It was almost nine months ago that I went to Berlin, so forgive me if some of the details are a little fuzzy. But I had a fantastic time in Berlin. It was a city that dripped energy and felt incredibly modern. Some of that surely comes from the fact that the city had to completely reinvent itself after the devastation of WWII and later with the fall of the wall. So there aren’t too many old buildings, though there was one that a bus tour took me past that had been left in all its bombed-out glory to remind passerby of what had been. Buildings like the Nikolaikirche do exist — it’s the oldest church in Berlin, built between 1220 and 1230, and the houses an adorable little museum now — but they’re generally rejuvenated buildings rather than originals. Much more common are buildings built just in the decades after the war, like the Fernsehturm, the great needle of a building built in what was then East Berlin. That was one of my favorite stops — you can climb up to an observation deck high up in the tower and look down across the whole city. The observation deck is complete with a huge guide to the city below; at each window there is a printing of what you can see out the window, labeled with little descriptions of what it is that you’re seeing. That guide was incredibly helpful; I got so much out of my time in the Fernsehturm as a result. If you make it to Berlin, you should definitely set aside an hour or two to go up that tower.
Much of my time in Berlin was spent simply wandering the streets, taking in the city. But I also stopped in a number of museums, and took a couple great tours. The first museum I stopped in was the DDR museum, which offered a unique window into life in East Germany. They had all kinds of cool artifacts, and a lot of very informative material. They even had a film reel going playing videos made during the time about every day life! That was fascinating. Another museum I really enjoyed was the German Historical Museum; I really wished I had been able to spend more time in there, I had gotten there only a couple hours before closing time so I got booted out by the clock. That one was full of more cool artifacts, spanning many more centuries than those of the DDR museum. There were maps and books and gowns and even a full set of knight’s armor. I definitely intend to go back to that one. There is also famously Museum Island, containing I think 5 museums. Of those I only made it into one, the Bode Museum, which has medieval and Renassiance and Byzantine art. My favorite part of that museum was the Münzkabinett, a huge coin collection! It had coins going all the way back to the Roman era with a dizzying array of faces.
Delightful as the museums were, it was the tours that really gave me a good feel of the city. One of the first things I did was go on a boat ride on the Spree, which yielded views of the Reichstag, “the Snake” or Beamtenschlange, and the “Schwangere Auster” or pregnant oyster, more formally known as the House of World Cultures. I also took a couple bus tours that just went on big loops around the key tourist attractions, like the Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz and the French and German churches of the Gendarmenmarkt. Perhaps my favorite out of all the things I did was a segway tour that I took — we had the funniest guide, Walid, who just made it such an incredible experience. The segway tour offered a much more intimate view of the city than the bus rides did, as you were much closer to the passerby and just took a different pace. I also went on a bike tour focused on East Berlin, so that took me to places like the Soviet memorial to WWII.
Overall, I had an amazing time in Berlin, and definitely intend to go back, ideally as soon as possible.