GERMANY CHEAT SHEET
- Visa: No for US / Canadian / Australian Citizens for tourist stays less than 90 days + no necessary vaccinations
- Best Time to Travel: Off Peak - November to April for cheaper deals/ less crowds but is RAINY SEASON / Peak season - May to September
- Currency: 1 Euro (€) = $1.12USD / $1.49CAD / $1.59AUD
- Cost of Typical Meal: Kebobs and Turkish food are delicious and inexpensive. Kebabs cost about €3
- CC friendly: Yes
- Transportation: Trains are fast, cheap and timely. They operate on a "trust" system for their train system. You are supposed to get your ticket validated and then carry it at all times with you, but there are no gates for you to swipe them like in NY or London. From time to time, officers will come and check your ticket, but this never happened to me while I was there.
- Airports: Berlin Schönefeld Airport (SXF) and Tegel Airport (TXL)
- Budget Airlines: Airberlin, Ryanair
- Language: German, but everyone speaks English
ONGOING RUMOR: The Germans are cold people.
MY EXPERIENCE: Yea, a tiny bit. The people I met weren't the most warm people, but they were hardly rude or unpleasant. I would say they were very polite.
OLD MEETS NEW
After World War II, Germany was split into four territories for the allied occupation zones. East Germany was given to the Soviets whereas the Western part was given to the US, Britain and later France. The clashing of ideals between the Soviets and the Democrats led East Germany to build the massive partition that was the Berlin Wall. For a period of 30 years, East and West Berlin were separated with over 79 miles of concrete walls over 12 feet tall. Over 300 towers were on 24 hour surveillance, with directions to SHOOT ON SIGHT at those who tried to escape. This length was called the "Death Strip" and over 171 people died, trying to escape.
Since the collapse of the wall in 1989, East Berliners and West Berliners have been able to move freely along these parts and slowly start to rebuild the freedom and community that was taken away. In many ways, Berlin feels like a new, old city, as remnants of a war torn city stand next to a new youth culture.
HOME OF THE YOUNG AND THE REBELLIOUS
Kreuzberg is a magnet to artists, and everywhere you'll see examples of the quirky, new generation's voice. In Berlin, Kreuzberg is also home to many Turkish immigrants. If you get a chance, do yourself a favor and try a plate of Menemen, a warm skillet of eggs, tomatoes and spices for breakfast, with a cup of hot tea and a warm sesame Simit roll. For lunch make sure to grab a kebab from Mustafa's.
Techno parties, underground parties, all night ragers that rival Ibiza are meant to be Berlin's claim to fame. Unfortunately, for me I didn't find a single one of these parties. I'm going to assume that it's because I was there early on during the week and not because Berlin thinks I'm a nerd who can't hang.
Try Cafe Luzia for a casual drink or visit nearby Rosenthaler Platz for Mein House Am See. Take a visit to Kitty Chengs in neighboring Mitte. If you walk around Kreuzberg, there are also plenty of cool neighborhood bars and restaurants to poke your head into. If you're looking for a real party though, hit up Silvio Dal Col Ice Cream shop for the best ice cream in the world. It's sure to be a party in your mouth!! (Too corny? Ok, I'll stop)
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL SITE
A MOMENT OF SILENCE
YOUR FIRST SOVIET STATUES
In the midst of Berlin, stands Treptower park, a memoriam for all the Soviet Soldiers who died at the Battle of Berlin in 1945 during WWII. It's the largest Soviet Memorial in all of Germany. The park is beautiful and worth a look to see all the beautiful monuments and sculptures. Alongside the path are carved frescos depicting scenes from World War II.
MY MIDDLE NAME IS "DANGER"
SPREE PARK, is an abandoned amusement park in Berlin located within Treptower Park. During it's heyday in the 1960's, thousands of visitors would come from all over to visit the playgrounds. In 1990 however, the park went into default and the owner left to Lima, Peru to try to open a park there. It was there that he was caught trying to smuggle 2 million Euros worth of Cocaine in the mast of his ride, "The Magic Carpet Ride" and was arrested. The park fell into disrepair and has been a haven for adventurer seekers since then.
Be sure to read in my ADVENTURES segment the step by step process it took to break into this amusement park.
ABANDONED AIRPORT TURNED KITEBOARD PARK
Since 2008, Tempelhof Field has been converted from an airport landing field into an open park. As we walked through the entrance of the park, we were solicited by strange men asking us if we needed any drugs. If you're looking for marijuana, drugs or any sort of illegal narcotics, this is the place to find it. Aside from that, I'll mention that these were the friendliest druggies ever, and that they only skirted the opening. Once you pass them, follow a trail for about twenty minutes and it'll lead you to the wide, open field of Tempelhof where the airport still stands. On the land is an old airplane and in the midst of the field are several locals exercising, roller blading and kite surfing. It's a perfect place to catch the sunset as well, since the land is flat all around and somewhat of a magical place.
WHERE I STAYED:
The Cat's Pajamas Hostel in Kreuzberg - Another beautiful and clean hostel that felt more like a hotel than a hostel. I wouldn't recommend it for a solo traveler as it is not very social. It was located a block away from the train and convenient to get around, though everything was a 20 minute train ride away. If you are looking to be in a more party central location, try staying in northern Kreuzberg.