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A Weekend in Berlin, Germany

By alison - March 10, 2010 (Updated: November 24, 2014)

The glass dome on the Reichstag was designed by architect Norman Foster and built to symbolize the reunification of Germany

The Reichstag

Remember last summer when Andrew and I made that whirlwind trip to Berlin, Germany? Yeah, I almost didn’t either. Sure enough though, as I caught up on my photo editing, there were the photos from Berlin – evidence of a great weekend I had almost forgotten to mention here on CheeseWeb.

I’ll be honest and say I didn’t have a burning desire to go to Berlin. But the great thing about being open to travel just about anywhere is you discover places that surprise you. As a matter of fact, we ended up in Berlin to deliver wine to friends who were on a grand tour of Europe and we have them to thank for our fabulous weekend.

We arrived in Berlin early Friday morning and took the U-Bahn (German underground rail) to our hotel. As you would expect, the U-Bahn was a clean and efficient way to get around the city.

Our Hotel was a block away from Checkpoint Charlie and the Mauer Museum was our first stop. On the 14th of June 1963 the “Haus am Checkpoint Charlie” opened beside the famous crossing. It was the creation of one man, Rainer Hildebrandt, the founder and director of the museum until his death in 2004.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

The museum contains documents, photos and artefacts from Checkpoint Charlie. Most interestingly it illustrates the many means that were used to escape East Berlin, some successfully, some with tragic consequences.

A more recent addition to the museum includes an overview of oppression around the world and “international nonviolent protest.”

No visit to Berlin is complete without exploring the remains of the Wall. Its legacy is marked in several ways. Portions of the Berlin Wall still stand in various locations. The Wall’s perimeter is marked on the ground with paving stones and small metal plaques. Just about anywhere you go, you can buy random bits of painted concrete that claim to be from the Berlin Wall. Or, you can scour the ground near the remains, like us, and find your own bit of history.

One of the most solemn and powerful places in Berlin is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This sombre sculpture, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold, is a 19,000 square meter (4.7 acre) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs. Underneath the memorial is a small museum containing “the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.”

The Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial

Within sight of the Holocaust Memorial are two of Berlin’s most famous historic buildings: The Brandenburg Gate, the former entrance to the city, and The Reichstag, the German Parliament building. In front of the Brandenburg Gate you can catch one of Berlin’s many tourist buses, which is exactly what we did.

The tourist bus gives a good overview of the city, stopping at most of the important sites. One interesting stop was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This church was nearly destroyed in a bombing raid in 1943. A new church was built between 1959 and 1963 in a controversial modern design. It is sometimes referred to as the “Lippenstift und Puderdose” (lipstick and powder box) because of its cylindrical shape.  The interior of the modern church is stunning however, as the light filters through a concrete honeycomb containing 21,292 stained glass inlays.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

No trip is perfect for me without good food and drink. Berlin was a huge surprise for me in this department. Although Andrew and I enjoyed the traditional Berlin meal of beer and currywurst, we had several fantastic meals in the Gendarmenmarkt. One of my favourites was at Restaurant Aigner, famous for their hearty beef soups. If you visit Berlin in the summer, like we did, I highly recommend having a drink or eating your entire meal al fresco in this beautiful square.

We ended our weekend visit with a boat trip on the Spree on Sunday. It was a relaxing way to enjoy Berlin’s stunning architecture – both old and new.

Although I had no desire to visit Berlin before my trip, I now can’t wait to return and spend some time exploring some of the many museums that we just didn’t have time to see. I would certainly recommend Berlin as a great city-break destination in Europe.

If you want to see more of Berlin, check out my Berlin Photo Gallery. If you’ve been to Berlin, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
Cheese + Goats = My personal heaven. We discover an oasis in the cheese desert. https://t.co/Os8U86UEiX - 20 hours ago

7 comments

  1. Comment by parisimperfect

    parisimperfect March 11, 2010 at 14:10

    Hi Alison,

    I’ve been wanting to go to Berlin for the longest time – your post makes me want to go even more! Thanks for the tips. I also agree – being willing to travel anywhere opens the door to such rich discoveries. I hardly even have a list of top destinations I want to go anymore, because I know wherever I go will be a learning experience.

    -Sion

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison March 11, 2010 at 15:09

      Yes, my travel list right now has one entry – everywhere 🙂

  2. Comment by Rhona

    Rhona March 12, 2010 at 17:27

    I feel like I am the only person on the planet (well, accept for Nomadic Matt) that did not fancy Berlin. Don’t get me wrong, it was an experience and had some interesting aspects (like visiting Potsdam, Checkpoint Charlie, the cool grafitti in the ubahn) but I was not impressed overall. What I love about Germany is the green and natural beauty. I found that really lacking in Berlin so I did not enjoy my stay. In fact, I was ecstatic to return to my home in Stuttgart after a 3 day weekend in Berlin. Maybe I need to return and see more to enjoy it? I don’t know.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison March 13, 2010 at 13:13

      Hi Rhona, There are so many factors that go in to why we like or don’t like a place. For me, a lot of the reason I liked Berlin so much was the great weather and great time we had with friends. I’ve had bad experiences both times I’ve visited Venice and I feel like I’m the only person on earth not in love with that city 🙂

  3. Comment by Christine

    Christine March 12, 2010 at 18:54

    I spent a week in Berlin this summer, and while I preferred Munich, I did enjoy Berlin. Potsdam is a lovely day trip if you do return. I went with Fat Tire Bike Tours, and it was great to ride bikes through the gorgeous grounds of Potsdam! I also got a nice history lesson on the Fat Tire Bike Tour that focused on East Berlin and the Cold War– you see some awesome parts of East Berlin that aren’t on the tourist map. Highly recommend.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison March 13, 2010 at 13:14

      I haven’t yet been to Munich but I think I will have to check it out. Before my Berlin trip I have to say I didn’t really connect with Germany, or it didn’t connect with me. But I think I need to give it another chance!

  4. Comment by AnnaI

    AnnaI March 13, 2010 at 16:24

    To Rhona above –
    – my husband absolutely can’t stand Berlin and I love the place. Actually, maybe I should say “loved the place” because it’s been ages since since my last visit there. I used to live on the West side in the early 90s and remember those years in Berlin super-fondly. And to be honest, I am reluctant to go there now, because what if I end up hating the place – I am sure a lot has changed since my time there.

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