Such a fun, hip place…but such a historic place as well. It was the 4th of July and the hottest day of the year in Germany. We didn’t let that stop us, though! We woke up in the morning in Dresden and began on our way to Berlin.
We spent two nights (18 Euro/night) in our AirBnB apartment in the neighborhood of Pankow with our host Melissa. Being a true Berliner, she was able to give us some tips on how to navigate the crazy metro around the large, capital city.
After meeting with Melissa and parking our car outside her flat, we walked to the nearest S+U Bahn (train station) to purchase our day passes and start exploring the city. It was only roughly 7 Euro for a public transportation day pass which includes buses(H), underground train(U Bahn), trams(M), and above ground trains(S Bahn). At first, navigating the metro was a bit overwhelming, but it was very convenient once we got the hang of it!
Our first stop was the Berliner Dom(Berlin Cathedral) and Museum Island. We decided to pay the 7 Euro or so to go inside the Berliner Dom and we were very glad we did! Both the inside and outside are absolutely breathtaking. We also decided to go about 300 steep steps up to the very top and get a city view. A pretty intense workout, but well worth it! A lot of Museum Island is under construction and with limited time we decided against going in each of the museums.
A quick bus ride from the Dom took us to the Holocaust Memorial, or “Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe”. The memorial isn’t much visually, just a bunch of big stones in different sizes, almost like oversized gravestones that each represent hundreds of Jews that were killed. The artist that designed it wanted for each person to have their own interpretation of the memorial. It was very disorienting walking through. It almost seemed like a mirror maze in a funhouse. Every corner that we turned looked identical and it was easy to get lost. Luis took advantage of this and thought it would be funny to try and separate and lose each other. Ha! It was pretty entertaining trying to find each other after the fact.
Just across the street from the memorial was the U.S. Embassy. Of course, we had to take a picture. Because same sex marriage was just declared legal in America, the Embassy was flying the rainbow flag.
Just around the corner from the Embassy was the famous Brandenburg Gate! This gate made of sandstone is built on the actual site of a former city gate that marked the start of a road from Berlin to Brandenburg. After suffering some damage in WWII, the gate was fully restored in 2002 and is considered a symbol of peace.
Ironically, we ended up bumping into a co-worker of Luis’ here outside of the gate! What are the chances of that? He was with his cousin that was visiting from England and showing her around. They walked a few minutes with us to the Reichstag Building, which is Germany’s Parliament Building.
We decided to exchange contact info and meet up with them later since we were both heading back to our hotels/apartments to change and rest up a bit from the heat before heading out to eat dinner!
Later on, we went to HofBrau Berlin near Alexanderplatz. The staff wears the traditional German Oktoberfest clothing and you see servers walking around carrying over 10 beers at once! The food was alright. The live music and good company made it fun!
From dinner, we went to Belushi’s Bar. We heard there was some kind of American 4th of July party so we wanted to check it out. Besides it being extremely hot inside, it was pretty fun! Not many actual Americans were there but lots of British were. They had red white and blue decorations and our flag everywhere around the bar. After enjoying a couple games of pool and the “band” that was playing “American music” (lol!) we headed back to the apartment to get some sleep and prepare for day 2.
Our first stop of day 2 was the East Side Gallery. This is a long stretch of the Berlin Wall that has murals from over a hundred artists painted onto it. Being that it was outside of the city center, we decided to drive to it and park our car at the train station across the street from it. The other side is full of graffiti…as most things are here in Germany.
We then hopped on the U Bahn and rode to another section of the Wall that had no graffiti/murals and a memorial for those that had died trying to cross it and escape communism.
Right after viewing this section of the wall, we visited Checkpoint Charlie. This was the best known East/West Berlin crossing point during the Cold War and was only used for foreigners and members of the Allied Forces. Outside they have actors dressed in American Army costumes and they ask for 2 Euro if you want to take a picture with them…with your own phone! No thanks. 😉
Then, we caught a bus and rode around the city a little bit to cool off. We rode past the Victory Column, the Bellevue Palace(where the German President lives), and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church that was bombed in WWII and left as it was to remind us of how terrible war really is.
At this point, we were pretty hungry and just looking for some shade, so we just decided to check out Potsdamer Platz. With skyscrapers and fancy hotels, this is more of an urban- looking area. They even have their own “Walk of Fame” with the famous stars and important people of Germany. Right in the middle is Sony Center. It is a pavilion area with a glass ceiling containing restaurants and a big movie theater. It’s also where they host a lot of big events. We ate lunch here and before taking the train back to our car at the station we parked it at.
Once we got in our car, we drove about 20 minutes outside of Berlin to Wannsee to visit the House of the Wannsee Conference. On 1942, there was a meeting of high officials from the Nazi Ministries and the SS in the Minoux villa by the Wannsee waterside. Under the direction of Reinhard Heidrich, negotiations took place on the organised deportation and murder (the “Final Solution”) of European Jews in the occupied areas of Poland and Eastern Europe. It was so crazy to think that the very room that we were standing in, was where the Holocaust was essentially planned. Inside was a museum set-up, with lots of informative and graphic pictures and audio recordings explaining what took place here and the results of it.
Another 20 minute drive from Berlin was Potsdam. In Potsdam, there were two palaces that we wanted to see from the 1700s. Both were owned by Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. The first was “Sansoucci Palace” which was his summer home. The second was “Neues Palace” which was built after the Seven Years War and completed in 1769. It is considered to be the last great Prussian baroque palace.
For dinner on our final day in Berlin, I was told I could not leave without trying Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebab, which is Turkish food. A small food stall on the side of the street, this place is one of the most popular and most famous “restaurants” in Berlin. People will wait over an hour in line just to get some “Doner”. We waited at least 30 minutes…and I have to say it was worth it! It was also very cheap being less than 4 Euro a person.
This concluded our trip in Berlin and we drove home to relax and catch some ZZ’s! It was such a great experience and we really learned so much about WWII history being able to step into the middle of where so much had happened.
‘Til next time! 🙂