My lack of updates for the past two weeks can be attributed to the sunshine. It’s finally spring here (though it was never really cold to begin with), and I have a bit of extra energy to spend away from the computer and out exploring. Recent adventures include, but are not limited to: scouring the city for paper recycling, which is not offered in my building or even at my school, to recycle a year’s worth of teaching scraps; heading to my usual Saturday market only to discover it filled with families, performers and lots of crafts in honor of the first warm weekend; visiting Berlin!
2.5 days in Berlin
It’s really tough to fit everything you want to do into a short trip to Berlin. The city is so full of art, history, outdoor space and culture that it’s definitely a repeater trip. My journey was especially short and determined by the cheapest EasyJet prices and hostel stay. Here’s how I maximized my time in the city (I focused mostly on sights, art and history and, since I was alone, less on the social scene, though I would love to return one day for a bit of summertime in Mitte, a trendy neighborhood.) My best tip is to plan your days according to museum opening hours and grouping sites by geographical area. Or, you could do what I did and walk a marathon in one day, but my now skinless feet don’t recommend it…
- Journey to Paris: walk around the Seine, grab an organic lunch at my favorite Belgian haunt, Le Pain Quotidien, head to the airport.
- Arrive in Berlin at 11pm, check in to PLUS hostel, which was very clean, modern and included a pool that I dared not try (though I’m sure it was fine; I’m just not a fan of indoor pools filled with drunk people and children.)
- 8:00 walk down the quai along the East Wall gallery.
- Grab a Museum Pass for 24€ (12€ students), which is totally worth it for all the free museums. I saved at least another 20€ with free entries, and only two of the museums I had wanted to visit weren’t included with the pass.
- Meander the Alte Nationalgalerie, filled with impressionist and German art.
- 11:00 Walk down Unter der Linden (under the Linden trees) to Brandenburg Tor
- Walk through Tiergarten (would be beautiful in the summer sun, but it was a bit gray on that particular day.
- 13:00 Bauhaus Archiv: an absolute must if you like architecture and that particular movement. The cafe is also wonderful, serving lots of fresh salads for cheap, which are hard to find at my home base.
- Neue Nationalgalerie: also a great visit, really interesting interpretations of WWII and postmodern movements. The lactose-free cappucinos at the cafe are wonderful (in general, lactose free products are a cinch to find in Berlin.)
- 15:00 Berlinisches Galerie: wonderful. I really had a great museum tour on day 1. The Berlinisches Galerie included works by Dorothy Iannone, a feminist American expat who fell in love with Berlin in spite of ideological contradictions. Her “Berlin sun, which is the most reluctant to show its face” was out for me all week.
- 19:00 Judisches Museum (check museum times – some are open late into the evening so you can get your day’s worth): powerful tour (I snuck into a French class field trip.) Unfortunately at this point I was so tired and my feet were bleeding from 25 miles of walking (I wanted to see everything in the sunlight!) that I cut my visit short to go back to the hostel for some lactose free cheese and fresh rye bread.
I was so sore upon waking that I immediately invested in a day transportation pass (only like 6€ and really easy to navigate, plus I was very happy when control checked all the tickets, which rarely occurs in other countries ;).)
- 9:00 Starbucks (sorry, not available where I live) for a lactose-free latte and some reading.
- 10:00 Checkpoint Charlie: A lot of the historical sites are really eerie in the way they transport you back to the occupation era.
- 11:00 Jewish memorial and Reichstag.
- The fancy department store KaDeWa for some…currywurst. Probably could have gotten that elsewhere, but it was as good as curry-on-pork can be to this veggie eater.
- 15:00 Charlottenburg: peaceful neighborhood just outside the city, but with a beautiful palace you can’t find in a traditional suburb.
- Markisches Museum for some German history and some German practice, for a lot of the information was only provided in German. Best way to learn!
- 19:00 Altes Museum and Pergamon Museum, specializing in Roman/Greek/Etruscan history and artifacts. The guidebook warns that these museums attract big crowds, and even at 7pm (open late on Thursdays), they were packed with tourists.
- 21:00 Dolores in Mitte for a California-style burrito! The guy wouldn’t give me a discount, but it’s ok, because it was still cheaper than Chipotle in London, and more authentic.
- 9:00 Berlin Wall Memorial: The Berlin Wall is, fittingly, the ugliest wall I have ever seen.
- Exploring Mitte: I’d recommend staying in this neighborhood and grabbing some swanky grub if you make more money than me.
- 11:00 Failed Mogg & Meltzer attempt: I was a bit too early for the butcher, but I hear it’s a little New York Jewish deli gem.
- 12:00 Brunch at Lass uns Freunde bleiben. Roughly translated, “let’s always remain friends,” but I don’t really speak German. I will always remain friends with my little platter of meats, cheese and rye.
- 14:00 Catch the train to the airport. Lament the French-style line (aka mob) at security. I’ll be back, Germany, you’ll let me live there one day!