Even in three months, we couldn’t see all of what Berlin has to offer. But we did our best to see as much as possible. We did the typical touristy stuff and ate at restaurants in many different neighborhoods all over the city. Though I hated our apartment, the city itself grabbed hold of me pretty quickly. I loved the vibe and the variety, I loved how much there was to do. I just wish it wasn’t about as far away from Freiburg as you can get without leaving Germany!
Probably the most recognizable sight in Berlin is Brandenburg Gate. When the Berlin Wall stood, the gate was isolated and inaccessible due to its location on the border between the two sides of the city. The big square in front, pictured below, is the east side. When you go through the gate, you’ll be on the west side once you see the cobblestone markers indicating where the wall was.
On the west side of Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag Building, which is actually the government building. It’s where the German federal government conducts their business. The glass dome at the top offers free audio tours, though you have to sign up ahead of time, so we went with Andy’s parents while they were visiting. The recording tells you about the history of the building and the city and points out different parts of Berlin that you can see from the dome.
Alexanderplatz is at the hub of Berlin’s transportation system and many of the city’s tourist attractions. The Alexanderplatz sign is a pretty recognizable sight, and behind it you can see the Fernsehturn (TV tower) that looms above the city. A popular meeting point is the Weltzeituhr (world time clock) that displays major cities around the world divided up into their time zones.
Boat tour on the River Spree
A boat tour sounded like a good idea, and it looked like fun when our friend Cheryl toured Berlin on the River Spree. Unfortunately I think it would’ve been prettier in better weather instead of early November when we went, but it was still interesting. The boat takes you past Museum Island, the Berliner Dom, the Fernsehturn, and many other significant buildings.
I’m not much of a museum person, but while Andy’s parents were visiting, the four of us went to the Pergamon Museum. It’s divided into three sections: the Collection of Classical Antiquities, the Museum of the Ancient Near East, and the Museum of Islamic Art.
After our time in the museum, we wandered over to see the Berliner Dom, the most famous and recognizable cathedral in the city. We decided not to go in though because we felt the entrance fee was a bit steep. But it is an incredible building from the outside.
Ampelmann means traffic light man in German. There are two different kinds throughout Berlin since the city was once divided. The Soviet one that was on the east has become an icon of Berlin, and there’s even a store that sells nothing but souvenirs with the Ampelmann on it. Before we went to Berlin, I always heard one of the ways you could tell which side of the city you were on was by looking at the Ampelemann at the crosswalk. Supposedly the one pictured below are only on the east side, but after spending three months in Berlin I definitely saw these in sections of the city that are clearly on the west.
The delicious food
Berlin felt more international than the rest of Germany for many reasons, but one of them was the food. We actually saw very few German restaurants while we were there, and the two times I had Schnitzel were both pretty bad. Instead we dined at a variety of international restaurants: Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Turkish and more. We also had some really great burgers, which we can’t really get in Freiburg. Oh, and of course we ate lots of Mexican food in Berlin.
I still feel like this only scratches the surface. Berlin is such a diverse city with so much history and so much energy. I understand why it’s so popular with other expats and why it’s one of the most visited cities in Germany. Berlin has now been added to my list of cities I would gladly return to, and I don’t often like repeats.
For more on Berlin check out some other posts I’ve written: