From June 22 until June 30 I was in Berlin, Germany. Beforehand I had created a list of all the places I wanted to visit in a Google Excel doc:
I managed to tick most of these items, but as the week progressed I found I wanted to check out other places as well. To help me, I kept a Google Map up to date:
Whether I was walking around or travelling on the U-bahn/S-bahn, I was able to check my position on my phone using this map: quite handy!
At home I had decided not to focus too much on Berlin’s WWII history, but to check out the Berlin of the 30s and the schizophrenic Berlin: how exactly was this city divided in two. A friend recommended I read the book Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder, which I did.
Another recommendation I followed was a visit to Die Tadshikische Teestube. On Tuesday the rain never stopped and after walking around in the rain almost all day, I was cold, wet and hungry! A visit to Die Tadshikische Teestube was just what I needed!
Such a charming place. I think I stayed for close to two hours, reading a book, drinking tea and enjoying the calming atmosphere.
Another place which had caught my eye when planning this trip at home was the Stasimuseum (Forschungs- und Gedenkstätte Normannenstraße). The buildings at the Normannenstraße are forbidding, and when you walk up to the former Stasi Headquarters, you feel history pressing on your shoulders. Seeing Erich Mielke’s office and reading about stories of people who were mistreated or killed by Stasi officers takes your breath away. The building itself smells and looks as if nothing has changed: in there, the SED is still in power.
As you can see from all my photos below, I also visited all regular places you simply have to see when in Berlin, but I think I also managed to see some of the harder to find or less known interesting locations. I found myself entranced by some of the U-bahn stations (Berlin U-bahn stations photoset).
Another great find was the hard to find restaurant serving New York deli-style food. Situated in the former Jüdische Mädchenschule, Mogg and Melzer is a little treasure, and their food is simply great!
Of course, a visit to Berlin is not complete without visiting some other museums. I managed to work my way throught the Pergamon, the Neues Museum and the Bauhaus-archiv. In the first museum, I really wanted to see the Ishtar Gate again (I had only seen this briefly on my first/earlier trip to Berlin back in November 2001). The gate did not disappoint, but I was more entranced by seeing a gorgeous Mihrab from Turkey.
My second museum was the Neues Museum and I was very happy to get the chance to see the world famous Nefertiti statue: what a gorgeous woman!
At the Bauhaus-archiv I was not allowed to take pictures (though I did manage to snap two!), but seeing the art and artistry made me realize how relevant the form and function as designed by the Bauhaus collective is still relevant today. A great surprise was the special exhibition on the importance of typography: one room purposely filled with letters and letters of all the different font families. Quotations on typography added history and context to the great variety of type on display.
On my last full day in Berlin, I visited the Platz der Luftbrücke, where three students were finishing up on a project. In return for a folded paper airplane, I was given a little card with the history of the Luftbrücke on it. They wanted people to remember the importance of the Luftbrücke.
For lunch, I met up with my friend Katrin who was in Berlin with her sister and her mother. We had a great lunch at an Australian place in the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz. It was great to catch up with her and her family!
As with my trip to Vienna last year, I rented an appartment via Airbnb. Again I was lucky, because the appartment was just what I needed and its location was great: right between two U-bahn U2 stops and very near an S-bahn station.
If you are thinking of visiting Berlin: go and enjoy! The city is vibrant, full of history and very dynamic. I found that this city demanded I pay attention and it demands that any visitor actively seeks out all the great sights to see.