You’re in Berlin for the weekend, thanks to cheap flights and the promise of even cheaper beer. Having lived in Berlin for six months, I know what’s worth squeezing into a short stay here. It breaks my heart that you could spend hours traipsing around Checkpoint Charlie – it’s fake, and American – and end up paying six euros for a falafel wrap. Without sounding too cliché, I can give the insider guide.
If you go to Warschauer station, on the U1, and walk over the bridge, you’ll see the East Side Gallery. Essentially, this is the name now given to what still stands of the Berlin Wall. Walk alongside it and view the graffiti-style art- work, some of which is admirably intricate. Lovers’ scribbles beside cupid’s hearts are merely supporting acts for the countless profound messages of liberty. Naturally it’s interesting to see where east met west, and the status of the wall within the city’s history is undeniable, so it can’t be missed.
Back in the city is the Brandenburg Gate. This is the massive, famous arch that is plastered all over postcards, books and literally anything to do with Berlin.
Back in the city is the Brandenburg Gate. This is the massive, famous arch that is plastered all over postcards, books and literally anything to do with Berlin. It’s reputable as it stands exactly between east and west and thus, when the wall fell, became a symbol of freedom, unity and democracy. How- ever, you only need fifteen minutes to see and walk through it.
Through the gate and into the west, you’ll reach the Jewish memorial in five minutes. Designed by American architect Peter Eisenman, it comprises of stone blocks that vary in height but remain perfectly aligned. Photographs ofit are an injustice; in the flesh it’s imposing, and breathtaking. It’s a great piece of architecture, and a beautiful memorial for such a horrifying moment in world history.
On the south-east side of the city you’ll find Kreuzberg and Neukölln, two colourful neighborhoods just shy of gentrification. They are so creative it hurts. Here you’ll find streets littered with hip cafés, galleries, artisan mar- kets and second-hand shops. A thriving Turkish community ensures falafel on every corner, grab a 49 cent falafel wrap from Al Safa on Sonnenallee. In the summer, rooftop bar Klunkerkranich perched on top of a multi-story car park – Frank’s in Peckham springs to mind – offers a great view of the city and cheap al fresco drinks. At night head straight to Weserstrasse in Neukölln where there are countless low-lit bars that have cool, understated décor and are packed with artsy locals. Neukölln also boasts Tempelhofer Feld. This disused airport-turned-park really is worth seeing. The old runways are now pathways running through the grass, and the sheer size and vast flatness of the park is impressive. Perch just inside the Oderstrasse entrance to witness an incredible sunset.
So that’s Berlin in a nutshell for you. As I said, it’s an addictive city. Just as nobody here ever wants to leave, you will find yourself eager to return. Every- body wants to be a Berliner, so be sure to do it properly.