Berlin was never place I planned on visiting. I mean, maybe when all the big capitals of Europe had been seen, but certainly not the first one that I would go out of my way to see. Similar to Austin, I had heard so much about Berlin in the months leading up to my trip, which influenced me to visit for myself. I am so happy I wound up in Berlin, because it is the most intriguing city I have ever been in.
Let’s back up though, and get the logistics out of the way. Again, I highly recommend staying as centrally located as possible. There are so many hostels in Berlin it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one. And in case you can't find that perfect downtown spot, Berlin has a fantastic transportation system. It is a bit daunting at first, but don’t let it scare you. Even though a lot of the action takes place centrally, there are some amazing sights to see that require more than feet to get to. Lastly, I went during the winter when it was cold and very snowy. I had a fantastic time so I can only imagine how amazing the city is in warmer weather.
Berlin has a fascinating history that has left its mark on the city. If you look closely, you can see bullet holes in some of the buildings from the Battle of Berlin. To accompany these bullet marks, there is a surplus of museums housing other cultural artifacts from WWII up to the present. I highly recommend a trip to the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. Above ground, the Field of Stelae (steel) is a visual memorial consisting of two thousand, seven hundred and eleven concrete boxes, varying in height and are shaped like coffins. The Field of Stelae is a little vague unless you travel down to the underground memorial. It considered the Informational Center and is chalked full of information. Individual stories are told, horrifying photos are shown, and my heart was broken. It might not be the happiest vacation activity, but it is a must-see in Berlin.
After visiting the famous Berlin Wall- in multiple locations- my friend and I wanted to learn more about life in East Berlin. So we headed over the DDR Museum. The museum is a popular attraction in Berlin, so there might be a line to get in. Once in though, you won’t be disappointed. It was a strange experience because in the U.S., it is ingrained in our DNA that communism is the downfall of all nations. The museum however, seemed to promote communism as the way to achieve a utopic society. This would have been the message sent to the citizens in East Berlin following the war, so the museum was very effective. A perfect compliment to visiting the DDR museum is to trek out to the Soviet Memorial of the Battle of Berlin in Treptower Park. This impressive memorial is to commemorate the Soviet soldiers lost during the Battle of Berlin. It elicits a mix of emotions, as the victory of the Battle of Berlin was important in defeating the Nazis, yet many would argue that the Soviet government went on to oppress the people of East Berlin.
I have simply highlighted three big attractions of this cultural city and trust me, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Berlin is rich in history and culture. It is a town that deserves a whole week dedicated to exploring it. During my visit, we focused on the history of the city and didn’t have the time to experience the colorful nightlife or the avant garde art culture of Berlin. Since I only had a sampling during my weekend visit, I will definitely be returning to snack on the rest Berlin has to offer!