Useful Information, Berlin
There are two buses which cover the same route that the tour bus takes you, that is the 100 and 200, with your day or weekly ticket you can jump on and off when you like.
Both leave and return to Zoologischer Garten, each cover a half circle.
They both take you past half the things you would wish to see/visit.
Your ticket can be used on the Bus: S-Bahn and U-Bahn.
Remember to validate your ticket by placing it in the 'RED' box, once only.
Fondest memory: I love the lakes and rivers, siting drinking a beer and watching Berlin go-by.
Its also easy to walk as Berlin is so flat, which is why cycling is so popular.
Especially when you are American, you may witness what you might consider a lack of service you are used to in the U.S.A. when traveling to Europe.
Yes, most of what follows goes for Europe in general, not necessarily Berlin or Germany in particular.
Say, you are in a restaurant: A good waiter will not come every 5 minutes and ask if you have any complaints or if you wish to place another order. Maybe he or she will come once and ask if everything's ok, but even that happens seldomly. The reason behind this ostensibly rude or ignorant behavior is that it would be considered intrusive. A good waiter will return empty plates (not glasses!) from your table and other than that come when you make eye-contact.
Another thing may come as unpleasant surprise: You'll find every drink on your bill. When you order a coffee and want another one, the waiter will not refill your cup, but bring a new one and take the first back to the kitchen. In any way, you'll find two coffees on your bill. Drinks are what a restaurant makes money with; the meals they serve bring comparatively little revenue. The good thing is that meals, by comparision and a ridiculous Dollar-Euro exchange rate not withstanding, are a couple of bucks cheaper than they are in in the U.S., at least when you take into account that a 10% tip is not minimum but absolutely o.k.
In Germany, plastic money is not as widely accepted as you may think. Department stores, fuel stations and supermarkets, not to mention hotels generally do accept both - debit and credit cards. Smaller shops and very affordable restaurants, like those frequented by students, probably won't accept any card. Issuers of credit cards charge shops with approximately 5% of each sales volume, plus a flat transaction fee plus a monthly or annual rate for the card reader. Many shop owners refuse to distribute those exenses to each customer. (Continues below)
Fondest memory: Speaking of supermarkets: Shopping for groceries in a supermarket means self-service! Sure, you can ask for help if you don't find something you need, but don't expect employees to approach you and ask if they can be of any service. That would, again, be considered intrusive. I for one hate if, when others comment on what I put into my shopping cart (not that any item would be embarassing), and likewise I don't think it's anyone's business to know which toothpaste I use or which table water I think is safe to drink. Other people seem to feel the same, hence it's only logical that you won't see a smiling student eager to put your groceries in a bag or in your car.
Yes, some chains have tried it, but to no avail, and yes a typical "super"market is about one-fourth or fifth the size of an American. The range of products to choose from is, however, similar, since there are usually a number of different supermarkets to choose from. I live within walking distance (~10 minutes) of 5 supermarkets plus 2 additional supermarkets that exclusively sell organic food not to mention some greengrocers and a farmers market.
Back to bags: Plastic bags almost always come free when you shop in a small retailer, such as a perfumery or wine store but never in a supermarket - at least not in Germany. If it has to be a supermarket (you may notice I like smaller shops and farmers markets better), bring a daypack, trolley or spend a couple of Euro Cents on a bag. The idea behind it is that plastic bags are not environmentally friendly. Even in a smaller shop you may be asked you if you need a bag for your purchase.
There is so much history in Berlin that you are transformed from the 21st Century to the time of the Cold War, Adolf Hilter and before!
Look out for the narrow cobblestones shown in the photo below of the 'Berliner Mauer'. This marks the path of the Berlin Wall.
Fondest memory: I ran the 10Km stretch of the 25Km Run Berlin on Sunday, May 6, 2007.
If you're on a tight budget try the following; they are all free:
1. Brandenburg Gate
2. Reichstag Dome
3. East Side Gallery
4. Topographie des Terrors
5. Bernauer Strasse Wall Museum
I have more detailed tips on each of these in the Things To Do section.
Other free things in Berlin that I didn't get the chance to visit include:
Favorite thing: A common sight in Berlin is the numerous cranes against the skyline. Since the fall of the wall and reunification, many parts of Berlin are gradually being reconstructed. In the east in particular, there are many open spaces, waste-grounds and derelict buildings, which all provide a timely reminder of Berlin's recent past.
just like in most cities - it can be pretty expensive to buy soft drinks etc. at railway/ underground stations or around tourist attractions.
a friend paid almost three euros for a normal bottle of diet coke. they usually sell for about 80 euro cents.
bottles also come with a deposit charge. so save them and take them back to the shop next time you buy a new bottle. you can get about 30 cents off sometimes. this applies to plastic and glass!
PFAND means deposit in german - so look for that on the bottle. KEIN PFAND means it´s non returnable
In every quarter of Berlin there are always a few pharmacies, that offer an emergency service at night and on holidays. The pharmacies take turns every night according to the plan for the "Berliner Apothekennotdienst".
Usually it's not the pharmacy store that opens as a whole, but the pharmacist will come to the door upon call. You have to ring a bell at the pharmacy's main entrance. Then the pharmacist will open a small window in or next to the door and ask you for your wishes.
You can look up the plan and addresses at the following site (in German):
If you have no internet-access and you want to make sure that you have the plan always at hand, you can ask at any pharmacy for a printed brochure ("Apothekennotdienstplan", monthly) beforehand.
Berlin has so many post offices it wouldn't make sense to list them all. There are several at every quarter. Some small post offices are part of a stationery shop. They usually open from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There are two branch offices that are also open in the evenings or on Sundays.
- Postamt Charlottenburg;
Joachimstaler Str. 7;
(Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
- Postamt Mitte;
(Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.,
Saturday and Sunday from 8. a.m. to 10 p.m.)
You can look up the post office addresses for Berlin and Germany at the site of the "Deutsche Post" (German Postal Service):
(Click at "Filialsuche" and enter the town and the street or the zipcode of the area, near which you are looking for a post office. You will get the addresses of the nearest post offices.)
Berlin is a great ciy especially in summer. Try to get there around june-august, there you have the best weather and a bunch a good events. This year of course the world cup and love parade :-)
To have a good and simple Berlin guide just have a regular look at
There you have a list of good restaurants and nightlife guides. Try to get there & see you soon.
Fondest memory: The great people :-)
The changes that are still happening is very good to see. Its really so widespread. I know many Germans from smaller cities have told me that its too modern this capital, not representative of what direction they feel Germany should be going in. But I think its a great thing. Of course its nice to have traditional places, historic places, but modernism can be good as well. Berlin cannot really help but be upgraded because so much of it was destoryed in WWII, then stagnated by the communist regime.
Practical tips is just be aware of detours and the like. How the sidewalks have been shifted to accommodate the work going on. Often catwalks, and the ladders and platforms of the builders and left into the evenings so watch your head and your step.
Fondest memory: You see many ruin buildings or empty buildings in certain areas of Berlin. You see cranes and construction almost everywhere you go in some way too. Whether they are just changing the face of a building or taking down one old one to clear away so that a new one can be put up, Berlin is a changing city. So much of the city is very old and historical left over from the wars, and also you see some buildings with still damage from the wars. Some buildings where completely demolished. My fondest memory to see these changes going on but the memory is a daily one because we'll be living here for some times.
I know it well because I have taken the same class there three times and never passed: Hartnackschule at Motzstrasse 5. Their website is Harnackschule.com.Its a very popular language school, very busy, usually crowded but the teachers are good I think (even if I am a stupid student) and try to make the classes very interesting. What I like about it most is its not a lot of foreign diplomats and people with lots of money but those who come to Berlin to work here and make a living, friendly and like myself-just a average person. They also can assist with getting a visa for the length of time you stay to take language classes.
The prices are reasonable at usually 168.00 Euros for a first course that lasts a month, plus the cost of books 27.00 Euro, which can be used for the next 2 courses also. They have different levels of course for beginners, intermediates and advanced.
If you rather would like a school for different age groups from children to adults, different time periods and levels, and have lots of money, look to this website, one of many that offers classes and courses various locations in Germany. Language Courses Abroad, is geared more for the students university age in my opinion or if someone else is paying for your studies, many more cheap places to learn German in Berlin.
Fondest memory: The address is Motzstrasse 5, 10777 Berlin. Tele no. 030-216-4459. You can see the school from Nollendorfplatz by train or take the 106, 119, or 146 bus to get here. The wbesite is good, in english also.
The foto is from the classroom I was in every time. Yes so I flunked because I was always looking out of it. :-) I keep trying though!
Before I decided to go to Berlin I looked for some info on VT. I read many tips on Berlin (click here), questions and replies on Berlin VT forum and I bought in my hometown (look at my picture):
1. Map of Berlin from the series Eurocity by GeoCenter - the map was too large to use it inside a car but it was the very exact (1:27,500) map of the whole Berlin with one-way streets, some number of houses and U-bahn/S-bahn stations marked. There were two great, additional road maps of Berlin's surroundings and U-bahn/S-bahn schematic on the backside. Additionally there was the small book enclosed. It contained huge street index (with PLZ = German postal code numbers), index of old versus new names of the streets (after reunification they changed many names), more detailed maps of Berlin's central districts and list of useful addresses and phone numbers (museums, hospitals etc.).
2. Berlin - Praktyczny Przewodnik issued by Pascal, second edition 2001. It was Berlin travel book from my favourite The Rough Guide serie. A lot of great info there but it was a little bit old edition (the prices were shown in both old DM and new €).
3. Wspanialy weekend w Berlinie (Wonderful weekend in Berlin - translation to Polish of French travel book "Un Grand Week-End a Berlin") issued by Wiedza i Zycie. It contained a lot of very good info on shopping and sightseeing mainly and very nice pictures as well. Hmm... prices were shown only in old DM as the book was issued in... 1999 which was very, very hidden inside haha.
this is a useful site for finding locations anywhere in Germany. PLZ means postleitzahl, or zip code, and under ORT you would type the city, then under Straße the street name and number.
It's also especially useful because the maps are so comprehensive that they include bus lines and train stations.
Favorite thing: generally, most museums are free during the last 4 hours every thursday. this is generally from 2pm to 6pm, although some museums like the ones on the museum island (the alte national galerie) have free hours from 4pm to 8pm. the guggenheim berlin is free the last few hours (i think its after 6pm) on Mondays.
Everybody knows that Berlin is the place to be for nightlife, music, art and general good times but what help is that when you don't know your Kreuzberg from your Kartoffel. Locals recommened I should read Berlin listing magazines such as tip and zitty which I'm sure are great- but not if the only German phrase you know is 'Sprechen Sie Englisch?' So it was a stroke of luck when I spotted the monthly English-language magazine EXBERLINER in my local newsagent. EXBERLINER is a great magazine for any English-speaking visitor to Berlin. The articles are informative and the listings are varied and up to date, all that for only 2 euros-well you can't really go wrong! www.exberliner.com
Fondest memory: I'm still in Berlin so I'm not feeling sentimental yet, but i'm sure when i'm back in 'Old Blighty' I'll have my subscription of EXBERLINER sent over so i'm still in the know of whats happening in Europes best capital city.