Ich bin eine Berlinerin
What’s that smell? Hmm, smells like weed!!! And all these police anti riot cars, the street full of police men, cameras and a lot of interesting looking young and old folks!? That is the impression we get on our arrival in Bahnhof Zoo.
Not at all surprising to me, the Bahnhof Zoo was engraved into my memory as a drug place with prostitutes ever since I read as a teenager the truly moving and shocking book: Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (We children from Bahnhof Zoo – the film based on the book), about a 13-year-old girl who became drug addicted and later earning her money with prostitution.
But my teenage years are now a while back and I have another look with my now more “mature” eyes and realize that we fell into the middle of a pro-weed/legalize hash demonstration. We are wheeling our suitcases through the friendly crowd of demonstrators, police staff and decide to ask a camera man to explain us the way to the hotel.
So finally I visit Berlin, which has been on my bucket list for such a long time. I have always heard so much about it, East/West Berlin, I had a pen pal in the East, the fall of the wall and Berlin becoming so fashionable that even people with an aversion to the German language have to admit today how cool and fashionable it is.
And it definitely is. The heat that we feared to face in August in the City of Berlin has taken a break for the few days we are there. The lady selling us the train ticket at the tiny not real airport-like airport of Schönefeld is barking at us because we do not have smaller change than EUR 50.– but waves nicely goodbye wishing us a great stay and congratulating us on our good German. The hotel we booked through some surprise system (you only know what category and which part of town you book and the name stays hidden until you have paid, which gets you a better price) has the most comfortable beds ever. And the first beer and Curry Wurst we have to start our stay are promising.
We discover the city with a guided Mauer/III. Reich-Tour. 3 hours bike tour extended without a supplement to 3h30 with the Eastern Berlin native called Christian who had discovered the shops of West Berlin with his family at the age of 10 when the wall fell. It was highly instructive and moving to retrace Berlin’s history of the wall and its people on both sides at the moment the wall was built, during its existence and at its fall. Christian did an excellent job and commented the tour in French for our group, which was not planned. If you want to be sure to have the tour in French, call and ask for Christian to fix it in advance. My blog is not here for publicity but I make an exception for once: FreeBerlinTours (they propose several tours and for my next visit I take the “Wild Berlin – poor but sexy”).
The bikes were the perfect way to discover Berlin and so the next days we rented bikes for the rest of ours stay. Berlin has bike paths everywhere and car drivers paying careful attention before turning. And so many bikers and bike parkings everywhere…Berlin is almost competing with Amsterdam.
Berlin will definitely need another trip but we have already seen so much and some things are so history loaded and meaningful that it needs some time to digest, like the Holocaust-Mahnmal.
Obviously you cannot miss the Brandenburger Tor which is only a few steps away from the Holocaust-Mahnmal. I loved it at night with the lights on and found it amusing during the daytime. What a circus, it is great to see what people invent to make some money – and good that some tourists can pay that. From cuddly bears to pseudo army guys (we were told that you can hire them to surprise your best friend with a striptease at her birthday party) you can take a picture with all kinds of creatures.
Don’t miss a visit to the Reichstag, but book it in advance over the internet if you want to avoid the queue to book your visit on site. They need to see your ID and you go through metal detectors like before boarding a plane. I have to mention that although the organization is extremely strict, which is normal for government stuff, the employees were extremely helpful, friendly and funny.
As perfect tourists we messed up the date of our reservation taken well in advance, but only realized the next morning that we were supposed to show up at the Reichstag the previous evening. We still went with our invitation paper and the young man at the entrance guided us through the queue to a more experienced gentleman who questioned us and as a “punishment” asked us to sing a song…glad I had a great singer with me, who opened the door to the interesting Reichstag for us. Click here to book your visits.
There was not enough time to see everything I wished to see, only one night out where we listened to a live band when Berlin seems to have plenty of live music venues. The Dalí Museum also has to wait for next time just like the Television tower that we only saw from far and below. You cannot have it all at once, but we had an excellent time.
Berlin will definitely see me again – bis bald!