The thrills of visiting a new city: it will either go super amazing or go terribly wrong. But for this capital city filled with a sombre history, it has proven to be one of my favourite European cities so far.
Apart from its famous historical sites like Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Wall and the Holocaust Memorial, Berlin is surprisingly modern with sophisticated distribution networks. Affordable, peaceful and most importantly, it does not cripple in the middle of the night – a very important aspect for all hungry Asian travelers who crave for food after hours.
A great way to start
(Thank you Nicholas for the recommendation) For newcomers to a brand new city, Sandeman’s offer great walking tours, hosted by locals or natives. What’s great is that the walking tour lasts usually 2-3 hours and the onus is on the group to give tips at the end of the tour. Summarising Berlin’s greatest historical happenings was not an easy task, but the tour does it perfectly.
The tricky way to get around
You might have already done your research on the reliable public transportation network in Berlin and had gotten all confused about it. To be honest, I can’t offer good explanations but basically (i) look out for the zone of Berlin which you are planning to explore (A, B or C); (ii) look out for group discounts when travelling in a group; (iii) validate your ticket at any train platform (usually near the ticketing station), on the tram or on the bus.
It gives me great confidence that a city would trust their people in boarding these modes of transportation freely, and so just enjoy the moment and shuttle on and off around in Berlin!
Currywurst and more
Coming to Berlin would not be complete without trying their signature German food. Currywurst, Pork Knuckle, Beer… not forgetting some really good burgers and kebabs round the corners. For a really delicious serving of Currywurst, visit Curry 36, just 1-minute away from Mehringdamm subway station. Curry 36’s sauce doesn’t feel too heavy with ketchup and has just the right amount of spice added.
Usually, those who decide to have their sausages here will queue for the famous Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebap nearby, housed in a small booth with snaking queues that you won’t miss out. The generous serving of roasted chicken, the mixed fry of potatoes, eggplant and bell peppers add flavour and fragrance to the dish. And let’s talk about the perfect blend of its cream and hot sauce laying base for all the cooked ingredients… one of my more memorable food experiences in Berlin!
Interestingly named as ‘Museum Island’, Berlin has no short of museums that introduces Germany from its Prussian roots all the way to the fall of the Berlin wall. One of the more recommended museum tours is at DDR Museum, which spells Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or more commonly known as the East, Soviet-backed Germany.
It’s not the most spacious museum, but its interactive displays allow for very deep understanding into the lives of East Germans living under oppressed conditions. Education, housing, sports and more intriguingly, the military and political motives in the tensed era can all be found and explained in the museum. Towards the end of the tour, travel back in time to the 70s and 80s in their simulated apartments.
For those in the know, Berlin is also home to the craziest clubbing and partying hangouts, where people would do 24, 48, 72-hour or even longer hardcore partying. While these are usually only for those who know it, it will not be elaborated in this post.
My 4-day experience in Berlin was really an eye-opener and an effective history lesson, reminding ourselves where we came from, and where we should head towards in the near future. I really admire Berliners for living in this environment of self-awareness, look how far it has become since 1989. Be open and absorb its history in your next visit.