All of us have different pictures in our mind when we think of Germany’s capital. Some envision the stiff confines of a war-era compound, others, old churches and buildings. The truth is, Berlin has a certain ambiance and feel for history; if you’re visiting that great and controversial country of “Deutschland,” it should not be missed. For those of you who have German ancestry, this is *the* city to begin your journey to self-discovery. The place is of course famous for the Berlin Wall, so you may wish to start at the Berlin Wall Museum. Once you’ve learned some interesting tidbits about the Wall and Berlin in general, it’s time to explore the city and find some great things to see and do.
It may seem odd to find a Jewish museum in the middle of a country well known for the infamous Holocaust, but Berlin is full of such surprises. To learn about the experiences of the Jewish people who have lived in Germany for countless centuries, stop by the Jewish Museum. Everything from fascinating exhibits to ancient documents can be found here. If you have Jewish ancestry or are interested in the Holocaust, this is a great place to go. It is a fantastic museum for a “teaching tool” if you’re traveling with children.
You might want to visit Berlin’s Parliament Building, also known as Reichstag, just to experience the architectural achievement. The huge Renaissance structure, seemingly more fit to be an ancient palace, will be one of the most impressive sights you will see while you travel through Berlin. It is hard to comprehend the work that went into creating such rich detail. This will be one of the places you will most likely put your camera to good use! The glass elevators are particularly striking. If you travel extensively, you might notice the similarity in design of other palaces and government buildings throughout Europe.
For an older piece of history, visit Brandenburg Gate (also known as Brandenburger Tor) which was constructed in the 1700s. If you do your research you will learn that it is a definitive landmark in Berlin. This is another great photo stop; as I’ve said in previous travel articles, it doesn’t cost anything to look and capture special sights on film, so save some cash in Berlin and take advantage of these *free* experiences. Brandenburg Gate is especially important to Berlin’s history because of its association with Friedrich Wilhelm, and its classical Roman design adds elegance to the modern city.
For some shopping and dining, stop by Unter den Linden in East Berlin. This well-known street is like “Anytown U.S.A.” in many ways. Historical sites compete with shops and pedestrian traffic. Grab a bite to eat, enjoy Berlin’s architecture, and don’t be surprised to find little surprises hidden behind every nook and cranny. Unter den Linden’s historic past is evident in many places and it is one of the most noted streets in the city. From there, stop by the Pariser Platz, another largely visited part of the city, for some shopping experiences. Shopping isn’t really your thing? How about Victorian history?
If you’re a history buff, especially in the Victorian department, the Berliner Dom (the Cathedral) may be of interest to you. It doesn’t have such an old and venerable history as more famous European churches, but it is a beautiful sight to behold. Although the Cathedral was built between the 1890s and the first years of the 1900s, a similar type of cathedral has stood on this spot since the 15th century. If the baroque architecture and beautiful domes don’t draw you in, the interior certainly will. You can plan your visit any day of the week, as the Dom’s hours are extremely flexible. Don’t forget to see the almost 500-year-old Sauer’s Organ and striking stained glass windows.
One of the most important things to remember when visiting Berlin is to keep all your senses open. Don’t forget to see all the historical elegance, smell the fresh goods baking at the market, and hear the native tongue that will remind you that you’re “not in Kansas anymore.” The greatest piece of advice for aspiring travelers is this; don’t just visit as a tourist, see a few small sites, buy some cheap souvenirs and go home. Truly *look* at everything, use your senses, and let the city of Berlin imprint itself in your memory.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer