Berlin Stories and Tips


Brandenburg Gate Photo, Berlin, Germany

The following morning, we flew to Berlin on Air Berlin. We had a little trouble locating our hostel, but when we got there, I was surprised to find that the hostel was actually pretty nice although linen was not provided. Unfortunately, the weather in Berlin was just as cold.

What was so interesting about the hostel is that it is located in a neighborhood where part of the Berlin Wall is still left standing. We stopped at Alexanderplatz where we had lunch at Dinea in Galeria Lafayette. Alexanderplatz is a large public square and transport hub in the central Mitte district of Berlin. Not too far from the train station is the Neptune Fountain. Built in 1891 and designed by Reinhold Begas, it has the Roman God Neptune in the center, with four women around him representing four main rivers of Prussia: Elbe, Rhine, Vistula and Oder. The tallest structure in Germany, Fernsehturm (television tower) is also located here. Further away, is the Museum Mile, a major highlight of any visit in Berlin with superb museum collections and stunning architectures. Some of the interesting places around here are: DDR Museum, which offers hands-on experience of what day-to-day life in socialist Germany was like; Alte Nationalgalerie, offers three-level collection of 19th century art; Lustgarten, a garden known for its visual pleasure and Pergamonmuseum, a massive wealth of information regarding classical Greek, Islamic, Middle Eastern and Roman art and structural design.

The Berliner Dom is a Baroque Cathedral located on an island in the River Spree, also known as the Museum Island. It was severely damaged during World War II, but reconstruction only begun in 1975. One of the most interesting items in the richly decorated interior of the church is the reconstructed pipe organ, built by Wilhelm Sauer. The organ, originally built in 1905, has more than 7.000 pipes. A number of members of the Hohenzollern family are buried in the church, among them Friedrich I and his wife, who are entombed in beautifully sculpted sarcophagi. The oldest tomb in the cathedral (1530) is the tomb of elector Johann Cicero, elector of Brandenburg. We spent sometime in the Dom, and as night time approached, we decided to head back. The ensemble on Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Brandenburg Gate is a former city gate and one of the main symbols of Berlin and Germany. It is the only remaining gate of a series which Berlin once entered. It was heavily damaged in the war, but now fully restored in 2002. Today it is regarded as one of Europe's most famous landmarks. The Reichstag building is another historic building in Berlin. It has a large glass dome at the very top. The dome has a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. I had wanted to view the interior of the building (the next day), but unfortunately the line was way too long. The Reichstag is one of the few famous buildings in Berlin that does not charge a fee to enter. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also know as the Holocaust Memorial consists of a 19,000 squares meters (almost 6,000 squares feet) covered with 2,771 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. Designed by an American architect, Peter Eisenman, the slab are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.

Berlin does have lots of history significance, after all, it was here that Adolf Hitler and his subordinates had great plans to transform Berlin into a center fit for his new empire.

Before we could stay any longer, it began to snow heavily. We detour to one of the streets and found a nice little restaurant. We had soljanka (a spicy sour soup), kartoffelsuppe (potato soup), and eisbein (ham hock). It was a delicious meal to end the night.

Weather was better the following day. The sun came out, and we went to Kurfurstendamm, one of the most famous avenues in Berlin. It has very long, broad boulevard with lines of trees (in this case, trunks), and full of luxurious stores, shops, hotels, restaurants and houses. This is also where the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church located. I bought some Easter chocolates at KaDeWe, a famous departmental store in Berlin. We went back to Brandenburg Gate for another look.

Berlin has a population of more than 3 million people. Following German reunification in 1990, the city regained its status as the capital of all Germany hosting 147 foreign embassies. Berlin is a world city of politics, media, and science. It is known for its diverse culture, arts, architecture and historic legacy. Like New York, it is the city that never sleeps.

As we were on a train back to pick up our bags from the hostel, we were asked to show our train ticket to the inspectors. We did not buy our tickets that day. As I was pretending to look for them, Jack just acted dumb. To make the long story short we were ticketed and asked to pay a fine. "We don't have any money left. Can I pay later?", I said. "Yes, you can. You can send us your money" he said. The inspectors took our information. We left Berlin for Frankfurt in the rain that night. Snow, rain, wind, and sun - we had it all in Germany.

After a few hours of sleep, we flew back to New York the next morning. And, I still have not pay the fine yet!

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