Last Winter In Berlin.

Famed for its eclectic art & food scene and notorious for its nightlife, Berlin is unflinching and intriguing. From kaleidoscopic Kreuzberg to Alexander Platz, there is so much to see and do in the capital of Deutschland. Out of the cities, I have visited in Germany, Berlin became one of my favourites where I struggled to say Auf Wiedersehen as I departed to Cologne. 


Berlin’s magical allure contrasts painfully with its harrowing history. Past things have souls they say. There are vestiges of antiquity around every corner. It’s not a city filled with haunted sites or ghost-ridden streets, but sombre fragments of a bygone reich are woven into the fabric of Berlin’s cityscape. One might feel severely traumatised after a visit to the Topography of Terror in Berlin. There are objects and spaces that one should observe with emotional resonance and respect. Peter Eisenman designed the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin Mitte as a confusing concrete labyrinth that reflects its awful past that is buried underneath. I believe that it’s important to know a city’s past before you delectate in its grandeur.


Berlin, in all of its nuances, would take some time to know. There are museums, monuments, galleries, graffiti-laden quarters and flea markets where you could spend hours at. Its cuisine is a smorgasbord of döner kebabs, curry wursts, steak and schnitzels. Berlin is budget friendly and if you know when and where to explore, it’s easy to get acquainted with this city.



My Berlin Briefings.


It all started from Kurfürstendamm (aka Ku’damm) with a heavy and hearty German breakfast at Pension Austriana. During the 3 days I spent in Berlin, I stayed in this classic 19th century apartment building, which was conveniently located to all the central parts of the city. The nearest Savignyplatz S-Bahn was less than 10 minutes away and one could reach Kurfürstendamm on foot for a shopping stroll. Ku’damm was West Berlin’s biggest commercial boulevard. Originally established way back in 1542, the street also served as the site of protests and student demonstrations once upon a time. Dubbed as the Fifth Avenue or Champs-Élysée of Berlin, today, this elegant fashion Avenue is enlivened with high-end brands, trendy boutiques, cafés and swarms of people who come to indulge in epicurean pleasures.


Berlin, Mitte


In the 12th century, Berlin started life by the river spree, as a small trading point in Mitte. Mitte (which means ‘middle’) is the central borough of Berlin that represents the historical, political, commercial and cultural heart of the city. In Mitte, you get to see the most touristic landmarks and museums of Berlin, including;


Alexander Platz: The most prominent square in Berlin where you can visit the TV tower, world clock and Fountain of International Friendship.


Gendarmenmarkt: It is believed to be the most beautiful square in Europe. Behold the magnificence of a 19th-century architectural ensemble: German and French cathedrals and a concert hall, named Konzerthaus.



Berliner Dom: Berlin’s largest and the most important Protestant church is perched on Museum Island. This outstanding high-renaissance baroque monument has an awe-inspiring turquoise façade, which is worth a gander at.



Reichstag: The Reichstag is a seat of the German Parliament. Considered as one of the most frequented landmarks in the city, one can soak in the spectacular views of Berlin’s sights from the glass dome at the roof terrace of Reichstag. Admission is free but advance registration is required to enter this premises.



Brandenburg Gate: Famous as a point for major historical events. The landmark, which stood between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, is a symbol of freedom, tolerance and unity today.



Hackescher Markt: A popular place for native Berliners and tourists. Head to Hackescher Markt to explore the subcultures of Berlin. You can shop or enjoy a cup of coffee in the courtyard while taking in the local art scene, which thrives here day and night.



Check Point Charlie: A major transition point that holds a historical significance. From 1961 to 1990 it functioned as the main entry and departing border for diplomats. It was also the site of several daring escapes by East Germans. The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum nearby offers more information about the Cold War years and the devision of Germany for those who are interested. As a souvenir, take a picture with the actors dressed as East German soldiers but don’t forget to tip them!



The Trabi.


In the Eastern Gallery of Berlin, there’s a famous painting by Birgit Kinder, which depicts a blue car breaking through the Berlin Wall. The Trabant aka the DDR Trabi is a relic from East Germany. Trabis did not disappear with the fall of communism. Nowadays, classic Trabants are commonly seen around Berlin. Bespoke Trabi tours are available for tourists that let them drive a Trabant to experience what motoring was like on the other side of the Iron Curtain. When Communist-built cars started rolling across the border between East and West Germany in 1989, these little Duroplast cars emerged from the streets of Eastside. Although the Trabi is regarded as one of the worst cars ever made in history, there is a growing wave of nostalgia towards this two-stroke engine automobile.



Berlin’s Ambassadors.


The Berlin Bear stands proud as the city symbol and mascot. It also appears on its city flag, featuring a black bear with a red tongue and red claws, looking to the left. The shield is crowned by a combination of a wall and leaves. The Berlin Bear has had a permanent presence on the Berlin crest since 1254. They can be found everywhere, in souvenir shops and streets with their hands on air, waiting for a bear hug from passers-by.


As you walk along the roads of Berlin, you may notice the little human figure with a hat on all Berlin pedestrian crossings. He is known as Ampelmann, the most popular ambassador of former East Germany. Karl Pegulau, a traffic psychologist designed Ampelmann in October, 1961 as a method of media publicity to raise awareness in pedestrian road safety. At present, Ampelmann has become an integral part of Berlin’s street life, lifestyle merchandise and tourism, as much as the iconic Berlin Bear.




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