Berlin, the largest cosmopolitan city in Germany, May 15-17, 2006
26.09.2006 17 °C
We travelled from Hamburg to Berlin on May 16th, 2006. Berlin was a large sprawling city with a much more diverse population than Hamburg. It also had a higher unemployment rate, and more 'run down' neighborhoods. The main attractions were scattered all across the city rather than primarily contained downtown. One of the first famous landmarks we encountered when we got off the train was Kaiser Wilhelm's Memorial Church. It was never rebuilt to its former glory but left as a reminder of the Second World War.
Berlin also contained colourful figreglass figures in the streets and courtyards. Since Berlin's symbol has always been the European bear, the figures were of bears in a perpetual handstand. They were designed to raise money for Unicef and were known as Buddy Bears. This photo was taken of a pair in front of the Unicef's store in downtown Berlin.
One of the most popular tourist attractions and possibly one of the world's most famous landmarks is Brandenburg Gate, a triumphal arch, located in the Pariser Platz by Hotel Adlon. It is quite impressive, with its towering columns and Quadriga statue, goddess of peace on a chariot with four horses, on top. Inside the columns of the outer gates you will find greek statues and plaques.
About a block away is the Reichstag building, which houses the German parliament, called the Bundestag. They have daily tours at the Reichstag, expect a long lineup.
If you love visiting museums, the Museum Insel or Island is the place for you. It is located between the River Spree and Kupfergraben, and was declared a World Heritage site in 2000. This island contains 5 major museums - Bode, Pergamon, Old National Gallery (Alte Nationalgalerie), New Museum (Neues Museum), and Old Museum (Altes Museum).
Currently the Bode and Neues Museum are closed for renovations. In 1999, a master plan was decided in renovating all the buildings and reuniting and reorganizing collections that had been divided after the Second World War. They hope to have everything completed by 2010.
You can easily spend several days exploring all the museums. Luckily, you can buy a pass that allows you to visit all the museums. The highlight of my visit there was seeing Queen Nefertiti's bust at the Egyptian exhibit. She's so famous she gets a whole viewing room to herself.
Another great attraction is the famous street Unter den Linden (Under the Lindens) located in the heart of Berlin, right by the Brandenburg Gate which marks the western end of the street. The eastern end is at the Schlossbrucke by the Museum Island. Unter den Linden contains many beautiful historic buildings and attractions. Here is where you will find Berlin State Opera house, the Arsenal which is now the German Historical Museum, the Humbolt university campus, the Neue Wache (New Watchhouse), St Hedwig's Catholic Cathedral, and the statue of Frederick the Great.
If you love shopping, then you need to visit this enormous department store, Kaufhaus des Westens or KaDeWe for short. It is the largest in continental Europe, over 60,000 square metres of retail space, 6 floors high, and thousands of shoppers visiting it every day. It reminds me of Harrod's department store in London. It sells everything from fragrance to jewellry to clothing to food, and most of it top quality and a wide selection to choose from.
A two nights stay in Berlin only gives you a taste of what the city has to offer. I definitely would like to come back again in the near future and spend at least a week exploring Berlin.