I was in search of a bit of winter sun, late year heat. Not a beach holiday, but something to make up for living in a cold, old house.
Temperature? 1 degree Centigrade. Outlook? Overcast. Rain? Some. A summer holiday became a 1000 mile translocation to a wintery city in a country whose language I could just about pass for a tourist in.
However… Berlin has become an instant fixture on my favourite places to go list!
I’ve posted an album of photos to Flickr, you can check those out if you like — Berlin 2012.
Things to do
Here are my must-see places/must-do activities, in no particular order:
- Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas
- Eisbären Berlin / O2 World
- Hertha Berlin / Olympiastadion
- Anne Frank House — a small but valuable little museum (hidden down a back alley filled with artistic graffiti) worthy of a visit
- Nikolaikirche — an ancient site of worship, restored from ruins and converted into a full time museum documenting Berlin’s religious journey.
- KaDeWe — big department store like Selfridges, contains large amount of Moleskine goods.
You can click on the linked up items above for relevant blog posts. More coming shortly.
The S-bahn and U-bahn are ubiquitous across the city, rarely do you have to walk more than a quarter mile to find one. Get the tourist weekly ticket if you are keen to visit the associated discounted attractions, there may be an even cheaper weekly ticket that doesn’t include the Visit Berlin branding, but definitely get it! I probably was on 10-12 different trains per day and would’ve spent a lot more than €50 on travel had I not bought the card.
There’s also a tram which is mostly in the east of the city, but I didn’t try it out.
Safety et al.
At no point on the U-bahn or S-bahn did I ever feel in any danger or threatened by anyone. Despite being part of a crowd going to and from two major sporting events, there was never any rowdy or drunken behaviour. In five nights I only saw two or three people visibly intoxicated on the trains (and that was mostly at the weekend), only once did I see a get-on-give-me-money-get-off type beggar, and once I saw a poor girl scavenging for recyclables.
I posted a review to LateRooms.com. An excerpt follows.
I stayed five nights, from Monday to Saturday in November at the Generator East Berlin in a single room with one travel companion next door. The “single room” booked was a twin room with two beds, no problem, more room!
The en-suite bathroom was of the plastic box modular type you might find in any other “ultra-value” hotel, containing toilet, shower, wash basin, mirror and towel rack. It was great not having to use/endure communal showering and toilet facilities. Beds were a fine length, and I’m well over six feet tall.
The rooms were almost too warm. The heating ran (it seemed) 24/7, and I woke massively dehydrated. Co-codamol solved it that day, but a wet towel or t-shirt on the radiator overnight kept the room both warm and somewhat humidified in the morning. Or, of course, you could turn the radiators off.
Noise — it varied a lot. The room doors weren’t particularly thick or insulating, it felt like people talking in the corridor were almost inside the room, but being midweek it was usually not an issue. There was often the dull thud of music from the bar or somewhere else in the building but it was a low enough volume not to be of concern (but try to ask for a room on the opposite side of the building if that’s going to bother you). It was only on Friday night that there was much “people laughing loudly in a nearby room” effect kicked in. You’ll spend so much time walking the city you’ll fall asleep quickly anyway!
Location — a little bit out of the way, but rarely more than 20 minutes on the U/S from the city centre. Generator East is at Landsburger Allee on the main ring and a two stop connection away from the main line out of Alexanderplatz.
Berlin seemed a pretty safe place. There was very little in the way of “rowdiness” Monday to Thursday nights that you would see in the University area of Belfast. Friday was the night for letting off steam and getting a bit worse for wear. Didn’t encounter anyone rowdy or abusive despite attending two big sporting events (DEL hockey and Bundesliga 2 football at the Olympiastadion). Friday night was a bit more so, but you have to expect that in any city. There were no pushy street sellers like in Paris, but it was November I suppose.
Go see the Berlin Eisbaren play ice hockey at the O2 World arena and get a ticket in the ‘fankurve’ — it’s unreal; the game is easy to follow and the fans are brilliant and friendly too. It’s an “ultras” section but the area I was in was about 40% female and not at all violent or pushy. Really. Do it. €18 you won’t regret spending. It was at the arena I found my first non English speaker in my time there. I met a total of two!
Go visit Berlin. Go in the summer. Bring a friend.