Wrote 2016 first, but whadduyaknow- it’s 2017!
(Ok, no one does a “getaway” to Germany, but it was a great trip). In all honesty, I didn’t love Berlin in the same way that I love many other European countries (like Paris, Lisbon, and Amsterdam), but I learned a lot… and had plenty of time to sit in cozy coffee shops and read this incredible book.
I decided to go alone since almost everyone I knew was either in the U.S. or on one trip or another for the holidays, or was at work (Luis). I didn’t want to sit at home, so I decided to use the week for a little solo travel! I LOOOVED my solo trip to Lisbon, so I was excited for this one, too. I chose Berlin because so many people are like ‘best place ever’, but when I got there I was like, ‘???????????????????????????????????????’.
Berlin itself is not really a beautiful city (imo), which is understandable due to it’s history. But I also just found the city to be a little bit boring. Where is the cool downtown? The funky stores? The amazing coffeeshops and bumpin’ restaurants?
I asked some people what in the world they were talking about when they said it was amazing and they said that in the summer it has a really great mix of city and outdoor openness, which obviously is lacking in the frigid grey, snowy winter. It’s ok though- i got my museum and history fill for 2017.
– Arrive in Berlin, try to stay awake long enough to find your hostel. (I stayed in EastSeven Hostel and it was awesome. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a place).
– pop into a coffee shop and have a cafe creme (basically American coffee with the consistency of an espresso so big and strong, exactly the way it should be!) and read your book.
– go to the hostel and offer to help make dinner and then join in on the feast because you’re no Henny Penny, are you?!
– go to sleep
– up at 8 am! with breakfast and a guidebook.
– stop 1: Parliament building. Make a reservation! (Free)
They provide an audio guide that tells you “if you stop and look to your right, you’ll see…” and so on and so forth. It was really good to help me plan my next stops. Also, really cool architecture in the building.
– stop 3: Berlin Wall Victims Memorial. This is on the corner, when you are walking from the Parliament Building to the next stop of the day. Easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. (FREE)
– stop 4: Brandenburg Gate. (FREE) Huge, like something you would see in Paris….which leads us to our next stop!
– stop 5: Pariser Platz (Parisian Square) (FREE)– not my favorite, but has important buildings. Notice the U.S. Embassy to your left when you stand in the plaza looking at the Gate.
– stop 6: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Information Center (FREE)
100% you should definitely make time to see this memorial, which is a huge block of land covered by these pillars and blocks of stone of various heights. It gives you a feeling of confusion about what is up and what is down and maybe the designer was trying to give you the same feeling that the victims had- it messes with your perception.
After you take time to walk through the Memorial, get in the short line and go to the underground information center. It’s small, but absolutely worth your time to read more about the Holocaust. I waited in line while it was hailing, so you can wait, too.
– Walk 45 minutes back to the hostel and get ready for some dinnah
– stop 1: Museum Island
I’m not a big art person, so I felt my time could be spent in other places. Instead, I walked around the island and looked at the buildings….and used their lobby to get oriented. From Museum Island, exit the other side of the island and head into town towards the Brandenburg Gate, but a little more south.
– stop 2: Checkpoint Charlie (FREE to look at, pay to enter museum)
(not this, but saw it along the way. This artist has art all over)
– stop 3: Topography of Terror (FREE)
The Topography of Terror is a museum on the grounds of the Gestapo Headquarters Office. The museum is absolutely worth your time. Spend 2-3 hours looking at the photos and reading about more of the history of the Gestapo and how the Nazi Party came into power. Warning: you will see photos that will turn your stomach- some from violence, and others are like this:
Photos of S.S guards and women on their ‘retreats’ just a kilometer or two from Auschwitz.
Headed home and played chef for the night! Made “taco rice bowls” with rice, bean chili, corn, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, yogurt, avocado. Deeeeelicious and it’s amazing how many people 30 Euros feeds!!
– Breakfast, then head out for an hour long walk to The Jewish Museum Berlin
The museum was designed by the same architect that designed the World Trade Center Museum, so the building itself is intended to make to feel something. The lower portion is made of three different “axes” that come together. Each axis has different information. The first is the Axis of the Holocaust, which provides photos and artifacts, before leading to a big, heavy metal door, which takes you outside to this small sliver between two buildings, with only a tiny bit of light coming from the top.
Then there was the Axis of Exile (I can’t remember, maybe exile?) and the axis of continuity, which leads you up to the rest of the museum to learn about Judaism in Germany (and the world) throughout time.
There is also an “interactive” memorial, which allows you to walk out onto thousands of metal “face plates” and since, they are metal (or steel?) and all different shapes and sizes, they make clanking and banging noises when you step on them, similar to the sounds of unnatural human screams.
Again, very highly recommended during your trip to Berlin.
That was it for my trip! I headed back to the hostel and collected my things to head to the airport. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite trip ever, but it was certainly worth my time and I learned a lot of history and a lot about myself.