Berlin is a huge, modern city. It has 3.4 million inhabitants. It's new, although it looks old. In fact, it was nearly bombed flat during WW 2, some 52 years ago. If you have a look at my photo of Checkpoint Charlie on this page, you will see all sorts of big, old buildings along the street. They look as if they have been there for hundreds of years. In fact, just after the war, Checkpoint Charlie was situated between wide, flat expanses of nothingness, except for some low ruins on the Eastern side! Some buildings on the Allied side were partly spared, but also heavily damaged. The Berliners are building like mad to erase all the signs of war as much as possible. Most of the interesting buildings they had left were within the Eastern Sector and as they had only finances to keep their population under rigorous control and to upkeep a face of good economy they did rebuild these historic buildings, but there was no money for the upkeep of the other buildings. Just outside Berlin, "behind" the former wall (which fell on November 9, 1989), eastern Germany is shown as it was: huge complexes with derelict flat buildings, ringed by huge walls, empty and left by the occupants. Houses, that have not seen a paintbrush for 50 years and are now empty, as the original occupants would no longer live in those ghetto's. Broken windows, open doors, they all add to the spooky atmosphere. A place to see but to leave as quick as possible. Magnificent houses, empty and falling apart. It's a funny feeling driving along these roads. It's like a ghost town.The former Western Part of Berlin is mundane, and has the impression of a modern busy metropole, whereas the former Eastern section has the character of a city out of the past with it's stately old buildings and wide promenades.
- Voltage: 220V, 50 Hz. Bring a universal adaptor!
Money: Euro. All credit cards are excepted. The Germans are off course part of the European Community. And therefore they have changed to the Euro on January 1, 2002. And they can be used nearly everywhere in Europe. The value at the moment is about US$1.32 per 1 Euro.
- Religion:Protestant and Roman Catholics. There is more and more influence of the Islam, as many Middle Eastern cultures are coming into the country, like in the rest of Europe.
- Climate: In summer it can get pretty hot, with temperatures up to the 30+ degrees C. In winter it will freeze and snow if you're lucky. More likely it will rain, hail, and you'll get blown out of your pants. The nicest times are spring and late summer, autumn. Bring a raincoat and umbrella though!
- Call to Holland: 0031 -
- Time compared to GMT:+1
Transport: You can arrive by air, road and train, even with your own yacht, if you like the long trip! All three possibilities are well organized, modern and comfortable. In town the possibilities are limitless. Car, bus, taxi, underground railway (U-bahn) and the City train, above ground level (S-bahn), even modern versions of the Far East Rickshaw (a push bike with passenger seats under a cover), your own legs and push bikes, boating trips, etc. There are special buses that will drive you along all the interesting sightseeing spots, either on a two deck bus where the top in in the open air or by normal buses. There is even a circle bus, which again takes you everywhere, but you can get off and on wherever you like for a more intensive look around.
Activities and tips. Berlin has an old history. In fact, it was founded as a Slavic settlement, Berlin, in 1244 a.c. on an island in the river Spree. There was another settlement started on another island 7 years earlier, which is now also considered part of the beginning of Berlin, namely C÷lln. The Berlin now is the capital of Germany. The government is seated here, partly still in the old Reichstag (see the photo on the top) but more and more in the brand new building right alongside it. The latter is a monstrous building, huge, glassy and has cost the Germans an unbelievable amount of money. There is a lot of talk about that building. It was started under the Reichs Kansler Kohl and people now think (including the new Kansler, that it went a little to the head of Kohl. The money could have been used so much better, like improving the living standards of many ex-Eastern Germans. But it was started and now has to fulfill it's destiny. I can't say that it looks nice. The old, stately Reichstag right alongside this, in my eyes (and that of many Berliners), ugly hyper modern building monstrosity. Oh well.....
Getting into Berlin by car is simple Just keep following the long road (about 15 kilometers!) that ends up on the famous "Unter den Linden". Just be careful when you get on the huge roundabout at the "Sieger Saul". I drove my car there to a total loss, simply because I didn't notice a traffic light. Parking places can always be found around the parts there and for free. You may have to drive around a little in the side streets, but you'll find something. Or pay a small fee and get rid of your car on parking lots where you have to pay.
There are many things to see, like the Berliner Dom (a must!), the Fernseh Turm (Television Tower) - you can actually go up there for an unbelievably view of Berlin), or take a boat trip along the Spree and see the sites like that (about one hour). Stroll along the banks of the Spree and enjoy the antique market there, or the parks. If you feel courageous enough (I wasn't): there's a balloon that is let up on a cable to even higher than the Television Tower (365 meters). You sit or walk around a platform, fenced off course, probably hoping that the cable wont snap. After some time, you are brought back to Earth by re-winding the cable. Just imagine what would happen when that engine fails? Or a sudden wind starts up. Be my guest. I'll watch from the ground, thank you. Don't miss the Museum of Checkpoint Charlie. It has left a deep impression on me. It will show you how some escapes were made from behind the wall, and what people invented and thought up to get out of that dictatorship. Unbelievable. Again, a must. Checkpoint Charlie itself is off course a duplicate for the tourists. I won't go in too deeply on the things to see. Grab yourself a handful of brochures at some tourist bureau and plot your daily trips. See the old Russian village, the castles Charlotten Burg and Sanssouci (the latter in Potsdam) in it's own fabulous park, the remnants of the Wall, Alexanderplatz, the Red Town hall, and off course the Kurfurstendamm, which is the main artery of the Western part, with it's boutiques, shops and terraces. Eat or drink in one of the 7700 bars and restaurants (!) Try the traditional food at for instance the "Hardtke" (Meinekestrasse 27 in Charlottnburg) or "Leydicke" (the oldest "Destille" with original interior, at Manteinstrasse 4 in Schoneberg). Another few in the center: "Zur Alten Munze" (Memhardstrasses 3) and "Mutter Hoppe" (Postsstrasses 30).
By the way, the surroundings of Berlin are worth a car trip or two: there are many beautiful lakes and forests, as well as picturesce towns and villages. Most roads are now in good condition, although the first 100 kilometers of the highway to Dresden is a disaster!
Weather in Berlin now!
Info from Lonely Planet
More info on Berlin
Copyright © 1998-2011 Luuk Francken
Map use permission from Pharus-Plan Media.
Created: 27 September 2001 Updated: december 23 2010