If you are a devotee of a city break, choose Berlin!
There's no such thing as a bad time to visit the German capital but if you go over the spring period, you can enjoy, amongst other delights, the film and arts scene, in one of the most stimulating cultural centers in Europe.
Words by Air Malta | Extract taken from March's 2022 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
There are, what appears to be endless museums, galleries and indoor attractions (175 museums if you want to be precise !) in Berlin. From art and ancient artifacts to military history, to classic cars and technology, the city contains many treasures of our past and present.
There’s just something about strolling past the classic paintings of Europe’s greatest artists – and I mean, of all times. You don’t have to be an expert on the fine arts to appreciate how the skills of painting have evolved over hundreds and hundreds of years. The tendency is to Google things these days, but when you see a huge painting with such intricate features – such as Jan van Bijlert, Das Gastmahl von Alexander und Kleitos, you get an unexplainable special feeling. A museum of a different kind (the floral variety), comes in the form of the Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum (Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem). It offers special programmes and events in its lovely, warm, greenhouse all year-round.
Another variation on a theme comes in the shape of the former Tempelhof airport building. While it may not be an official museum, Tempelhof park – the tarmac of Berlin’s iconic airport - attracts visitors in droves. Many though have never seen the inside of the impressive, neoclassicist building. It is thoroughly recommended. Taking around 2 hours, is not just insightful in terms of architecture, but also gives visitors a sense of historical context: after all, Tempelhof was designed and built under Hitler’s regime as part of the greater Germania plans that were never realised.
Another landmark of Berlin’s past is Checkpoint Charlie, the Allied sentry post, perhaps the best place to grasp the division of East and West Berlin. But don’t come for the checkpoint itself (the current structure is a replica of the actual checkpoint) but for another museum.
Mauermuseum Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. Though tiny and slightly disorganized, it’s an excellent historical refresher covering everything from the pre-wall era up to present day. And while on the topic of the Wall, a walk along the longest open-air gallery in the world is a must. The Wall of Art – or East Side Gallery - beautifies the parts of the Berlin Wall that are still standing, covering 1.3 kilometres on the banks of the Spree in Friedrichshain.
Immediately after the wall came down, 118 artists from 21 countries began painting and it officially opened as an open-air gallery on 28 September 1990. Just over a year later, it was given protected memorial status. The memorial gallery features over 100 murals painted by artists from all over the world detailing their interpretations of the events surrounding November 9, 1989, when the wall came down.
On a lighter note, the Museum of Illusions is a new addition to the ‘circuit’. Let yourself be inspired by the fascinating optical illusions that make you think about being and appearing. Because here is not as it seems.
It’s very important to plan your routes around Berlin, as it is a very large, sprawling city and before you know it most of your time can be spent getting between your points A&B. Not so advisable on a cold day. My suggestion if you choose to walk, is to do it in sections.
An alternative is to use a bike. They are in plentiful supply and with loads of cycle lanes it’s easy to ride without fear. Most residents bike around the city, as it is often the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get around. A bike will cost around nine euros per day to rent.
If you’d rather not cycle the city alone, try a bike tour. You’ll get all the benefits of exploring on bike plus the bonus of having an expert local guide lead the way and tell you everything you need to know along your route.
In Berlin’s central park you can do both – walk and bike. It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful city parks in all of Europe. There’s a war memorial for Russian soldiers and you can also see the nearby Reichstag (Germany’s parliament) and famous Brandenburg Gate. All this cultural experience and exercise – on foot or by pedal power – can, thankfully, be coupled with an excellent array of cafés, bars, clubs and restaurants, delivering plenty of stimulation and a fantastic antidote to the cold.
Where do you start food and drink-wise?
If you want proper German grub (combined with the best spot for people-watching at lunchtime) go to Borchardt, Berlin’s see-and-be-seen restaurant since 1853. Settle in for a Wiener schnitzel and watch the ‘chicest’ of Berlin’s ladies (and gentlemen) who lunch.
The Neukölln neighborhood is becoming one of Berlin’s gastronomic go-to areas for young chefs, the best of which can perhaps be seen at Industry Standard. Using the finest local and seasonal ingredients, every dish is a creative culinary combination you’ll wish you’d ordered two of. Favourites include local German burrata with pistachio pesto and homemade bread, wild boar tagliatelle, and sourdough ice cream. Be sure to give the currywurst a try during your visit. Regarded as one of the most popular varieties in the country (and to be found everywhere), it is a pork sausage seasoned with curry powder and ketchup, and often comes served with fries.