Despite the title, I must say that Berlin is not a very young city from a historical point of view because it was already the capital of Prussia and the capital of Germany until the creation of the wall and the division of the country during the Cold War. Given all the events that occurred here, it is natural that the city recorded heavy damages. Because of the war, it was bombed until the complete annihilation and the Berlin, we see now, is a modern reconstruction of its older counterpart. Germans did not try to build it as exactly the same as in the past (just the historical monuments), but they tried to give the city new vibes and modernise it. Not by chance, the city is filled with young people more than any other European capitals I have ever seen...I think this is also thanks to the cheap prices, much cheaper than any other parts of Germany.
Some Information About Berlin
Berlin was born in the XII century as a slavic commercial town thanks to its strategic position near the River Spree. Slowly, slowly, the city earned more importance over the other cities in Brandenburg and became the residence of the Hohenzollern Noble family in the 15th century and in the 18th century became the capital of Prussia. Prussia must not be confused with Russia, these two countries have nothing in common with each other. Prussia was one of the strongest country in Europe from a military point of view for this reason the territory was quite vast: from the north-west part of Germany to nowadays Poland and Lithuania, including the northern part too. The state of Prussia continues to exist under the Weimar Republic and the Nazi government and ceased to be after the war. In Berlin many important events took place: Hitler burned down the parliament, he took the power and here was defeated and killed, the worldwide known Berlin Wall was constructed here to separate the Eastern part of Germany, ruled by Soviet Union, from its Western counterpart, ruled by the allies and always here many people died in order to cross the border and fought for the Wiedervereinigung (reunification) of Germany. Still now, Berlin is an important economical and political hub in Europe.
Well, after reading this super epic history about Berlin, you can understand pretty well how many places are unavoidable if you visit this young city. In this article, I will write about my top seven places to visit:
How could not this one be on the top list?! It is the most loved and the most photographed monument in the whole Berlin! Even though it is very tourist, it is very nice to see the Brandenburger Tor in the reality and tell your friends: hey brosss I have been there, unlike u 😉 And then, there is not just the Brandenburger Tor but a huge square surrounded by important buildings like French and American embassies. It is also very near to the Deutscher Bundestag, just pass through the green park that separates the two monuments. It was commisioned by the King of Prussia as sign of peace but suffers heavy damages due to the bombs of the second world war and had to be renewed. At the time of the wall, the Brandenburger Tor could not be accessed by the inhabitants of Berlin for its position on the border.
Gendarmenmarkt is my favourite place in Berlin thanks for its tranquility and its cafés overlooking the huge square. At the center of the square there is the Concert Hall, which reminded me of the Pantheon in Rome for its Romanesque Architecture flanked by two churches. The one on the right is the Französischer Dom called like this because it was built by the Huguenot community that migrated to Berlin in the 16th century as France, with its anti-religious politics, was persecuiting them. The one on the left is the Deutscher Dom that belonged to the Lutheran community. Now, after the complete destruction carried out by the war, is not used as church anymore but as a museum about German history and constitution. The entrance is free so I advise you all to have a look because it is quite interesting if you are new to German history: it is very interactive and detailed. Gendarmenmarkt is also very close to Checkpoint Charlie, so close that you do not even need to take the metro but just walk for 15 minutes.
3. Checkpoint Charlie
We reached this place walking from the Gendarmenmarkt and found ourselves near one of the most famous crossing point in the world. It was pretty exciting to be in front of Checkpoint Charlie, especially if you know what the people had gone through in East Berlin in order to cross the border and now I’m crossing like a boss without guns or any other kinds of weapons aiming at me and trying to kill me…crazy how things changed and I must say they changed for the best! You must know that the Berlin Wall was constructed in one day. The day after, some people that shared the same house found themselves separated by a wall!! Can you imagine something like this?? At the beginning, many inhabitants of East Berlin tried to escape to the West but since East Germany was losing workforce, they decided to build a wall to stop all this emigration. There were guards on the wall, provided with weapons and aggresive dogs, that used to shoot at everyone who tried to cross the border. My teacher explained me that there was just one railway allowing you to reach the eastern part of Germany from a western country and surrounded by barbed wire with guards that used to check you and your stuff every hour. How does she know? Well, in the middle of the Cold War she decided to go studying in East Berlin xD
4. East Side Gallery
This part of Berlin for me was quite dangerous with many weird people around even though, I think, it is one of the most loved district by the young generation (not by me though). It was dirtier than any other parts in Berlin and filled with graffitis. In this former east berlin territory, you can still find the longest and intact piece of Berlin Wall that streches along the river Spree. I really wanted to see with my own eyes the worldwide famous picture with the two politicians: Breschnew, the hero of the Soviet Union, and Honecker, the East Germany’s president, kissing. Just near the East Side Gallery, you can spot the Oberbaum Bruecke, famous for being another crossing point between East and West, simbolyzing, now, the unity of the city and the country.
5. Berliner Dom and Museuminsel
Museuminsel is called like this for hosting a large number of museums scattered here and there...yeah, it is really an island, it is located in the middle of the river Spree and is connected to the mainland through bridges. The whole area is very nice, peaceful and, I would say, quite posh; we can tell from the style of the houses that sorround the area and from the kinds of restaurants you can find there. There are many points of interest on the Museuminsel like the Pergamon Museum, Muslim Art Museum, Egyptian Museum etc but we opted for a more German one: the DDR Museum. It is smaller and less famous than the other but this does not mean that it is less interesting, I would rather say that it is the exact opposite! Germans really do know how to make interesting museums that draw the attention of the people and this is one of them. It explains the life of the people that lived in the DDR (East Germany): school life, life at home, music (with song samples), military, rules, STASI, everything you can imagine. There were plastic model of an average house in the DDR, documents of the STASI, the food they used to eat and even a Trabant! The entrance of the museum is a bit hidden: just pass beyond the Berliner Dom and then go down some stairs and there you go. For more information about everything, just click here DDR Museum.
Berliner Dom is another place in Berlin that I really enjoyed and I would like to go back to. The religious complex is very imposing, also thanks to its roman-like architecture, even though it went through different style modifications during its life. It is not a catholic church but lutheran as far as I know. You can even enter (of course, paying a ticket) but we decided to stay in the Lustgarten to observe the old Cathedral and enjoy the good weather. It is lively all day long there: children playing with their parents, musicians, tourists and young people that read alone sitting on the grass. A really nice place to visit 😉
6. Deutscher Bundestag
The Bundestag is the German Parliament located very close to the Brandenburger Tor and easily accesible by foot departing from there. For those who do not know, Germany is a federation of states just like the United States…surprised?! Instead of being called states, they are called Bundeslaender that means federated countries/states and they are 16; some of them are really small like Hamburg that in the past was an indipendent city, part of the Hanseatic Union, and keep on being partly indipendent even nowadays. The Bundestag before was called Reichstag and was burned down by Hitler in his attempt to get the power blaming the Jews to have done such horrible act towards the German population. Since the 1990, it is in Berlin but, when Germany was divided into West and East, was moved to Bonn, in the western part. Now it is a very big tourist attraction and its inside and dome can be visited, even though you need to book in advance: here the website if you’re interested Bundestag Booking. Unfortunately, when I visited Berlin, it was closed due to maintenance so check carefully the opening days in order not to make the same mistake xD
7. The Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe
All around Germany, you find monuments dedicated to the Jews or the gypsies or any other people killed during the so called Holocaust. Germany is a nation eager to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, to show them to the world but keep on going foward becoming even stronger learning from their mistakes. The Memorial is one of them, one of the most famous and photographed around the world. I do not exactly know where it is located because I stumble upon it randomly but it is very close to the Deutscher Bundestag and the Brandenburger Tor. It is made of many grey bricks arranged in a labyrinthic way, as to symbolize that the victims had no way of escaping from all that sorrow. Moreover, the grey colour of the whole complex makes feel they way they felt caged between those horrible walls in the concentration camps.
How To Move Around:
Berlin has a complex and great public transportaton that could make you get confused at first, just like it happened to me. There is the normal undeground called U-Bahn, then the S-Bahn, which is like an intra-city train. In addition to all of this, there is a very well developed bus network.
What Kind Of Ticket Should I Buy:
- You can buy a one day ticket that is valid for all of these public transportions for 7 euros and it expires the following day at 3 a.m.
- If you are staying more than 5 days, you can buy a berlin seven days ticket that costs 30 euros
- as alternative, you can buy the the Berlin Tourist Card.
Bear in mind that if you use one single ticket, it is valid just for three stops and once you have excedeed this number, you have to buy another one.
Important Facts About Berlin Metro:
- they do not have air-con on board (and in summer it is not so nice)
- some trains look like they come straight from the DDR period
- there are no gates at the metro entrances to prevent you from accessing and it seems that ticket checkers are a rare sight too!
I did not take advantage from this just because they do not check, after all I’m not a thief or I have to spare money because I am starving to death, on the other hand, one day, since the our stop was just two stations away, I did not bother buying the tickets xD Just do not do this everytime or else it is unfair for the people who, everyday, work hard to provide you the service!