How to spend 48 hours in Berlin – DAY TWO and WIN 2 Berlin WelcomeCard packages! – #bestofBerlin

 

On the border between East & West Berlin in Germany.
On the border between East & West Berlin in Germany.

I’m back again!

Last week, I wrote about my experience of how to spend 48 hours in Berlin – #bestofBerlin, as of part of the tourism initiative to discover new and old parts of Berlin.

If you’re just joining, here’s the lowdown:

The Berlin campaign was based on 48 hours i.e two (2) days, so let’s so let’s not waste anymore time and go into the second day:

HOW TO SPEND 48 HOURS IN BERLIN – DAY TWO: #bestofBerlin

A Christmas Market killer!
A Christmas Market killer!

First of all, read the first part of DAY ONE here.

Leave your hotel, hostel or apartment and take a bus, tram or train. Use the Berlin WelcomeCard transport ticket.

Start at Brandenburger Tor or Brandenburg Gate which is Berlin’s most iconic monument. Take a couple of pictures at Pariser Platz so-named ‘cos of the anti-Napoleon occupation of Paris in 1814! There’s bound to be carriages, horses, cycle rickshaws, beerbikes and sometimes even a Berlin Bear hanging around. However, it’s Germany so don’t except jugglers, bubbles or Luke Skywalker to be walking down the street!

Berlin's most iconic Brandenburg Gate - Let the good times roll!
Berlin’s most iconic Brandenburg Gate – Let the good times roll!

Turn right and cross the street, you will find yourself staring at the Reichstag or Berlin’s most beautiful Bundestag or Parliament Building. You can visit the roof terrace and glass dome built by the most talented British architect Norman Foster now known as Baron Foster of Thames Bank of Reddish! It’s free of charge but if you haven’t booked in advance, you can register at the Visitors’ Service office nearby but be prepared to queue! Oh, and bring your passport or international I.D!

After that, walk straight down and stroll along the Straße des 17. Juni surrounded by Tiergarten – Berlin’s largest park and urban garden built in 1527! It used to be the hunting grounds of the nobility and the location of the world’s most popular electronic dance music festival. Yes, the Love Parade.

Gosh! Those were the days!

Through the canal at the Tiergarten in Berlin.
Through the canal at the Tiergarten in Berlin.

Tiergarten is now a most lovely park which you can cycle through, hire a boat on the lake (Berlin has many wonderful rivers and lakes), see the birds and animals (as the zoo and city aquarium are next door), jog through, or have tea at the English Garden!

If you stay on the left hand side, you will go into the park and garden and see many historical statues and 19th century gas lanterns. If you stay on the right hand side, you will see many Soviet war memorials, and straight in front of you is the Siegessäule or the Victory Column. For a small fee you can climb all 270 steps. Take a few photographs.

Walk back to Brandenburger Tor or use the Berlin WelcomeCard and take the train or bus.

From Brandenburger Tor, cross the road and turn left. You will see the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a memorial field of 2,711 concrete pillars of various heights. There is also an information centre of historical films, photographic documents and video interviews with survivors of the Holocaust.

Potsdamer Platz around 1900 in Berlin.
Potsdamer Platz around 1900 in Berlin. And there’s the clock!

Further on you will find yourself walking into a most important part of Berlin – Potsdamer Platz built in 1838. It’s interesting to note that whenever you see black & white 20th century photographs of Berlin, you can always see that clock.

It’s still there!

Stroll around. Go shopping at the Mall of Berlin or LP12 – the largest shopping mall in Germany and for kids, the Cinestar IMAX and Cinestar Original (English), Legoland, the Museum of Film and Television, and the best of all, the new German Spy Museum Berlin!

Take a break at any of the many restaurants, cafe, and bars then take a bus or train back to Brandenburger Tor.

The library © Hotel Adlon Kempinski.
The library © Hotel Adlon Kempinski.

In front of Brandenburger Tor on your right, is one of Europe’s most famous hotels. Think Michael Jackson almost dropping his child – Blanket – over the hotel balcony in 2002, think Queen Elizabeth, think actors, celebrities and multi-millionaires. In fact, I once literally bumped into Hugh Grant right outside the hotel front door myself. I tried to follow him and get an on-the-stop interview but I was wearing a football shirt at the time and security saw the glint in my eye! Yes, the 5-star Hotel Adlon Kempinski. Under normal circumstances, they’re brilliant.

I once strolled in with no shoes on (it’s a long story) and they didn’t even bat an eye lol!

With Brandenburger Tor behind you, walk down a very long boulevard road called Unter den Linden. I absolutely love walking down this very old iconic historical road as it takes you from West Germany – Tiergarten, into East Germany – Alexanderplatz. I wrote about that area last week. Continue walking passing Madame Tussaud’s on the left hand side and the embassy’s of four (4) world powers (certainly as far as Berlin is concerned), America, France, Russia and Great Britain, on the right hand side. Continue your stroll and take your time. It’s a bit of a long walk but it’ll be worth it as you’ll pass the Komische Oper, art galleries and smart shops. You will then see a very long street that cuts across. This is Friedrichstrasse. I wrote about this last week. Turn left and you will get to the High Street which will lead you to Checkpoint Charlie. Turn right, and it will lead you to Friedrichstrasse Main Train Station. Walk straight down on Unter den Linden and this will lead you to the area known as the Upper Eastside. It used to look really awful and drab in the 90’s but how, times have changed!

The Museumsinsel or Museum Island © visitBerlin - Wolfgang Scholvien
The Museumsinsel or Museum Island in Berlin, Germany. © visitBerlin – Wolfgang Scholvien

Walk further on and you will pass some of the most beautiful regent buildings in Berlin such as the Kronprinzenpalais or Crown Prince’s Palace, the Prinzessinnenpalais or Princesses’ Palace also known as the Opernpalais or the Opera Palace which hosts free open-air opera in the summer. (It’s brilliant!) and the Prince Heinrich Palace, which is now known as the elite Humboldt University! You’ll see the Armoury (the oldest surviving) and most important baroque 1706 building and now known as (one of my faves) the Deutsches Historisches Museum or the national German Historical Museum.

You’ll pass a bridge with lots of statues called the Schloßbrücke or Palace Bridge. It was built around 1800 and is certainly attractive but in my mind, not as outstanding as Charles Bridge in Prague, but acceptable, nevertheless! From the bridge you can see the magnificent Museumsinsel or Museum Island with it’s five (5) wonderful collections of UNESCO heritage museums.

To go to these museums, turn left.

Tango Dancing at the StrandBar in Mitte Monbijou Park. © visitBerlin - Günter Steffen
Tango Dancing at the StrandBar in Mitte Monbijou Park.
© visitBerlin – Günter Steffen

Turn left again and follow the river around, you will find another bridge called the Monbijoubrücke or Monbijou Bridge. This is a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the River Spree and connects Monbijoupark with the Museum Island. It’s right next to the Bode Museum and if you cross it you’ll come to a place called the StrandBar or Beach Bar. It’s open throughout the year but better in the summer of course. It’s more a river-side “beach” but there are deck chairs (free of charge) facing the river, an open air theatre (in German), but it’s all pretty bohemian and out there, and with a few glasses of wine or bottles of beer down you, you’ll get what they’re talking about and if not, well, the novelty is all the fun! This beach bar also has free open air tango dancing, swing and salsa. And anyone can participate. I can actually do a few steps of the tango but I wouldn’t dare. Those people are good!

For night-time activity, from the StrandBar, turn right. The road in front of you will lead you to Oranienburgerstrasse. Turn right again, for small cocktail bars, nicely-priced restaurants, discrete speakeasy bars and ladies of the night. Turn left towards Berlin’s New Synagogue,  various small Jewish outlets and Hackescher Markt. This will lead you to Hackesche Höfe and the backyards of tiny little bars selling beer for €2.00 or less. You’re going to have to look closer though as this Quarter is now gentrified!

SHOW ME: Bursting through water at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. © Robert Grischek
SHOW ME: Bursting through water at the Friedrichstadt-Palast.
© Robert Grischek

Having said that smoky little back bars are everywhere as well as vintage boutiques, bohemian shops, independent cinemas and burlesque cabarets. Berlin of the 1920’s and 30’s is right in front of your eyes! Use the Berlin WelcomeCard.

If you’re go back to outside the Deutsches Historisches Museum or the national German Historical Museum, on the right-hand side of Unter den Linden, you will see the re-building of the Palace of the Republic. On the left-hand side, you should walk straight down and hop onto the Lustgarten park and sprawl onto the grass which is right in front of the Berliner Dom or the Berlin Cathedral. And as I told you last week, if you can see the Cathedral in front of you, you’re right next to the DDR Museum and you’ve come full circle!

After a bit of a rest there are a few museums and galleries that I would like to recommend. There are so many great places that I would do them injustice if I didn’t write about them properly so I’m going to write an extra post about them next week but if you can’t wait, here’s a spoiler….

Outside the Märkisches Museum - Lord Roland of Brandenburg or perhaps just a sword-holding knight depicting the privelage of Berlin in the Middle Ages!
Outside the Märkisches Museum – Lord Roland of Brandenburg or perhaps just a sword-holding knight depicting the privilege of Berlin in the Middle Ages!

Take the train and go to an underground station called Märkisches Museum. Follow the signs outside for a little while and they will lead you to an actual museum called the Märkisches Museum. I know! I used to think that the museum was named after the station. But it isn’t, it’s the other way around and in fact, it used to be the museum of Berlin. It’s a little bit hidden but well worth it.

I’m a freak. I spent a couple of hours there and I still left it unfinished!

Oh, and up until a few weeks ago, there was a bear living there. A real live bear!

Until it passed away!

Berlin WelcomeCard IV (2)

If it’s your first visit to Berlin? You’re spoilt for choice. You know how much I love this town and that is why I’m giving away 2 Berlin WelcomeCard packages to be validated by December 31st, 2015, at the latest.

Suuuuurprise!

The Berlin Welcome Card package will include transport tickets for 48 hours including the city of Potsdam, 200 discounts, inside tips, information on top attractions, a city map, a mini guide-book written in English, German, Italian and Spanish, a €5.00 discount for the TV Tower restaurant or bar and a free voucher for a glass of glühwein (mulled wine) at the Christmas Market on Alexanderplatz valid until January 3rd, 2016!

Perfect for the New Year celebration in Berlin!

To take part, you need to subscribe to The British Berliner and either tell me why you would like to win the tickets on my blog here, on my Twitter feed attached to this post, or on my FaceBook page, also attached to this post. The person that I think gives me the wittiest or funniest reason, wins!

Only comments attached to this post will be considered.

You have until 12:00 or 12p.m. on December 27th and the announcement will be made on the blog on December 28th. The winners will meet me personally and receive the tickets on the evening of December 27th, anywhere in Berlin!

Good Luck!

You can see all the places that I went to previously by following me via #bestofBerlin on Twitter & Facebook.

See ya next week!

Oh, and have a wonderful festive season with you and yours.

Merry Xmas One and All!

We love my blog!

This post is not sponsored so I can’t wait to hear from you!

If you have any questions about Berlin, don’t be shy, I’m an expert! Go ahead and ask me!

How to spend 48 hours in Berlin - DAY TWO and WIN 2 Berlin WelcomeCard packages! - #bestofBerlin

Would you like to win two (2) Berlin WelcomeCard #bestofBerlin tickets? What would you do and where would you go?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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If you’re looking to make a change: Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a family. Choose an alternative walking tour in Berlin!

Choose an alternative walking tour in Berlin!

Its May and it’s almost June. Such a brilliant time to be in Berlin and in the city and as I have already told you, it’s the season for sun, fun and games!

Last year, I went to Scotland. One of the things that we did there was to go on a walking tour which even though I have been to Scotland many times, gave a closer insight into Edinburgh.

 I went on a City of London Square Mile tour, and had a most invigorating time!
I went on a City of London Square Mile tour, and had a most invigorating time!

In January, I went to London. I mean. What can I say? I even used to live there LOL! Having said that, just because you live somewhere doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep yourself up to date with changes and developments, so I went on a City of London Square Mile tour, and had an invigorating time.

Living in Berlin, boy! There are loads of changes, updates and movements of this place and that place. Quite frankly, just because you saw something last year, doesn’t mean that you’re going to see it again this year, so do hurry up and visit LOL!

Tacheles Metal sign in grungy Berlin! ©Victorgrigas
Tacheles Metal sign in grungy Berlin!
©Victorgrigas

So yesterday, I decided to go on a walking tour with a difference. A walking tour that will give you a deeper insight of what it means to live in this brilliant beautiful city. I went with a company called alternative berlin tours and out of a variety of seven, I chose the real berlin experience walking tour.

Wow!

Hanging out at the Strandbar Mitte - Beachbar in Mitte ©visitBerlin - Wolfgang Scholvien
Hanging out at the Strandbar Mitte – Beachbar in Mitte
©visitBerlin – Wolfgang Scholvien

What a day I had. The sun was shining, people were out and about, and I had briefly met and shaken hands with the Royal British Legion in Berlin. I had also just dropped “The Tall Young Gentleman” so that he could go on a camping weekend, in the suburbs of Brandenburg.

Yeeeeees!

Time to get out there and do stuff!

We met the alternative berlin tours guys at 12:00 and the meeting point was under the TV tower at Alexanderplatz, next to Starbucks. In fact, I actually met the owner of the company – Adie – a bearded, leather-clad, rock fellow who you knew, was going to show you a good time!

Our tour guide was an Australian bloke from Melbourne called Liam. Quite an easy name to remember as the name Liam is a popular Irish name and since I’m from Manchester, I’ll also stick in the fact that Liam is also one half of the sibling group – Oasis.

Not this Liam though LOL!

Liam - our tour guide.
Liam – our tour guide.

We were a small group of six.

A young couple from London, a Swiss guy who actually came from Germany, an American, two young South-German couples who had recently moved to Berlin, and myself, a veteran expat local!

We started off in Mitte and then took the train to that most wonderfully diverse of places in Berlin – Kreuzberg. If you come to Berlin, do try to visit that suburb of Berlin.

In that most wonderfully diverse of places in Berlin - The riverside in Kreuzberg!
In that most wonderfully diverse of places in Berlin –
The riverside in Kreuzberg!

It’s strange because even though Berlin has only about 3.4 million people and is obviously a European capital city, it doesn’t feel like a city. It feels and looks like a huge leafy suburb with splats of urban identity.

This walking tour was a real berlin experience in itself and I’m really pleased that I chose this tour.

Kreuzberg is the part of Berlin where young creative artists, the student body, people looking for a better life, and people looking for an alternative lifestyle, go to. Basically, if you’re young this is the place. Its cheap, its friendly and its a community mishmash of people, culture, colour, and creed.

The young people of Berlin.
The young people of Berlin.

Kreuzberg is also where the likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop used to hang out, make music, and get creative, as do other artists. Street artists.

All around the city is street art that is both beautiful and provocative.  If you know the legend of Banksy, you’ll know that he spent a reasonable amount of time in Berlin too, but all his artwork was carved or chiselled out, and sold to collectors abroad.

We learnt about the history of the city-state that is Berlin and why it attracts a certain type of person. In fact, when I first came to Berlin, I lived in Kreuzberg too. I had a huge rent-controlled apartment near the river which didn’t have a bathroom, and in which we hauled up steel-buckets of coal every week. It was worth it though ‘cos I was living in a 19th century building and my share of the rent in those days, was €17.00 per week!

The Berlin Wall. 1961-1989.
The Berlin Wall. 1961-1989.

Now I live in the more gentrified section of what was previously East Berlin – in Prenzlauerberg. I still live in a huge apartment but you can bet your Nelly that I certainly didn’t pay €17.00 for it!

Berlin has a lot of community gardens and lots of mini farms dotted around the city. In fact, there’s a sort of farm about 10 minutes from my home which has sheep, pigs, goats, and horses. Right in the middle of the city, and you can feed them too!

Berlin like Manchester, is a river state and the river runs through the city.

Berlin also has lots of lakes and next week, it’s Father’s Day. In Germany, hordes of men take trips to the lakes, singing loudly, and carting crates of beer and sausages around with them.

Kreuzberg also has a river running through it and at the weekend, you can have brunch or just relax while you people-watch. We also have residents who live in their caravans or river-barges, or who just randomly set up tents. It’s free accomodation and technically not illegal to chill-out in your sleeping bag of an evening.

With your mates and a careful BBQ!

Going for a snack at a local dive.
Going for a snack at a local dive.

We mustn’t forget that the other reason why Kreuzberg is so famous is because this particular suburb had the Berlin Wall running right through the middle of it. During the in-between time when the Wall actually fell and the time that the government got it together, young people were leaving the East to go West, or leaving the West to go East.

Mayhem and confusion.

For some, let the good times begin.

A confusing time means that you can pretty much do whatever you want, and Berliners did.

Cue the squatting era!

Capitalism is a sin!
Capitalism is a sin!

The houses were there for the taking and it pretty much remained that way for a very long time.

In 2013, the last couple of homes had the squatters evicted. A few houses have been bought by former-squatters, so that these houses would be open to people of the same ideology or supporters of the cause, with donations expected.

If you need information about where you can eat and drink for free (with donations), do let me know!

Our real berlin experience walking tour then took us across to the river bridge and into the Eastern part of the city – Friedrichshain.

Friedrichhain is a student haunt and caters for the bars and clubs that line the river, most of which have now been taken over and sold to developers in order to establish office buildings, and luxury apartments and hotels.

Inspiring Street Art in Berlin.
Inspiring Street Art in Berlin.

Clubs and music venues that are still there are places like Berghain, Bar 25 and Yaam. We were lucky enough to be allowed to go onto the premises as the club was being renovated and decorated with street art, and there were huge and serious-looking, bouncers around. We also met the artists who were really nice and didn’t feel too bothered by ignorant-but- we-want-to-learn-stuff tourists such as ourselves. They were so nice that our group were not asked for “a donation” and the barman even sold me beer for €1.00 rather than €2.50!

Really huge Street Art!
Really huge Street Art!

After that we went into the old “no-man’s-land” of East Berlin and crossed into what is now known as Mitte. Mitte is an upper-middle class part of Berlin and is also where the old Checkpoint-Charlie crossed into, as the military border was from Kreuzberg which was the West into Mitte, which was the East.

We had a well-deserving lunch break and sat and chatted in the park, In the sun-shine, and then it was time to carry on. We then went into Hackescher Markt.

Riverside relaxation!
Riverside relaxation!

Hackerscher Markt is a wonderful ex-Jewish area over-flowing with cafes, boutiques, independent shops, theatres, cinemas and art galleries. In fact, we went into one of the courtyards or “Hofs” and there are many in this area.

Liam took us into Hackesche Höfe or Hackersche Hoefe, which is the largest enclosed courtyard area in Germany and absolutely covered with street and metallic art on a huge scale owned by Haus Schwarzenberg and Monsterkabinett. The Anne Frank museum is also in this courtyard and has the constant coming of tourists and Berlin locals at all hours of the day. In the evening, the bars are opened, and there is an open air cinema and a club in the basement.

Haus Schwarzenberg and Monsterkabinett. In the very background is Kino Central.
Haus Schwarzenberg and Monsterkabinett. In the very background is Kino Central.

It was soon time to go to my area – Prenzlauerberg. Prenzlauerberg is a former East Berlin suburb and a hugely gentrified upper-middle class area filled with young professionals and start-up entrepreneurs.

Prenzlauerberg is also a mecca for alternative living and health as the first vegan restaurant and supermarket opened up here, and we have loads of organic shops and yoga and Pilates studios. In fact, a few years ago I took up Tai Chi myself in order to align my chakra with the sun!

Cheeky Jesus!
Cheeky Jesus!

Prenzlauerberg is also a former upper class Jewish area as well as an area that had the most amount of breweries in Germany! Our tour didn’t include going to a brewery but we certainly ended it in a German way aka in a beer garden called PrataGarten. And so it was, our group had a lovely time and ended it with lovely glasses of kristellbier!

Churches of protest - Zionkirsche.
Churches of protest – Zionkirsche.

What a great tour. Here’s the info:

WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE BERLIN TOURS?

Exactly what it says on the package. The idea of an alternative tour is to show tourists and visitors the raw, urban, artistic side of Berlin, and also to support and promote the history, and pre-development of the city, both before and after the Berlin Wall came down.

A Berlin Street Artist.
A Berlin Street Artist.

WHAT IS THE REAL BERLIN EXPERIENCE WALKING TOUR ABOUT?

The real Berlin experience walking tour is about an alternative way of seeing the city of Berlin by moving away from the ordinary tourist trail and exploring the cultural, subcultural, and counter-cultural background scene of Berlin’s street art and graffiti history, through the eyes of locals living here.

Phew!

All you need for street art & graffiti.
All you need for street art & graffiti.

DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND GERMAN?

Nope!

These tour are in English. If English isn’t your native-language not to worry, as half of my group happened to be German native-speakers, and they did fine!

WHAT DO I NEED?

A pair of good shoes, a rain-jacket in case it rains, a pair of sunglasses, possiby a hat, a huge bottle of water, a few Euros for lunch, and a huge smile!

Not like this lady. She's quite serious!
Not like this lady. She’s quite serious!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yes. This tour cost €12.00 and was well worth the price.

If you’re feeling particularly energetic, there’s a twilight berlin tour €20.00, an alternative pubcrawl tour €10.00, a street art workshop €15.00, a green tour €15.00, a taste berlin tour €45, and if you’re really broke, down and out, or simply hung-over, free tours which cost €0.00!

Street Art & Graffiti
Street Art & Graffiti

The tour is also rather long but I was prepared for that so don’t make an important appointment immediately after. You might want to hang-out with the tour-guide and other members of your tour group, over a beer or two.

Good German beer!
Good German beer!

Don’t forget to get yourself a public transport ticket. A day card for zone A and B is better, so that you are more flexible to move around.

MY VERDICT:

I absolutely loved it.

Yes, I’m a Berliner. I’m a British Berliner.

Yes, I live here and that’s perfectly fine.

Everyone should do a walking tour of their own city every now and then, if only to make sure that when guests come to visit, you know exactly what you’re talking about or can lead them to someone who does LOL!

Highly recommended.

Little Lucy drawn by El Bocho.
Little Lucy drawn by El Bocho.

WHAT IF A WALKING TOUR ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

Tickets for the Real Berlin Experience are €12.00.

Approximate walking time: 4.5 hours. Our tour was about 5.5 hours.

Every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. At 12:00.

The meeting point is at the Alexanderplatz TV tower next to the entrance of Starbucks.

For more information about alternative walking tours please contact: Alternative Berlin Tours.

If only you could read my thoughts. Oh, you can!
If only you could read my thoughts. Oh, you can!

This article is not sponsored and even though I received a complimentary ticket, all opinions and the wonderful doner kebab and lovely cold beers that I happily consumed, are my very own! Every week for the months of May and June, I’ll be writing about summer time in Berlin, and what to do when you get here.

Next week, I will be writing about the hip-hop ballet production of Mozart.

At the end of May, Berlin will be hosting a Travel Massive bloggers event so if you’re in town, come join us on 27.05.14.

I will also be attending the Berlin Music Video Awards 2014, taking place between 28.05.14 – 31.05.2014. Are you coming?

Watch this space!

Me, myself & I in Prenzlauerberg.
Me, myself & I in Prenzlauerberg.

Have you been on a walking tour? Have you been up close, and experienced street art? Do you know your own city?

See you in Berlin.

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