Guide to a Berlin, Germany Vacation

The first thing that you want to know about when discovering Berlin is the U-Bahn. This subway system is very easy to learn and conveniently goes all throughout the city. My advice would be to buy the week pass as you will save money rather than buying a ticket every day. When jumping on the Subway, you will find that there is not someone to check your ticket every time you are on the Subway. It may seem easy enough to never buy a ticket and to just ride the subway for free. I do not suggest this as there are random ticket inspections that happen and the fine for not having a ticket is not worth the few euro you have saved on a ticket.

There are many sights to see in this beautiful city. Some of them are famous like the Berlin TV tower. This was perhaps my least favorite of the attractions that the city had to offer. After catching the U-bahn and walking a bit to reach this tower, we came to find out that it cost another 11 euro just to take an elevator ride to the top. Instead, I recommend going to the Berlin Cathedral with the Berlinerdome and althought you have to climb 267 stairs to the top, the view of the city is breathtaking. Besides, your sense of accomplishment while looking over the entire city, is well worth the sweat.

Also, go to see the Neptune fountain. Catch the U-bahn to Alexanderplatz and you will come to a park a number of benches circling this magnificent fountain. It is quite the sight to behold.

Be sure to take time to walk the Berlin Wall. There are many tours that lead you about the wall and let you observe all of the magnificent street art that has been commissioned to cover the drab and penitent stone of the wall. Sadly there is some bad graffiti on this wall, but much of it is protected now by an outer fencing to keep people from writing things like “hey mom!” (perhaps the stupidest piece of graffiti I have seen to this day).

Surprisingly, some of the graffiti in Berlin is clever and was actually a nice part of the city. For example, there are some post cards that can be bought with the picture of a small little alien that is asking to be friends.

Be sure to buy groceries enough for the whole weekend (although it is not expected that you should ever buy in bulk), but all markts are closed on Sundays so you should be prepared to have food if you don’t want to eat out on that day. One of my highest recommendations is of the small pink apples sold at the Biomarkt. Also, remember to bring your own bag for your groceries as it costs extra if you do not.

The best part of my trip was the Großer Tiergarten. Honestly, I have never seen such a beautiful piece of land in my life. It was truly out of a fairy tale, a secret garden, and unlike any city park I have ever seen before. Places like central park of New York City or Prospect Park of my college town Redlands have been manicured and created for us to lounge in. This Tiergarten park still had a sort of natural mystery about it with large wild looking trees that towered down and challenged your idea of how big trees could be. My suggestion is to rent some bicycles and take a ride to this park. Pack a lunch and take time to sit in the grass and eat bread and cheese and drink some wine. Count the lily pads that float on the pond and stare at the large bronze statues that are placed throughout. Let yourself become a romantic and marvel at the way dogs without leashes stroll beside their owners.

Of course I recommend the tour that takes you to the spot where Berlin used to be actually split in two. I recommend the tour for the stories that they tell you about what it was like when Berlin was not Berlin but East Berlin and West Berlin. Imagine that one side could not have bananas while the other side ate the fruit freely (a detail that for some reason really hit the concept home for me). There is still a guard stand set up and men dressed in uniform to give the impression of what it was once like to live there. Also, the story of how the barrier actually came down is humorously fantastic.

Warning: be careful of the Turkish women holding cards in English. I made the mistake of stopping to help one because she seemed terribly desperate and I thought that she had lost her child. She was not actually desperate, but was asking for money and I barely got away from her before another came and started begging me as well. I say this as a warning because they will not stop if you answer them in English and will follow you around the city for a good while.

Now, clothing choices to bring with you on your trip to Berlin. If you are from America I have a lot of advice. First of all, do not where flip flops because your feet will be stared at. Bring a pair of boots or flats. Also, neon colors/ multiple colored shirts and such are not often worn. Lots of loose fitting neutral colored shirts with some dark jeans are always a good option for walking around the city.

If you would like to purchase some of these clothes, there is a very nice shopping district that has everything from Adidas to a store called East Berlin. Friedrichstrasse is the main shopping district and I highly recommend a pair of comfortable shoes as you take a walk up and down these streets.

Some Helpful Phrases:

Ich Mochte (eech moocktuh): I would like
Danke (Dawn-kah): Thank you
Wo ist (Voh eest): Where is
Bitte (bit-ah): Please
Wie Viel (vee fee-al): How much

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