR Museum (illustrating Life in the former GDR)
Berlin: New Synagogue, Topography of Terror, Checkpoint Charlie
Berlin: A Guided Bicycle Tour through East Berlin
Berlin: Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche, KaDeWe, KuDamm
Berlin: A Walk past Gendarmenplatz and Checkpoint Charlie
Berlin: The Jewish Museum
Berlin: An Evening Walk through the Nikolaiviertel towards Alexanderplatz
Berlin: A Guided Bicycle Tour through Kreuzberg
Berlin: Potsdamer Platz, Holocaust Memorial, Museum Island
Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)