Berlin everything you need to kow

Berlinermauer

Berlin wall

Easily one of the most popular cities in Europe and at one time was the “IT” city, it is most certainly a fabulous place to visit.  We flew into Berlin Schönefeld (SXL) which is the second largest airport in the city, the largest is Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL).  Most of the low cost carriers in Europe use Schönefeld (SXL) and flights within Europe are relatively inexpensive.

At one point in the 90’s and even early 2000’s Berlin was the place to be to invest and buy property.  With that came change and in my opinion not all change is good.  Gentrification pushed people out of their homes and neighbourhoods as they could no longer afford them but these people were the charm. SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA The once fabulous shops and cafe’s filled with locals and character are now modernized and filled with tourists or yummy mummies with strollers the size of a mini cooper. I almost moved here in 2003 which would have been the perfect time to do so property wise, I even had a school chosen for my son.   The market was just beginning to change and there were still bargains to be had.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA  Needless to say I didn’t take the plunge so I missed out on perhaps the coolest place to live in the world at that time.  As this trip I’m here with my 17 year old so this isn’t a trip of nightlife and boozing by any means.

In general its is a very easy city to navigate. Trains in Germany on the whole are more expensive than the rest of mainland Europe but I find public transport is very good value as it is in Munich also.  Those Germans are just so darn efficient:)  You have the option to purchase the 3 day Berlin Pass for €89 this will get you into the normal tourist attractions of museums and give you discounts on tours etc.

Berlin_Brandenburger_Tor_AbendBerlin is divided up into districts/boroughs.  At one point there were 20, then 23 and in 2001 became 12.  They are all very different and each offer a Berlin-Neukölln-district_courtdifferent vibe to a tourist or to someone living there so for accommodation I wanted us to be in the right place for us.    I always look for proximity, I was only here for 3 days so I didn’t want to spend my time on commuter trains or buses.  I decided that we would like the cool vibe of Kreuzberg the city’s established bohemian district and Prenzlauer Berg with its cafe’s, bars, restaurants and they didn’t disappoint.  Restaurants open until late and its really easy to get to from anywhere in the city and relatively safe to walk around day and night.  In the last couple of years however things have changed and now one of the coolest and hippest neighbourhoods is Neukölln.  things are happening so fast google street view cant keep up with it.   In the past Neukölln was one of the most dangerous and undesirable area in Berlin but thanks to the closing of Tempelhof airport it has been transformed into the new coolest spot and if you were luckily to have bought a place for under 10k then you are very happy indeed.  As it had a high % of immigrants the new Neukölln has an international vibe with a mix of Turkish kebab stands and African shops mixed in with trendy cafes and vintage stores.  It is attracting major festivals and the runway of the airport has been transformed in to a park and social clubs with barbeques and the festivals being held here.   You will find Neuköllns best cafes in the Schillerkiez Next to Tempelhof.  Try the Schiller Bar (Herrfurthstrase 7, +49 172 9824 427), located just around the corner, serves its hearty breakfasts well into the afternoon.  Check out Karl Marx Strasse for more great restaurants including sushi at great prices.  Needless to say when I return I will stay here, art galleries are popping up everywhere as are markets and nightclubs, too many to list.

We spent our second day doing tours, the best and most unusual was the underground bunker tour.  As it sounds you spend the entire time in an underground bunker (not great if your claustrophobic) you experience it as the inhabitants of Berlin did during the raids.  Check the tourist office or just google to find a tour that suits your tastes, there are so many to choose from.  You will find free walking tours all over Europe, in Berlin I used which was excellent.  http://www.newberlintours.com/daily-tours/free-tour.html

Sunday Karaoke in Mauerpark - Berlin, GermanyOne of the coolest things about Berlin is Mauerpark  on the edge of Prenzlauer Berg,  It was once the infamous dead zone surrounding the Berlin Wall.  Every Sunday the Mauerpark Flea Market takes place, you can find anything for sale here, from designer clothes and jewelry to furniture to vintage vinyl albums and the crowd is a mix of all nationalities just like Berlin.  Numerous outdoor bars and food stands surround the area where you can find cheap drinks and a great selection of ethnic fare.  The unnamed beach bar, complete with sand, surfboards, and live music is normally very crowded and located at the back of the market.  Whether or not you find a bargain here you will have a great time, the atmosphere is fantastic.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Mitte which means middle is where you will find a lot of the famous monuments like Checkpoint Charlie for example and is therefore very popular with tourists.  I try to avoid these places when traveling in an attempt to see the real country.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAIts no longer the hip city to live in.  Hamburg is now the cool spot in Germany but in mainland Europe there are many other spots earning their name.  As a wise man say’s if you’ve heard its the place to live Colorful Berlin Architectural Stockthen it probably no longer is as by the time the secret is out and the masses have arrived the cool vibe and things that attract us like price and individuality has been taken away.  Or as a property investor in Budapest told me, “if you hear the Irish are there, then there is no point in investing” from this he meant the bargains are gone and they have driven the prices up and returned to Ireland leaving the locals in the lurch.  Hmmm I didn’t dare tell him my nationality.

Berlin has one of most active couch surfing communities and as I’m a member we attended an event hosted every Wednesday night organized by an Irish member living there.  We hung out with about 14 different nationalities all traveling through Berlin and enjoying each others company rather than be alone in a strange city.

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Checkpoint Charlie

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASometimes when you finally visit a city you wonder why it took you so long to get here, you should have made time and come before.  This is exactly my feeling about Berlin, Sadly I missed its cool days.  Will I go back? well I’ve been there now so I wouldn’t be running back, but Germany remains one of my favourite countries so I’d jump at the chance of a trip to Munich or Hamburg.   Would I live there??? 10-15 years ago yes most definitely, but it has changed too much and property investors are responsible for this.  So the answer to that is no, I missed the boat on this great city.  But its still a great city to visit.  I tell you where I would live and its my news country to visit, Estonia, another ex communist place and its truly amazing, I highly recommend it.

For more information on the different neighbourhoods in Berlin check out http://www.fodors.com/news/understanding-berlins-neighborhoods-5831.html

The BVG website (www.bvg.de) has a wealth of information (in English) on city transport, and there’s usually someone who speaks English at the 24-hour BVG Call Center (194 49). The S-Bahn has its own website at www.s-bahn-berlin.de.

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Dublin Airport

www.berlinpass.com/how-it-works/index.html?aid=55&gclid=COeaiuahnboCFZPItAod3BEAxg

Our flight from Dublin cost 20 Euro, we used public transport the entire trip, our accommodation was very reasonable and the entire trip was booked online.  No agents were used 🙂

I don’t recommend tour books or anything of the kind as I find they are normally outdated or just a money spinner that send you to a tourist destinations.  Except that is until I discovered Like a Local guides available in many European cities even my own.  So I do suggest http://www.likealocalguide.com/blog/5-things-only-tourists-do-in-berlin/ & http://www.likealocalguide.com/berlin

local people giving you suggestions on the best places to be and eat and hang out and the things to avoid unless that is you want to join the masses of Americans who will always tell you that you are wrong and in fact posing next to a fake guard at Checkpoint Charlie is the cool thing to do.


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About Sandra

Just a girl from Ireland who wants to live everywhere. Not a planner, a winger when it comes to travel. I don't even like people who plan too much. Without spontaneity there is no depth. A jack of all trades. A great friend, loyal and passionate and I expect the same in return. Always ready for the next adventure at a moments notice.
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