BERLIN – “the worst of times, the best of times”!

BERLIN – “the worst of times, the best of times”!

I recently visited Berlin on a four day city break with my grown up son – his choice. To be honest I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect despite doing research beforehand.  However, I was amazed by everything about Berlin in 2016.

This city has certainly seen the “worst of times” in the last 100 years (extensive areas being razed to the ground, and millions killed during World War II); however it has now emerged in the “best of times” as a vibrant, fascinating centre of art, culture and history; juxtaposed with modern architecture and thriving business/retail centres.

We stayed at the Melia Berlin in the heart of the city, on Friedrichstrasse, with very easy access to all the places you will want to visit and also the S Bahn and U Bahn (overground and underground trains).  I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel which offered very comfortable (and warm – we went in February!) rooms; and an amazing breakfast that fuelled us for the rest of the day.

For the evening there was a good range of eating places, bars and a theatre, all within easy walking distance.  In fact that was one of the many reasons I loved Berlin, it is very flat, and everything is within a comfortable walking distance.  For those who want culture Berlin offers a fascinating range of museums and art galleries (Museum Island is a “must”); beautiful churches and the wonderful Berlin Cathedral (with a stunning Dove of Peace in the centre of the 115m dome).

In stark contrast (but also “must do’s”) are the East Side Gallery, and the Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe. The East Side Gallery is a remaining 1.3km stretch of the Berlin Wall dedicated as an international memorial to freedom but also an emotive reminder of a time when this beautiful city was divided by an horrendous structure separating East and West Berlin.

Also in stark contrast is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, this 4.7 acre site situated close to the Bradenburg Gate and the Reichstag is a very understated but moving structure of 2711 coffin like concrete blocks arranged at angles/slopes and varying in height up to 4.7m.

The aforementioned Reichstag is also well worth a visit, but be warned it is very popular and is only accessible by a timed ticket, even in February we had to book 36 hours in advance. There are also many excellent exhibits/memorials/attractions commemorating the emotive history of Berlin and the atrocities they have lived through.

Slightly outside the centre (S Bahn/bus ride away) is the stunning Charlottenburg Palace, featuring opulently decorated rooms and housing wonderful art and porcelain.  However for those who just want retail therapy, good food, wine and a relaxed atmosphere Berlin has plenty to offer – the Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz with wonderful shops and restaurants; and the traditional streets of Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden.

Visit Berlin, I am sure you will be amazed and moved emotionally by this incredible city.

by Hiliary Bennett