Oh Berlin!

Perhaps one of the most culturally rich and significant cities of the world, Berlin has in many ways shaped a lot and gone through a lot as well. First documented in the 13th century, and founded at the crossing of two important trade routes, Berlin became the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg (1417-1701), Kingdom of Prussia (1701-1918), German Empire (1871-1918), Weimar Republic (1919-1933), and the Third Reich (1933-1945). It was bombed out in the World War II, split into two with a 96 mile long wall becoming a symbol of the Cold War, and then re-united, thereby symbolically ending the Cold War, and uniting a Germany split by Allied Powers after the World War II. It has now become the cultural (as well as political) capital of Germany, and perhaps an important one in the world as well, with its vibrant art, music, movies and startup scene.

When visiting Stuttgart, we were sure we wanted to visit Berlin as well. A big multicultural city, Berlin is also kind of artsy and hence a little bohemian. It is one of the largest startup capitals of Europe. There is a wide choice of food, music and party for every taste and budget.

What to do in Berlin?

We decided to stay in Berlin’s Mitte district in the hotel Lulu Guldsmeden located in a building made in 1850. The Mitte District is the first and oldest district of Berlin City. It encompasses the historic core of Berlin City and includes landmarks like the Museum Island, Reichstag, Potsdamer Platz, Alexander Platz, Berlin Hauptbanhof, Checkpoint Charlie (Berlin Wall), Brandenburg Gate, etc. Plus lots of nice cafes and restaurants. Because of its rich history and culture, we were sure this is where we wanted to stay.

What strikes you is the magnificent architecture and its sheer scale. The older buildings are like monuments, built carefully and with love. You cannot but help think of all that this wonderful city has gone through. During the second world war, the British dropped over 45,000 tonnes of bombs on Berlin, the Americans, around 25,000. A lot of the standing buildings were destroyed. At the end of the war, the city was split, the Berlin Wall built. But thankfully freedom and resilence shone through, the wall was brought down and Germany united once again!

Standing at the corner outside our hotel, our first views of Mitte in Berlin.
Like most progressive and vibrant cities, Berliners cycle around a lot!
A classic scene from Mitte’s old architecture. An old Volkswagen Beetle.
The Bülowstrasse Metro Station in Berlin. Old world charm in a new city.
Berlin, especially Mitte, at night is a vibrant city with plenty of partying, eating out or just hanging out.
Inside a metro train station in Berlin. The public transport system is so well connected you don’t feel the need for your own car.
Love that beautiful font used in the station name. There is dollops of good design everywhere.
Our hotel Lulu Guldsmeden is built in a building from 1850 and has fantastic vintage charm. Highly recommended.
These two buildings on the right have perspective drawings, almost like reflections, of other buildings.
Bebelplatz at The Unter Der Linden of Berlin, meaning Under The Linden Tree, is a boulevard which runs from City Palace to the Brandenburg Gate. The magnificent architecture of the many Universities and Institutes along the way house so many well maintained and catalogued cultural artifacts.
Summers in Berlin can be very hot (almost like India). But the amazing city will make you forget the heat. The Green Dome in the far left is St Hedwig’s Cathedral, built in the neo-classical style in the 18th Century.
You must walk through this area to discover it. The pink building on the right is the State Opera Unter Den Linten.
The statue of one of my personal icons, Alexander Von Humboldt, the father of Environmentalism.
Kåthe Kollwitz’s statue of Mother And Her Dead Son, and the cculus (the circular opening in the ceiling), which exposes the statue to natural elements. This statue broke our hearts. It is housed in the Neau Wache in the Unter Den Linden area of Mitte, Berlin. Kåthe made many art pieces against war, promoting peace. She lost a son in World War I, a grandson in World War II, her husband to illness, and herself died 16 days before the war ended, in 1945.
The Deutsches Historisches Museum or the German Museum of History at Berlin. We couldn’t spend much time here as it was under re-modelling.
I just love this Berlin Architecture. In many ways it reminds me of colonial buildings from Mumbai and Kolkata.
The Brandenburg Gate, Germany’s most well known monument. It was built in the 18th Century by King Frederick William II to commemorate the restoration of order during the Batavian Revolution.
We were lucky to be in Berlin, around Brandenburg Gate, during the day of Berlin Pride, part of Christopher Street Day (CSD) celebrations. The CSD is an annual celebration and demonstration of the LGBT people for their rights and inclusion. An event full of fun, colors, music, food and drinks, we were glad to be here and be a part of it.
From Brandenburg Gate we moved towards the Reichstag Building.
The Reichstag Building was first opened in 1894 to house the German Diet (parliament). It was severely damaged due to a fire in 1933. After the World War II, the building was no longer used until the reunification of Germany in 1990, when it was reconstructed/repaired by a team led by prominent architect Norman Foster and opened once again in 1999. It once again became a meeting place of the German Parliament.
The Paul Lobe Haus, the Legislative Building of the German Government.
The Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The main railway station of Berlin, it was earlier called Lehrter Bahnhof, which was opened in 1871. Chances are, during your stay in Berlin you will use this station at least a couple of times.

What’s the best time to visit Berlin: Summers (July – August) can get very warm, so make sure you book a hotel with air conditioning. Spring (20 March is the official start of Spring) and Autumn are lovely. Autumn brings many colours, leaves rustling under your feet and also some rain. The days end earlier too. Winters can be very cold, with frost and snow, but have their own charm. There is a wonderfully joyous feeling, shopping in the Berlin Christmas Markets. Go for a walk in the Grunewald Forest. Berlin is lovely throughout the year, just be prepared.

Is Berlin Expensive: Not very. There are plenty of stay options to suit every budget. The public transit system is excellent and one ticket of around Euro 2.90 gives you 2 hours of travel time (in one direction only). Buses and trains cover practically the entire city. And the rest can easily be done walking, which is more fun way to soak in a city. If you are upto it there are plenty of electric scooters to hire out that will take you around the city. Eating out is also possible in almost every price bracket. A lot of Turkish/Mediterranean places have very affordable food (Doner Kebabs are yum, filling and affordable, or try various Falafels), while there are many options of expensive fine dining. Since Berlin is a melting pot of cultures, many different types of cuisines can be found. We ate German (of course) Turkish food, as well as Vietnamese.

There was so much to see and do in Berlin, we have promised ourselves another trip. We see more of Berlin from this trip, in the next post.

3 thoughts on “Oh Berlin!”

  1. It’s been a long time since my trip to Germany back in 2007. However, I didn’t get the chance to visit Berlin at that time. When I return, this city is among the top of the list of places I don’t want to miss while traveling in the country. But before that day comes, let’s all hope that this pandemic ends sooner than later.

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