A paradise for both hipsters and historians alike, there are countless reasons to visit the German capital of Berlin. From the trendy cafes and craft beer bars of Kreuzberg to the museums and historic sights dotted around here, you’ll never be at a loss for things to do. What’s more, you’ll likely struggle to squeeze everything when vacationing here. If you’re already shouting “wunderbar” enthusiastically at the screen, here’s an alternative guide to Berlin.
Getting Around the City
Like many capital cities in Europe and further afield, getting around this one is painfully simple. The U-Bahn (underground) system consists of a massive 173 stations spanning the area. Buying a day ticket is the most economical way to travel since it costs just seven Euros and allows you to get around town until 3:00 a.m. If you happen to be a night owl frequenting the late bars, many of which are open until 5 a.m. or even 6, Uber will be your saviour. While, in my brief experience, there aren’t many dedicated Uber cars in the city, you can book and pay for local taxi services through the app.
The Vegan Capital of the World
Berlin has often been unofficially dubbed the vegan capital of the world. It was also officially named The Vegetarian Capital of the World in 2015 by the acclaimed US publication, Saveur. The rumors are true. Despite the fact that this is a metropolis built on the hearty currywurst, the “free from” options around town are quite astounding.
On our travels, we managed to come across the likes of a vegetarian butcher’s shop (of which there is a total of four in the city), hordes of vegan and veggie restaurants (including the fabulous Momos and Kopps), and meat-free substitutes on almost every menu.
By far, one of the greatest places we dined in the city, though, was Pizza Klub. Despite the uninspiring name of the tucked away place, the little pizzeria serves up some of the largest, thinnest Italian style treats in the city. What’s more, any of the frankly gigantic pizza pies could be made with vegan cheese. It’s quite refreshing to find a city that so openly caters to the dietary requirements of all. Skipping out on lactose, gluten, or indeed meat has never been so easy.
Berghain: The Club You’ll Never Get Into
From the very moment we stepped onto German soil, there was just one word on everyone’s lips: Berghain. Friends of friends whispered in hushed tones, “Are you going to try to get into Berghain?” The question was at once confusing and intriguing. Firstly, what on this fair planet was a “Berghain” and, secondly, why would you need to try to get in?
I soon found out the answer to both of the above questions. The techno club (because, yes, that’s what it actually is) is something of an enigma. No one really knows what’s inside and there’s good reason for that: no one gets in. For reference, the above picture was taken at 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday. Instead of sitting at home and tucking into their family lunch, this group of people had donned their edgiest clothes in a bid to be accepted by the all-seeing, all-judging bouncers.
This was a place I’d never be permitted to enter; cool has never exactly been my middle name. So, instead of simply walking by, my friends and I decided to watch the entry process. It was quite surreal. On reaching the front of the line, a person would step forward to be judged by three bouncers: one leader and two muscles at each side. After surveying his victim briefly, the leader would either nod or shake his head. Nine times out of 10, it was a solid no. There were no arguments; people were branded uncool in that split second and for the rest of their lives would have to live with that label.
Unmissable Historic Sights
Of course, the city is not all vegan restaurants and impenetrable clubs. This is a place so thoroughly doused in history that it’d be a cardinal sin to visit without seeing some of the sights. Our first stop was the East Side Gallery — a section of the remaining Berlin Wall which is now covered in some of the most spectacular commissioned street art you will ever see. Strolling along the path, you could easily lose yourself in the imagery varying from screaming faces to the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, giving the East Germany President, Erich Honecker a satirical smooch.
The Topography of Terror is a must-see, must-read exhibit for anyone with even the slightest interest in World War II. The documents – newspapers, advertisements, and the like – detail the rise of Hitler’s political career right through the end of the war. Reading each and every piece, all of which have English translations, is like reading a rather comprehensive dissertation on the era. Even if you happen to have studied this period in depth, there’s certain to be something of intrigue in there to discover, though you might need a stiff drink after to take off the edge. As educational as it is, the photographs and text manage to bring to life a time we’d all like to forget.
Needless to say, these are but two examples of the things that you ought to make time to see on your travels around the city. The Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also demand your attention. It’s well worth making a plan before your trip so you don’t miss a thing.