had been thinking about going to Berlin for a few years and with the twentieth
anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down later this year decided we must make
We had seen a comment in Simon Calder's travel page in The Independent on Saturday
about flying there and decided to fly to Tegel that is the closer of the two
to the city centre. This meant flying with British Airways and using the new Terminal
5 at London Heathrow.
flight was due to go out 8.45 on a Thursday morning in mid February. Fortunately
the heavy snow that covered a fair part of the south east of England had now gone,
however snow was forecast for Berlin.
checked in online and were dropped off at terminal 5; we immediately joined a
fairly long queue for BA's "Fast Bag drop off". This modern airport appears to
have a very slow system whereby you queue for a long time as we did, you are looking
out then for the next available check in person who does not process modern technology
like they do in banks and many department stores - a system of a number appearing
so you go to that check in desk. No, instead there is a helper who comes and goes
and either the check in person waves to that BA employee or to the next person
looking for a free check in assistant.
Once you have cleared
this you must hurry to security and again join another long queue. If you get
delayed here you are warned you could miss your flight! Eventually we got through
security and were able to explore the wonders of Terminal 5. A fine modern warehouse
style glass and metal construction full of shops and restaurants. Does an airport
really need such a shopping centre like this, there seems to be a lot of wasted
space. It seems like BAA and BA are concentrating too much in leasing out spacious
retails zones, whereas had the check in and security areas been larger and a lot
more efficient then the terminal would be more efficient.
a contrast when you arrive at Berlin's Tegel airport. The airport is in
the western part of the city and as we got off the plane we were going through
passport control within a couple of minutes and collecting our baggage five minutes
This airport is a
hexagonal terminal building around an open square and this for walking distances
as short as 30 metres from the aircraft to the terminal exit. Inside there are
numerous shops and restaurants, they difference to Heathrow's terminals is that
they are open to people flying out or anyway waiting to collect visitors.
are small duty free (or cheaper shops for alcohol, cigarettes and perfumes when
you go through the various gates, but it looks like there are individual security
and passport controls for the individual gates and so as you have got through
these you are in small lounge with the small "Duty free" shop and a snack bar
and just a few metres from the aircraft door.
Tegel is destined to close in 2012 when the enlarged Berlin-Schönefeld Airport
is due to re-open as Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport in 2011.
I hope that their design is modeled on Tegel opposed to the Heathrow style terminal
we touched down although there was some snow in the surrounding area there was
none at the airport and we took a taxi to our hotel, It was very cold not even
1 degree, but dry. The Hotel Augusta is situated in Charlottenburg area
in the west of the city, near to Zoo. It is a very pleasant small hotel offering
bed and breakfast and as it located in a couple of older buildings, it has very
spacious rooms with high ceilings that have been very tastefully modernized.
had our slightly out of date Rough Guide and in late January. The Independent
had run a brief article by their travel writer Simon Calder on his experiences
visiting Berlin in January 1999 a few months before the wall came down in November,
looking back on that visit plus one of their brief guides "48 hours in Berlin".
Armed with this information we set out and decided the best way to get an overview
of the city on a cold Thursday afternoon was to take a guided tour on the Berlonina
sightseeing double decker bus. There are few companies operating these tours and
you can normally pay for the complete circular tour and hop off one bus at a given
point and then hop on another.
We got off the bus at the Daimler Chrysler building in Potsdamer Platz
and paid to take the express lift to the rooftop viewing gallery. Great views
of the city from this point. Back onto the bus again past the only remaining section
of the Berlin Wall, through Checkpoint Charlie
and up past the Brandenburg Gateoo
and the Reichstag (Parliament building).
got off the bus where we had got on originally and walked down the Kurfürstendamm
shopping street to the KaDeWe department store. This
magnificent 100 year old establishment was very warm and inviting as early evening
approached. Visiting the top floor restaurant and bar complex with views over
Berlin was fantastic; however going down a floor to the food floor was unbelievable.
There are numerous small food bars serving food and drink in amongst the vast
selection of produce you can buy. This is a place to visit and stay a long time
in if it was a wet day in Berlin
the road from the Hotel Augusta is a great place to relax and enjoy the
atmosphere. Reinhards bar and restaurant. Here you will find all the staff
smartly dressed in long white aprons and outside as was typical of several bars
and cafes, the normal tables and chairs, with a folded blanket on each chair.
The next morning following
a buffet breakfast we set off to find an English speaking tour of Berlin. The
contact and guide were outside the Zoo Station at 9.45. No one else had turned
up that morning at the western meeting point for Original Berlin Walks.
Our guide who was half German and fluent in English took us on the train to the
east meeting point at the Hackescher Markt. Fortunately there was another couple
there, so the tour went ahead. This is a four hour walking tour costing €12 per
person and worth every cent of it. The same company also runs a selection of other
tours, some of which take place in Greater Berlin.
is a great way to see the sites, have history explained and ask questions. We
saw the remains of the wall in the centre close up and where the wall once was
there are now two rows of cobbles.
walked through the Brandenburg Gate and past the Reichstag and onto the Memorial
to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial) sculpture and the location
of Hitler's bunker. By the end of the tour we had seen all the famous landmarks,
many of course we had seen from the bus the previous day including the famous
east Berlin Television Tower that constructed under communist rule and
had to be shorter than its counterpart in Moscow. It has a rotating restaurant
and we were told has some exceptional views, but you don't want to go up there
if it is too cloudy.
guide told the same story as in the "What to see" section of 48 hours in Berlin
from The Independent. When the tower was constructed, crosses off churches were
removed by the East German Government. Whenever the sun shines on the globe of
the tower, a perfect cross appears and this is known as the "Pope's Revenge".
We stopped for a snack
in another of those delightful Berlin cafes complete with blankets on the outside
chairs and carried on walking and attempted to get back to our hotel for a station
near Checkpoint Charlie.
A very helpful Berliner saw us studying our map actually when back down onto the
tube station, travelled out of his way to put us back on the correct line. It
is very important to pick up a DB BAHN map for the S+U-Bahn-Netz from
any station opposed to relying on the small scale version reproduced in many tourist
publications. The underground system is very efficient and there are only trams
in the East Berlin.
Saturday was Valentines
Day. Although there were a lot of flower sellers about and shops were full of
Valentines gifts, it appeared that restaurants did not have special dinners at
inflated prices that you would normally find in the UK and Ireland.
We started off with breakfast at Reinhards. Most people were having long
breakfasts and they offered a choice of German, English, Australian and New York
American. Those having breakfast were drinking a glass of champagne say we did
breakfast set us up well for the cold day ahead and like the day before was also
bright and sunny. We walked down the Kurfürstendamm to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche
and then took the underground to visit the DDR Museum. Both our walking
guide and the Independent feature suggested going there. It must be fairly new
as it was not in the 1998 edition of the Rough Guide which proves, you do need
to buy up to date guides when you go travelling.
The DDR Museum is quite small and portrays life in the former Democratic
German Republic (GDR). You are encourage touching the exhibits, listening to the
music and see the TV of the era and the largest exhibits are a typical apartment
layout from a concrete slab housing estate and an original Trabi that you have
to try and start.
We then moved onto the Berliner Dom, the catherdral and headed up towards
the Reichstag. We had to queue for three quartes of an hour and it was cold. However
oncwe you have got past the security, you are whisked up by lift to the roof abnd
can walk around the glass dome desidneg by Sir Norman Foster.
are spectacular viws of the city from up there and of course as it is the Parliament
and all citizens (and visitors) are welcome to see their Parliament working, trhere
are no admission charges.
evening ended with a nightcap at Reinhards and we caught the bus into Tegel airport
in the morning. The journey takes about 30 minutes and like all the public transport
we experienced was very inexpensive. Apparently most Berliners depend on it and
approximately only a third actually own cars.
Overall the city has
a lot of unemployment and unlike Munich, Brussels, London, Rome and other similar
cities there are not lots of very expensive cars about. It did not seem too expensive
staying in Berlin and eating and drinking. There are of course luxury style hotels
and restaurants and there certainly appears to be an excellent selection about.
is a city that is very cold in winter and very hot in summer. The best time to
visit is around April or late September. Enjoy your stay in Berlin, we did.
your visit to Berlin, Germany
photos ©jml Property Services February 2009
jml Property Services February 2008
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