Useful Information, Berlin
Here are some feature films that introduce Berlin in an unusual way (in no particular order). All of them are critically acclaimed - and probably R-rated in the U.S.
Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin)
For a summary on the films plot see
Director: Wim Wenders
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Curt Bois, Peter Falk, Nick Cave
Life Is All You Get (Das Leben ist eine Baustelle)
Director: Wolfgang Becker, Connie Walther
Cast: Jürgen Vogel, Christiane Paul, Ricky Tomlinson, Armin Rohde
Beyond Silence (Jenseits der Stille)
Director: Caroline Link
Starring: Sylvie Testud, Howie Seago, Emmanuelle Laborit, Sibylle Canonica, Matthias Habich, Hansa Czypionka, Tatjana Trieb
Run Lola Run (Lola rennt)
Director: Tom Tykwer
Starring: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup, Nina Petri
Good Bye, Lenin!
Director: Wolfgang Becker
Cast: Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova, Maria Simon, Alexander Beyer
The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Starring: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur
I had been mildly concerned about the reception of the north German people of a mixed German American because of the world situation, because of my parentage. I was born in Frankfurt, my mother being from Hanau, parts of former West Germany who were used to seeing more American military personnel and brown-skinned people (for the most part).
I had absolutely no problems at all. No one said anything to me about it, no one mentioned it except among friends who were discussing the world situation, no one treated me any differently than anyone else.Maybe it was on their minds, maybe not but then again most people took me for being French. A number of people assumed this and spoke to me in the French language because many Africans who come to Germany do, and a few asked was I from France.
Regarding Americans, I saw exactly 2 scrawling signs posted to streetlamps that said, "F*** Americans" and "F*** Bush and Blair!*, and the American embassy was blockaded off and guarded with protestors hanging around in front of it, but I had no problems whatsoever.
Fondest memory: Just being in Berlin is my fondest memory.
€ 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 .
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 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!