Useful Information, Berlin
There is NO one centre/downtown in Berlin, no central square. Quite unique among large and old European cities. The city was divided between two worlds: "capitalistic" West Berlin and "communist" East Berlin but even before that there was no one center.
The center of former West Berlin was... hmm... I don't know, probably along the main, representative shopping boulevard Kürfurstendamm (Ku-damm).
The center of former East Berlin was at Alexander Platz.
The center of reunificated Berlin is at the place or rather two places where the Wall stood: around Potsdamer Platz and around Branderburg Gate.
Confused? Just check the map and learn/remember the names of a few of central districts ("bezirk") of Berlin:
Most of tourist attractions are located in the above 4 district (zone A + B for transportation tickets).
Hmm... that is the question!
I think that for a very fast and full of energy visitor 3 full days is an absolute minimum. For someone (like me) interested in history, architecture, art, the Berlin wall, cultural events, meeting people and VT-ers + visiting surroundings (Potsdam) hmm... a week maybe not enough. You can stay in Berlin even two weeks and be sure, you will never be bored.
Don't you have so much time? No worries, thanks to very efficient public transportation you can visit a few top attractions during a few hours. Or go and... come back again :-) Enjoy!
Before starting my sightseeing around Berlin I got two free maps from my hotel reception:
- quite detailed (1:20,000) map of Berlin central districts including Charlottenburg, Tiergarten, Mitte and Kreuzberg (on my picture), with many points of tourist interest and U-bahn/S-bahn stations marked,
- schematic map of U-bahn and S-bahn network issued by BVG (available at newstands/ticket offices in each metro station).
Both were very usuful while I was walking around.
Berlin maps online:
1. BVG Berlin map online with search address, zoom in/out options and bus lines/stops marked;
2. clickable map of Berlin with a lot of options.
My Holiday Inn Garden Court hotel didn't offer any washing/cleaning clothes service. But they recommended me Karsten Riesner Textilpflege at nearby Schlüterstraße (district Charlottenburg). It was just by Chic second-hand store. From Ku-Damm turn northwards to Schlüterstraße, go almost at the end on the block, look on your right. Price list on my picture, enlarge please. Hmm... what is "Hemd"?
There were quite many washing services in Berlin's dowtown - ask at your hotel.
Favorite thing: I was in Berlin or more exactly in former East Berlin together with my parents when I was 7 or 8 years old. Hmm... I remember only good ice-creams, Alexanderplatz with its modern that time architecture, large department store where my parent were doing shopping looking for goods unavailable in Poland that time and very high TV-tower which dominated city skyline (the Fernsehturm).
In Berlin I found quite many info-maps put along touristy streets - just like this one on my picture. There were a few tourist information centers for example in KaDeWe department store (Charlottenburg) and one located in southern wing of Branderburg Gate (Mitte) visited by me. It was open:
Nov. 1 - March 31: daily 10.00 - 6.00 pm;
April 1 - Oct. 31: extended opening hours.
Except giving tourist information, they were able to find and book accommodation both for group and single visitors.
Full list of tourist information centers: click here
On Virtual Tourist!
Berlin - choose your interest and go! Enjoy :-)
- check/book hotels/flights,
- read other pages on Berlin,
- go to VT Berlin Forum - ask the question on Berlin or review questions and replies of others.
Berlin Tourism Information - great official pages full of very usuful information, in Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish. I am waiting for Polish :-)
Official webpage of Berlin - a lot of usuful info and news, in English and German;
Berlin Online - news in German only (on entertainment and gastronomy as well)
Berlin for youth - in English, German and French;
City Museums - in English and German;
Berlin Wall History - very interesting pages in English and German.
I could easy find numerous public phones put around on Berlin's streets. Usually there were not telephone booths but something like telephone totems or pillars run by Tele-Ruf company.
The acoustic was miserable because every noise of the environment came in without any damping although luckily Berlin was not very noisy in February weekend. The telephone pillars were not protecting against the weather. But I can't complain, most of the totems were equipped with a compound glass roof and three wands. There were no telephone books by street public phones.
How to call?
- there was short instruction in English on many public phones or look and read the info displayed on the phone screen,
- most public phones didn't accept cash/coins but exclusively phonecards available in all post offices, some kiosks and stores,
- to call abroad, dial: 00 - country code - area code - number (look for the sign: international on the phone before).
I used mainly my Polish cell phone which was more comfortable but more expensive as well esp. when I called from Berlin to Berlin... through Poland. Just in case... remember to add and dial +4930 (+49 for Germany and 30 for Berlin) before the number.
Fondest memory: How to save on calls?
- better don't use a phone in your hotel room unless you are sure that your calls are not additionally and highly surcharged;
- better do not use a cell phone, esp. when it belongs to any Polish GSM operator (they are still the most expensive in Europe, I suppose);
- use public phones if possible,
- buy a prepaid phonecard (telefonkarte) as cheap as possible for your need. They costed 10 ? or 19 ? (but worth of 20 ? ) at the post office,
- call esp. abroad between 9.00 pm and 8.00 am,
- if you travel and call more and to various countries, think over buying international pre-paid calling card like AT&T, Global Calling Card or Global One.
- alternatively you can use your Visa card as a calling card .
€ and old DM
Germany - like other 12 other European countries (all "old" EU members except Danmark, Sweden and UK) - got Euro (€) as its currency (Germany since 1st Jan 2002). Hmm... whenever you find any travel books on Berlin with prices given in old DM (Deutch Mark) be sure they were quite old and maybe not accurate.
Just in case you have old DM you can still exchange unlimited amounts of them (both banknotes and coins) for euros on fixed course: 1 € = 1.95583 DM and free of charge (!) but exclusively in offices of the central bank of the Federal Republic of Germany (Deutsche Bundesbank). Till then? By an indefinite period of time :-) Go to Steinplatz 2 in Charlottenburg district (north of Ku-Damm, U-bahn Uhlandstraße, U15) unless you are money collector (quite popular hobby nowadays esp. of larger amounts :-).
Credit/debit cards, ATMs
Almost all stores, restaurants, cafes, museums etc. and all petrol/gas stations I visited in Berlin accepted cards at least of Visa, Eurocard/Mastercard and Maestro system. The same cards where acccepted in numerous ATMs in Berlin downtowns/centers. And surely one could always choose either German on English menu in all ATMs.
Warning: American Express cards were NOT always accepted, Discovery cards were NEVER accepted.
Personally I bought some amount of € in Poland before crossing German border. And I used my credit card and ATM to get € in Berlin (dispite they surcharged me for US$1 per transaction I saved over 5% using my credit card and ATM).
I saw small exchange offices located along streets in downtown with limited variety of currencies to exchange. All well-known European and many world currencies were accepted in Berlin banks. Which ones? Check here, please.
Favorite thing: A funny sight that is becoming more common in Berlin is the one man Rostbrat vendor. They actaully walk around with a grill and cook the bratwursts whilst on the move. I haven't tasted one of these but they are a good alternative to standing at the imbiss.
Favorite thing: Unlike North America it is useful to know that painkillers or any sort of medication even contact lens fluid cannot be purchased in drug stores. You have to visit an Apotheke. Fortunately there is no shortage. Even in the smallest of villages you will always find one, but you won't always find what you want. Opening hours are usually from 8:00 am until 2:00pm although alot have after hour services and at the ring of the bell you can get some service.
Anywhere but Potsdammer Platz
Fondest memory: Dancing until the sun came up (4:00am sunrise) at OSTGUT, a factory coverted to a huge multilevel disco. trance music upstairs, intense techno downstairs. The Berlin wall is still standing in this section of town.
I would normally describe myself as a rather cautious person, quick in the mind but slow to do, however Berlin introduced to me strongly the idea of "Warum Nicht?" or "Why not??!!" The city is very energetic, very alive and vital, moving and busy, intense and vague all at the same time. A great mix and totally intriguing!
After only 2 days of getting acquainted with the basics even I began to say "Warum Nicht?" whenever anyone made a suggestion of what to do, where to go, or how much to have. You're on vacation, you are with friendly people, you want to have a good time and some memorable memories, so "Warum Nicht?"
Fondest memory: Learning to say, "Warum Nicht".
"Do you want one more vodka? I'll have one if you have one...." says one.
"Warum nicht!" replies the other.
But really its not about getting drunk, having a smoke, or doing things you wouldn't ordinarily do at home, its about being free and open and happy, and allowing yourself possibilities. Saying "warum nicht" can be a very good thing.
Berlin is a modern, lively and young city. It has a big (war) history but looks very much to the future. That's why you see buildings appear and disappear all the time in Berlin. It's one big building site. Symbols of the city are the Brandenburger Tower, the Berlin Wall and other historical places. But also the Loveparade, Herta BSC, cosy little shops and the multicultural population make this city a touristic centre with lots of trumps.
Fondest memory: http://www.berlin.de
Favorite thing: Visiting Berlin in November is more relaxing than in summertime. This specially holds for those who intend to visit the 'Reichstagsgebaeude' from the top of which one has a breathtaking view over the city and the ongoing building activities. I combined my tour with Christmas shopping, superfluous to mention that I spent most of my time in the KaDeWe department store at Tauentzienstrasse, a few minutes from Kurfürstendamm and the train station 'Zoologischer Garten' (Bahnhof Zoo), which is the heart of the center. There is no better place in the world which offers highest quality of everything you look for. An experience might be the deli department. Here you find the best choloate of all over the world, the best food, the best cheese, the best fruit, etc., etc. You will feel like in Cockaigne (provided you bring along your credit card).
Berlin was the former capital of the old Germany. After the Worldwar 2, the Allied countries and Russia split Berlin, in a western and a eastern part by a wall. A lot of refugees were executed during their escape to the western part. This is one of the worst parts of the European history.
Today Berlin is the renewed capital if the no longer devited Germany. In 1989, the Berlin Wall collapsed, and everybody was free to go again, after a period of almost 30 years.....
Fondest memory: The nightlife, the Love Parade every year, the clubs and the restaurants.