Three Bs of Berlin

Given its chequered past, Berlin is, as you would expect, steeped in history and culture. It has successfully regenerated itself as a united city post the fall of the Berlin Wall. And by remembering those who suffered so terribly before, during and after WWII, it has a poignant, yet confronting, sense of a city that is ready to move on, if not forget.

No matter how you have to spend in Berlin, it will never be enough. The typical tourist sites such as the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, remains of the wall and Checkpoint Charlie are obviously worth a visit, but there are so many other fun and quirky things to see and do in this truly amazing city.

Having recently spent nine days in Germany’s capital, I’m only too happy to share my three Bs of Berlin.

1. Beer gardens and beach bars
OK, so technically speaking these are two, but as they both involve enjoying a beverage, I thought I would combine them.

Some of the best biergartens (beer gardens) are to be found in the Tiergarten, which stretches from Berlin Zoo in the west, to the Brandenburg Gate, at the start of the old east sector of the city. And while it’s worth trying them all, I can heartily recommend Café Am Neuen See, which is about halfway through the gardens, just near the Spanish Embassy.  

Beers are large (so, you can get small ones if you really want) and served deliciously cold. The food on offer ranges from typical German fare to cooked-to-order pizza and the largest slices of cake I’ve ever seen. Don’t worry if you’re not a big drinker, you can still sit by the lake and enjoy some kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake).

The more geographically savvy will know that Berlin doesn’t have a beach, so how can it have beach bars? A quirk of the vast amount of building going on in the city, ‘beach bars’ simply pop up in spaces where buildings have been demolished. With a covering of sand, deck chairs and wait-service, if you happen across one, take a load off and enjoy a cool drink.

By their nature, it’s not always possible to know where such bars will be, however, if you’re looking for a similar, more permanent experience, you can try Capital Beach on the banks of the River Spree. 

 

2. Breakfast
Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a deal where breakfast is included in your accommodation rate, don’t waste your money on eating your first meal of the day in the hotel. All over Berlin are great little cafés that sell a wide range of breakfast goodies for just a few dollars. My favourite breakfast was the German continental option – for about three Euros ($4.80) you can have a pastry, toast, fruit, yogurt and tea or coffee – plenty to see you on your way. You can also enjoy a filled omelette with tea or coffee for a little over five Euros ($8) – much more appealing than paying 15 to 20 Euros ($24–$32) in your hotel.

However, there is one breakfast in Berlin that is worth splashing out for – at the top of the Reichstag. Not only do you get stunning views of the city and a free (it’s free for every one) audio-guided tour of the amazing glass dome design by Sir Norman Foster, youalso get a breakfast that would rival any high tea served in the city’s top hotels and all for 28 Euros ($44).

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, yogurt and fresh fruit, hot bread, pastries, cold meats and cheeses are elegantly displayed on individual stands for each diner. As well as freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea or coffee, a glass of bubbles makes it a breakfast worthy of an Instagram photo.

You will need to book, preferably before you arrive in Berlin, but you can easily do this at www.bundestag.de 

 

 

3. Ballroom dancing
Or it could be swing, tango or salsa – it all depends on what evening you visit Clarchen’s Ballhaus. For just five Euros entry, you will receive a dance lesson by experienced dancers, with plenty of time to practice later when you can dance the night away. Dancers and diners of all ages fill this old ballroom, which looks as though it hasn’t been changed since WWII. 

The food is a mixture of German favourites and modern-day staples such as pizzas. If you’re not much of a dancer, it’s fun to go along and watch, or visit during the day and enjoy some refreshments in the garden.

 

If this isn’t enough to inspire you to visit, here’s a few more excellent ‘Bs’ you’ll find in Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate – the gateway from the west to the east, the Brandenburg Gate is now a symbol of the unity the city has found.

Buses – in themselves not so exciting, but it’s worth catching a tourist bus around Berlin if only for the local and historical knowledge of the guides. You can’t read some of this in guidebooks.

Bundesliga – soccer (or football) as it’s known in Europe, is huge in Berlin, even though its team, Herta Berlin, isn’t currently enjoying much success. If you can, get along and enjoy the atmosphere of a game. 

Berlin Wall – I don’t really need to say much more but there are many amazing stories to be discovered across the city from when the wall first went up, and when it eventually came down.

Bunker (Hitler’s) – now here’s a strange coincidence, I actually stayed in the apartments which have been built on the location of Hitler’s bunker 9didn;t know it at the time of booking). All that remains now is a plaque, but if you like that sort of thing, you can find it just 200m from the memorial to the Jewish Holocaust victims.

Buddy bears – designed and created in 2001 to promote peaceful existence across the five continents, the colourful United Buddy Bears embarked on a world tour. Many of the bears can now be found dotted around Berlin; you can even find them on a map. Following the bear map is a great way to see the city and get your photo taken with a giant, colourful bear. 

Written by Debbie McTaggart

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