Guten Tag, Leute!
At the beginning of this month I went with my family on a trip to Berlin. It was very short and although it was for 3 nights, we were only there for 48 hours or so because of flight times and we also had a short day trip to the neighbouring city of Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg (one of the 16 German Bundesländer = federal states). Brandenburg surrounds Berlin, which is another Bundesland itself, in fact one of the 3 Bundesländer which are purely cities. Because we did so much whilst I was there, I thought that I could only really do my post on Berlin justice if I split it into two, so part (Teil) 2 will be posted on Tuesday, in which I’ll be talking about my visit to Potsdam on Tuesday evening, and Wednesday, when I visited the museums!
The trip was a lovely short break to have, and was great for practising my Deutsch, as exam season is approaching and it was a great opportunity to revise in a fun way for my fast-approaching German A-Level exams!
What really struck me about Berlin was how similar it is to other cities in the rest of Germany, compared to the capital cities of other countries, in relation to the other cities there. Apart from the Berlin Wall, of course, and other major attractions unique to Berlin, the general atmosphere and types of things that were there were not that different from the other German cities which I had visited in the past, such as Kempten, München (Munich) and Koblenz (for a blog post on my visit to this wonderful city, click here). For example, Berlin, just like most German cities, has a mixture of old and new architecture, and the German culture is very much present there in the same way as in other areas of Germany, despite it being the Hauptstadt (= capital city), where inevitably a diversity of cultures would be more present. When compared with, say, London, Berlin as a capital gives an authentic feel as to what the whole of Germany is like – London is by far the biggest city in the UK, and also by far has the biggest diversity of cultures living together: there’s no other city in the UK, let alone in the world, quite like it. Therefore, a day out in London compared with a day out in Nottingham, where I currently live, would give extremely different vibes as to what life and culture in the UK is really like.
So, what did we do in Berlin? The answer is a LOT of things!
Montag (Monday – Day 1)
We flew from Birmingham Airport and our flight got in to Berlin Tegel Airport at about 8pm, so we didn’t really do much on the first day. What really fascinated be about the flight, once we had descended below cloud level, was how many Plattenbauwohnungen, or pre-fabricated flats, from the days of the GDR, still remained. I assumed that by now the former East had caught up with the rest of Germany, but this evidently wasn’t the case, and experts say that the former GDR may never fully catch up with the rest of Germany in economic and infrastructural terms.
Anyways, when we got to Tegel, the only place that seemed to cater for all of our family’s respective needs at the airport, which was open at this time was Burger King, so we had tea there. I had a salad and a few French fries, and it was very interesting trying to order the very specific things we needed (including the dietary requirements) in German! Eventually the guy understood us (he didn’t speak a word of English, fortunately, so we were forced to speak to each other in German! 😅) but it was quite hard to understand him, due to his strong Berlin accent, which I didn’t know too well!!
After we left the airport we went to where Unter den Linden intersects Friedrichstraße, and we then walked down Friedrichstraße towards our accommodation near Checkpoint Charlie. Before we did this though, we went to an Ampel Mann shop. For those of you who didn’t know, Ampel Mann is an iconic symbol of the former East-Berlin. The Ampel Mann did, and still does, appear on the lights of pedestrian crossings throughout the former German section of the Eastern Bloc. I was recommended by one of my German teachers to visit the shop, so I thought it would be a golden opportunity to do so, as we were just passing by! I bought some postcards for my bedroom, a sticker for my laptop and badges to put on my bag, to remind me of the amazing memories of Berlin and learning German!
We then went to our hotel via Checkpoint Charlie, which was unfortunately closed at that point, due to it being so late (it was about 10pm at this point) but we still got to see the shed and the famous, iconic “you are leaving the American Sector” sign!
Dienstag (Tuesday – Day 2)
We started the day by going to a lovely authentic German bakery for breakfast (= Frühstück) near our hotel on Friedrichstraße (my family was pleased as we could get a good cuppa tea here – ahh we’re SO British 😅🇬🇧!). After finishing Frühstück, we then started properly exploring Berlin as it was our first full day here! The first place we went to was called Gendarmenmarkt – a beautiful square, located slightly south of the centre, containing two (pretty much) identical churches – the German and French Cathedrals – as well as das Konzerthaus (the Concert House). The architecture there was amazing, and I would never have guessed that in fact most of the buildings here had been destroyed during WWII – they were all so pristine and have been immaculately restored!
Next, we explored the Tiergarten, which is arguably the most prominent park in Berlin! We also saw much of the area around it, including the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the iconic Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) and the Soviet War Memorial. We even climbed the Victory Column (Siegessäule), located right in the middle of the Tiergarten, where several main roads of Berlin converge at a roundabout surrounding the column. The Victory Column is a real symbol of not only great architecture, but great national pride, as all of Germany’s victories here as a nation are very much celebrated.
The Tiergarten itself was so big, much more so than I expected it to be, and in some parts you could really lose yourself in it! I understand why the call the whole of it a Tiergarten now, and not just the part with the zoo, as it really is a haven for nature! The quieter parts of the Tiergarten were really the less touristy places – we walked from the Victory Column to the Hauptbahnhof (Main Railway Station) and this was where there were barely any other people – you’d hardly think you were in a capital city there, really! We then has a coffee at the Hauptbahnhof and hopped onto the train to Potsdam…
(to be continued)
Hope you enjoyed the first part of this post! On Tuesday I’ll be telling you all about our time in Potsdam and our second full day in Berlin – see you there! 👋