48 hours in Berlin
Berlin has certainly lived through some turbulent times. The decline, fall and rise again have followed each other in rapid succession since the start of the 20th century. But since 1989, when the wall that cut through Berlin’s heart came tumbling down, the city has re-invented itself as a European hotspot. Here’s what you can do in two days in the German capital of cool.
MORNING – Tour with a twist
Get your Berlin trip underway by booking a Trabi Safari, a sightseeing experience with a difference. This enterprising company has breathed new life into the now nearly extinct Trabant (or Trabi), an East German produced automobile from Communist times and rents them out for self-drive tours. The route of the popular 75-minute “Berlin Compact” tour leads you through the middle and the former eastern part of the city along the Karl-Marx Allee and East Side Gallery and the neighborhood of Kreuzberg. The East Side Gallery is a real highlight, where hundreds of artists have revamped a 730-meter stretch of the Berlin Wall on the north bank of the Spree River to create the world’s largest open-air gallery featuring hundreds of airbrushed murals.
AFTERNOON – Step back in time
Take the opportunity to experience some of Berlin’s main attractions. Museum lovers should cross the Spree River over the Monbijou Bridge to Museumsinsel (Museum Island), a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s home to some splendid museums and galleries. The Bode Museum exhibits medieval sculptures and early Christian and Byzantine art; the Neues Museum (New Museum) has collections of Egyptian art, prehistoric objects and classical antiquities, and the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) showcases works by 19th-century Impressionists such as Monet, Degas and Manet.
For an immersive insight of everyday life in the former German Democratic Republic, visit the DDR Museum, where you can put on headphones and listen to East German TV shows, see the typical living room found in a concrete-slab apartment and walk into an interrogation room. A thought-provoking and moving experience is to wander among the 2,711 concrete columns rising in somber silence from the undulating ground that makes up the Holocaust-Denkmal, officially known as the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.”
EVENING – Eat like the locals
A gastro must-do when in Berlin, is to sample the legendary currywurst. Costing a few euros, this chubby pork sausage doused in tomato sauce and laced with spices is traditionally eaten from a paper plate with a tiny disposable fork while standing at chest-high snack tables on the pavements. The cult place to go is Konnopke’s Imbiss situated beneath the green girders of a subway in Prenzlauer Berg, which has been serving the hungry hordes from this spot since 1930.
MORNING – In the market for a bargain?
After breakfast, perhaps retail therapy should be the first order of the day. A good place to begin is the century-old Berlin institution of KaDeWe with a seemingly never-ending array of quality merchandise spread over several floors. For surprising buys, visit one of Berlin’s many flea markets selling antiques, retro furniture, second-hand clothes and vintage knickknacks. Try the antique market on Georgenstrasse in the Mitte district under the S-Bahn bridge or the Sunday flea market at Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg.
AFTERNOON – Swimming Spree
Take some time out in the afternoon to relax at one of Berlin’s several Strandbars (beach bars) made from construction-site sand placed on strips of industrial wasteland along the Spree River; each beach bar has its own atmosphere. An interesting twist on the Strandbar is the Badeschiff (Bathing Ship) located in a gritty section of the southeastern Berlin district of Treptow. This 30-meter barge-turned-swimming-pool anchored in the Spree River offers spectacular city panoramas. A wooden footbridge with hammocks connects the barge containing the pool to the river bank where the hipster crowds kick back in beach chairs with cold drinks, play volleyball or practice yoga.
EVENING – Dinner in the dark
For a dining experience with a difference, reserve a table at the Unsicht-Bar - Dark restaurant on Gormannstrasse. Blind or visually impaired waiters or waitresses lead you through the pitch-black dining room to your table and explain the placing of utensils using a clock analogy (for example, the fork is located at 9 o’clock and the knife is at 3 o’clock) so that you can eat in the dark. The theory behind the concept is that by voluntarily abandoning your vision, you will be able to experience what wonderful work your other senses are capable of.
Berlin is the best, so make sure you don’t miss a thing. Hop on board and see this magnificent capital for yourself. WOW air offers cheap flights to Berlin from USA, Canada and Iceland, every day of the week, all year round.
Words: Andrew Marshall
Photos: Paul Marshall (and as indicated)