There is more to Berlin than the wall

By Simon Ball, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Berlin.

Overall rating:4.5 out of 5 (based on 2 votes)
Enjoyable
4.5
4.5
Useful
4.5
4.5
Inspirational
4.5
4.5
Recommended for:
Cultural, Nightlife, Short Break, Budget, Mid-range

Relics of the Cold War that divided Europe, great museums, home brewed beer, heavy metal bars and the birthplace of the doner kebab - Berlin's got the lot

I grew up in the 1960s so to me Berlin was a mysterious place full of spies exchanging information at foggy checkpoints and dissident scientists being smuggled through the border concealed within coffins. Of course the reality was far more tragic and, despite the years that have passed since German reunification, the surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall we found close to Warschauer Strasse Station still seemed to resonate with the brooding rage of a people divided by political ideology.

I found this isolated monument to the folly of politicians a far more fitting memorial to Cold War victims than the photo opportunity that Checkpoint Charlie (Friedrichstraase and Zimmersraase, nearest underground Kochstraase) has become. The present day checkpoint is a replica of the American border crossing built in 1961 where for a couple of euros you can have your photo taken with an actor in an American or Russian Military Police uniform. However there are a very touching set of display boards illustrating the wall’s history in Friedrichstrase which are worth taking a look at nearby.

A heavy night out

But there is far more to Berlin than the wall. Since its demolition the east has become a magnet to students, artists, musicians and other creatives seeking cheaper apartments and studios. The Friedrichschain district served by Warschauer Strasse Station is home to some of Berlin’s best music bars, therefore it was exactly the place for us to spend a Friday evening in Berlin.

First stop was Feuermelder (Krossener Straase 24) an easy going boozer with pool tables, inexpensive beer (€3-4 a pint) and loud punk and metal music. Most of the punters were students but there were a few old rockers so we felt right at home. After a few lagers we moved down the road to Paule’s Metal Eck (Krossener Straase 15) where the Gothic candle lit interior matched the Black Metal beat favoured by its customers. Right at home we partied on till 3am Saturday morning.

Fortunately at the weekend Berlin’s ever practical public transport system runs all night long and you can even buy beer from the station kiosks. Just like the Berliners, we carried on the party until we got back to our hotel. The beauty of Berlin’s public transport is that your ticket is valid for two hours and covers the suburban train network (S-Bahn), underground (U-Bahn), buses and trams. Tickets are €2.10 from the platform machines and cover Berlin zones A and B. €2.90 will take you out to Berlin Schönefeld Airport.

A full day out and about

Museumsinsel (Museum Island) nestled between the River Spree and the Kupfergraben is justly famous for its collections of antiquities and art. Pride of place must go to the bust of Queen Nefertiti, the wife of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaton in the Altes Museum (Bodsestrasse 4; www.smb.museum/smb/standorte/index.php?lang=en&p=2&objID=24&n=2; Admission €8 but free after 6pm on Thursdays, nearest S-Bahn stations Hackescher Markt and Friedrichstraase), but there are plenty of other things to see.

Numerous cruise vessels operate on the Spree and we found this a very pleasant way to polish off the morning. The route from the quay just outside the DDR Museum in Karl Liebknecht Strasse, took in the great museums, Berlin Cathedral and both the old and new government buildings and embassies. All found very pleasant slide into the afternoon for €10.50.

We found a different kind of monument opposite the Altes Museum in a garden in Rathaustrasse. Enormous Soviet era statues of Marx and Engels presented the ideal opportunity for that essential holiday photoshoot, before taking an afternoon stroll down Unter den Linden towards the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial in Ebertstrasse (U-Bahn Unter den Linden).

Where to eat and drink

The Brauhaus Lemke (Dircksentr., S-Bahnbogen 143; www.brauhaus-lemke.com/index.php?area=3) is situated beneath the railway arches at Hackescher Markt S-Bahn station. Don’t let that put you off though because its traditional German menu is fabulous. Largely pork based the portions are generous and the four kinds of beer - a dark ale, a Pilsner, a Weissbeer and a strong 7% lager - brewed on the premises are very quaffable. Complete with drinks our bill came to €60 for four.

The Xantener Ect Brauhaus (Xantener Strasse.1/ Brandenburgische Strasse; www.das-xantener-eck.de/index_en.html; nearest station Andenaur Platz) was conveniently located for our hotel. Founded in 1907 its outdoor tables are ideally placed for a bit of people watching down Brandenburgische Strasse. The menu is typically German with plenty of sausages, sauerkraut and schnitzel and there are twelve varieties of beer to be enjoyed, which we did. Our bill for the evening came to €93 which I thought wasn’t bad for four hungry people.

And finally legend has it that the doner kebab was invented in Berlin by the late Mahmut Aygun, who had the bright idea of stuffing kebab meat inside bread. Whether this is an urban legend or not, one of the best doner stands is Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap (23 Mehringdamm; www.mustafas.de) just by the exit of Mehringdamm U-Bahn Station. A delicious chicken doner complete with roast vegetables, feta cheese and sauce can be yours for just €2.90.

Where to stay

We stayed at the Agon Olivaer Apart Hotel  (Konstanzer Straße 1, 10707 Berlin). A basic three-star hotel it was conveniently located close to Adenaurplatz U-Bahn station. Our stay included a substantial buffet breakfast all for around €50 a night.

Flights were with easyJet (www.easyjet.com) from Luton.

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More information on There is more to Berlin than the wall:

Author:
Simon Ball
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
4.5
Average: 4.5 (2 votes)
Total views:
501
First uploaded:
28 January 2010
Last updated:
3 years 35 weeks 5 days 12 hours 17 min 8 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Cultural, Nightlife, Short Break
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range
Free tags / Keywords:
nightlife, food and drink, rock, history and culture

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Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Agon Olivaer Apart Hotel
£39
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Community comments (3)

Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

I have stayed in that hotel too and I would really recommend it. Although it is fairly basic, it has a lovely atmosphere and is very traditionally "Berlin". Makes one think of Christopher Isherwood's famous novel Goodbye to Berlin, you could imagine Sally Parker Bowles living there. It is in a residential area and it seems as if some of the rooms and apartments might be privately owned, or for long term rental and some of the rooms are occupied by various health practitioners. There was a very fine Cuban restaurant underneath.

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Rating:
4
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Thank you for a nice overview of Berlin, Simon. Your detailed "where to eat" and "where to go out" sections really show that you enjoyed your holiday and will be useful to readers planning a trip to the city. A similar level of detail would really boost your hotel recommendation - although it doesn't sound like you were there much! Thank you for educating me on the origin of the doner kebab as well - if the legend is true.

What do other readers think of this guide? Has it inspired you to visit Berlin? can you add any other tips or recommendations? Thanks.

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Hi Cathy

Thanks for kind review, you are right we didn't spend much time at the hotel as there was just so much to do and we only really scratched the surface of one of Europe's most invigorating cities. I want to go back sometime soon, but there are so many places and so little time off from work.

Simon