Three years anniversary in Berlin

12 February 2015

Ravacholle Lifestyle Blog Berlin Travel Recap

One of my reader is going to Berlin soon. This totally transported me back to my own visit to the German capital in 2011. Every October, on our anniversary, the bf and I try to go on a city break to celebrate our love for each other. (!!) I loved all of our trips of course, but Berlin had to be the best adventure I had. I still think about it a lot and hope to go back in the future!

One thing that totally surprised me is that the layout of the city is very stretched. Man, the city is gigantic. You would have to rent a car to visit it properly. The bf and I will be able to actually do that next time we go because we have this Cambio car sharing thingy that I will be thrilled to experiment in Germany. 

Well, the city is vast but it's also very different from what I've seen before in terms of architecture. I was very impressed with all those very square, plain, dark and imposant buildings. But there is also space and air around them so it's not like they're swallowing you.

Rotes RathausBuilding
Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall) and the Berlin Cathedral. Group of random people and me enjoying the sun.

We had to select what we wanted to see because there are so many amazing buildings to visit. We didn't see inside the Rotes Rathaus, nor the Reichstag. Inside the dome, you have a 360° view of the surroundings of Berlin. You have to book to get in so it's something to keep in mind when planning your trip.

We were really eager to visit some museums and see a few temporary exhibitions and of course I was totally excited to see the Wall because I had no clue in my mind of what it looked like. I know, call me an uneducated cow, but it's true. I never connected the dots with the Berlin Wall Fall images or videos I saw on the news or maybe it was that I was never really interested in learning anything other than the three paragraphs on the subject of Cold War in my high school History textbook. It was nothing like I imagined. So yes, I saw the images but until seeing it with my own eyes, it didn't stick with me.

I discovered the Wall on our walk to our hotel Michel Berger in the Friedrichshain district. It's situated very close to the East Side Gallery which I had absolutely no idea that it actually was the Muer itself! 1.3 km of the Wall to be exact. We went to walk by it properly after we settled down in our room. Walk next to it too!

In front of the WallWall
Schamil Gimajew - Wir sind ein Volk. The death strip - Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer.

The Wall is everywhere you go. On our walk to a specific museum, on crossing the street to have a coffee. The Wall itself might have been destroyed but you can follow a path on the pavement that reminds you of its existence not so long ago. It's the Mauerwerg (Berlin Wall trail) that guides you around the city.

A lot of the Berliner Mauer has disappeared so I got a more real sense of it when we went to the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer and saw the actual death strip. It was breathtaking for me because really I never imagined it like it really was. The site is very impressive and makes the Germany division totally comprehensible. Every aspect of the historical site and memorial was perfect for me. It's so well thought for visitors, I enjoyed it immensely as an educational site.

Another thing we love in Germany in general, but that we got to taste in Berlin first, is the food! Go and try as many German sausages as you can, even right on the street, they are just so good. The bratwurst and currywurst are our favourites! You also can find a vast array of cuisines of the world, especially kebabs.

Enjoying my first bratwurst next to the mobile "wurststand"

We walked a lot and didn't do much shopping. The Kufürstendamm is like the Champs Elysées of Berlin because of all the shops, hotels and restaurants. Because of all this austerity I was telling you above, it's a broad avenue that's totally different from the streets you can see in other parts of Europe. 

I love department stores and I was in luck when we stumbled upon the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens) which is not that far from Kufürstendamm. I particularly liked the top floor restaurant.

Traffic light on our walks. Brandenburger Tor.

When traveling (or spending my weekends), I enjoy visiting a good museum. It's my favourite thing to do on my free time, even tough I don't do it enough. I kind of think museums are the best thing entertainment speaking because nowadays the exhibitions (either temporary or not) are so beautifully executed, you get everything in one package. You have the audioguide, a few videos, the presentation of the pieces with written explanations. The toilets are always free, well designed. Everything is clean and spacious with beautiful benches or wooden floor... The shops seem to always stock a lot of awesome, but expensive, books and original gifts. There is also the café where you can enjoy a hot drink or have lunch.

I was not disappointed by the museums in Berlin. Oh no. I found my #2 favourite museum of the whole world yet. Understand: I haven't been around the whole world already, but from the museums I have visited, I declared that the V&A in London was my #1 favourite institution of all times. The second one on my love list is the DDR-museum, Berlin.

DDR Museum
Me, looking for dead bodies in the trunk of a real Trabant. Me, sitting at a desk. On my left, a gun in my drawer.

Interactivity at its best, mix of all medias available on earth (I think, I'm not an expert), beautiful exhibition that gives you a taste of the real life in the former East Germany. You can touch, try, smell, open, close, watch, feel, read, hear ... pretty much everything! I loved, loved, loved, loved, this museum.

We also went to the Pergamon Museum, more for the bf than for me, but it was still pretty impressive. Only because it houses the original reconstructions of the Pergamon Altar and some other  well known building that were situated in Turkey and date back to the 2nd century BC!!! The Altar is enormous. You can find original fragments of the friezes that belonged to the real acropolis. There is an Antiquity collection, Islamic Art and Middle East museum inside the same complex. I quite liked the Ishtar Gate which is also a reconstruction using some of the original bricks.

Processional Way of Babylon

We didn't leave without checking out the Jewish Museum that documents the German-Jewish history in its collections and exhibitions. The site houses the Libenskind Building which I think represent the "Void" caused by the Holocaust. Or something like that.

Jews Museum
Garden of Exile. Inside the Holocaust Tower.

We walked some more to see CheckPoint Charlie, the Brandenburger Tor and the Memorial to the Murdered Jewish of Europe. We also spent hours in the icy weather reading and gasping at the exhibition of The Topography of Terror, an indoor and outdoor museum dedicated to the history of the institutions of SS and Gestapo during the Third Reich. The site is actually an historic one because it stands on the former grounds of the headquarters of the Nazi repressing institutions. There is also a preserved part of the Berlin Wall on the site. Quite a funny anecdote, we found a picture of our street in Belgium in the exhibition! It wasn't a happy one, on the other hand, as it depicted prisoners being brought to the Ixelles caserne.

Checkpoint Charlie. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

All in all, our trip was excellent. I was filled with awe and learned so much. I talked a lot about the museums and the Wall because I was so blown away by it all but really I would love to go back as there really is SO MUCH to see, do, eat and soak into.

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