Once in the city, you
will soon discover that all Germans are not serious people who do not
like to have fun. You will also soon enough dispel the myth that
German cuisine consists mainly of meat and is thus very unappealing to
veggies. In fact you will just fall in love with the city,
Berlin is truly an East-meets-West city that is at the heart of a changing Europe. This is Germany's city of opportunities just waiting to be discovered. A city where entertainment, recreation, economy, science and academic life all co-exist in harmony.
When you enter the city from Tegel airport you'll feel a sense of shared exhilaration. Because you're in a city born anew. Time was when it was a divided city of lakes, forests and a Wall which no one talked of but which always spoke for itself. Today, very little of the Berlin Wall that divided East and West remains and is mainly a tourist attraction.
The city welcomes you with a whiff of the luft — the Berliner's way of describing the pulse that makes it throb. You’ll soon discover that all Germans are not serious people who do not like to have fun. You will also soon enough dispel the myth that German cuisine consists mainly of meat and is thus very unappealing to veggies.
If you are a shopaholic then you would not want to resist the call of Kurfurstendamm, better known as Ku 'damm. As you stroll along this vibrant boulevard, you'll never guess that it was first built in the 16th century. The brightly-lit shops invite you in as you mingle with groups of Germans relaxing at roadside cafes.
You could shop a bit, look around, take in the atmosphere and watch a roadside skit. The language may elude you, but the gusto of the actors and the crowd's obvious enjoyment will make you glad you stopped to watch. And during the evening strolls you'll see something new each day — clowns, snake charmers, mime artistes — a variety that'll reveal what Berlin is all about: a vibrant city that is fun to visit any time of the year.
On the very first day, you will be drawn to the roadside cafes. Try out an exotic mix in one of the 50 coffee blends on offer in the Einstein Stadtcafe. Then visit the excellent art gallery on the first floor of this 19th century cafe. Slip in through a half-open side door and spend a moment in the companionable hush of the Memorial Church next door.
World’s biggest barbecue
Like Ku 'damm, you cannot also miss the Tiergarten — the largest park which is transformed into a massive barbecue site in summers. It served as hunting ground for the Prussian princes until it was made into a park in the 18th century. Follow the winding paths leading to glistening lakes and, suddenly, you’ll come upon a winding river.
The Spree river is central to Berlin. It guides your tour of the city and on its banks you'll find the Congress Hall with a roof shaped like an oyster shell. And further down is the Parliament House. Here people used to stand and look over the wall at East Berlin — the dreaded city of the Cold War era.
The Brandenburg Gate is the true symbol of the city. Till a few years back the gate was situated in the no man's land and became symbolic of the city’s division. After the fall of the Wall, the Gate was reopened on December 22, 1989. Built in 1794, it is crowned with the quadriga and the Goddess of Victory. Close by is Checkpoint Charlie, now a museum but once a building that physically marked the border crossing for people who escaped from East to West Berlin. It was featured in countless Hollywood films.
Close to the Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament and one of Berlin's most historical landmarks. The dome has become one of the city's most recognised landmarks. Since April 1999, the Reichstag is once again the seat of the Bundestag. You can visit it and walk all the way to the top of the dome.
The Berlin Cathedral is another landmark building of the city. It was damaged by Allied bombs during World War II and took nearly 20 years to repair. The resulting building isn't as tall as the original but it certainly is one of the most stunning sights of Berlin.
Close by is the famed Congress Hall. This was an American contribution to the International Building Exhibition in 1957. It was declared as a gift of America to the then West Berlin. This is a technically revolutionary building built on the south bank of the Spree. The people of Berlin have given it a fitting nickname: "pregnant oyster".
A must-see in Berlin is the Pergamon, the awe-inspiring Greek temple that originally belonged to Turkey. No one really knows how and why the huge temple was moved into Berlin. It gives you an incredible sense of history especially when you are in the Altar of Zeus and surrounded by larger-than-life Greek sculptures.
No visit to Berlin can be complete with time spent at Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) one of the top five department stores in the world. Be warned, prices are high and you may not be able to afford much, but it never hurts to look.
German cooking is at its best in Berlin. Get a taste of it at one of the lake restaurants — the Alte Fisherbutte or the Forsthaus Paulsborn. Get yourself a waterfront facing table and savour the fresh eels in herb sauce, potato soup and meatballs in cream sauce. But if you are a vegetarian, you could savour the famed pea soup, oven-chipped potatoes and sauerkraut rye bread washed down with Muddy Punch or schlammbowle.
Indeed, the choices are mouth -watering. If you are lucky to be invited to an Old Berlin Buffet, join in for kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) with apple sauce and Berliner pancakes. But for the best kind of Berlin meal, let a friendly family invite you over—it will be a repast no restaurant can rival and your first taste of Berlin hospitality.
If you are adventurous, you could try the Tafelrunde in Wilmersdorf where you can eat a seven-course meal served in medieval German style. All the goodies are for 35 Euros with plenty of 16th century Germany thrown in.
Rivers and lakes are the life of Berlin and you can sail from any point of the city. Take a steamboat from Tegel to Wannsee and choose from a variety of guided tours around the city. Buses with huge windows will give you a glimpse of Berlin on the move. Board one from Ku'damm or the Zoo palace. Take a boat excursion of the city's canals from Schlossbrucke Charloltenburg and if you have a special companion then, as a special gift, book tickets for a moonlit cruise on the Havel. It will be an experience you'll treasure.
Berlin is great any time of the year. And music is there all the year round. Whatever your tastes, you'll find plenty to regale you in Berlin. The Berlin Philharmonic, the opera at Bayreuth, a rock concert in the Waldbuhne. Your heart will be swinging to music of every variety on the roads and in concert halls. In fact you will be swinging to the music of Berlin itself. — NF