Guest post – A brief introduction to Berlin – Part 01

A while ago, I participated in Blogging 201 from WordPress.com. It is a great course designed to help you think about your blog and what you want to achieve with it – no matter how small your ambitions. It is also the perfect opportunity to meet other bloggers. Hundreds of people sign up for the course and a good number use the common ‘room’ to chat and ask for advice and feedback. This is how I first encountered Bright Pigments blog.

I feel in love with her photography almost instantly. So when the staff at Blogging 201 asked us to consider offering and hosting guest posts, it felt natural to turn to Bright Pigments. Her photos are playful and inquisitive but also artful and sensitive, and always beautiful. After a series of e-mails we settled for a tour of Berlin, a city she knows well and has often photographed.

I eagerly awaited the results, impatient to see the photos and learn more about the city itself. But I wasn’t expecting the depth of what Bright Pigments sent me. What follows is a guide to Berlin, the only guide you need for a long week-end. Bright Pigments has included all the information you need from what to see to where to buy food and find toilets. Accompanied by her beautiful shots, this guide will make you want to book a trip to Berlin.

As the whole guest post is long, I have broken it down in three parts. The last part includes extra information and a link to a Google map to help you get from spot to spot. The second post can be read here and the third here. Enjoy the first.

PS: Click on the photos to see them bigger.

When discussing about a guest post with Allysse Riordan one thing soon popped into my mind: Berlin. The city I feel most at home in so far – well, after London but whatever.

Berlin is amazing. Berlin is to me one of the coolest european cities, making it similarly possible to walk around with your hubby on a leash, a goldfish bowl on you head, a rainbow afro combined with flamboyant clothing or all three together – without anyone batting an eye. I am not even sure if anyone would notice that at all. Sometimes I feel like if the city is inhabited by a philosophers wild dreams – or by people who escaped out of a clinic for mental health issues… But anyways, Berlin is amazing – the people (as Germans in general) may seem somehow grumpy at some occasions and even I look really really pissed off on some days when walking around the city BUT talk to them for a second when you are lost or don’t know what to do – they’ll (mostly) get friendlier immediately. We tend to be a bit reserved at the start but it gets better as soon as we talk to someone.

Knowing Berlin a bit as I do (and without claiming to be the ultimate expert) I tried to make up a list of spots to visit in Berlin and Potsdam – so you get around a bit in less than 3 days and have time for some shopping as well – I included a little tour for you  and when in doubt stick to the google map attached 😉

Day 01

You going to start by going by public transport.
Keep in mind: The Berlin public transport can be confusing. If you are staying for two, three or five days, try to buy the ‘BerlinWelcomeCard’ which is valid for the chosen period after you bought it. During this time you may go wherever you want to by Bus, Suburban, Tram or Underground. No matter where, you get along. It is less expensive than day passes and includes reduced entrance fees for some mayor sights and museums.
When choosing the designated area keep in mind that Berlin is divided in three fare zones – you can buy AB which includes everything within the Berlin ring (city center), the mayor sights and some of the suburbs, BC, wish includes everything EXCEPT the Berlin Ring and I wouldn’t recommend this fare type for you and ABC which includes the whole of Berlin and Potsdam as well – as Potsdam is included in this tour as well it might be nice to get an ABC one – but never mind, you may buy the designated fare separately. When in Doubt stick to AB and buy an ‘Anschlussticket’ for the travel to Potsdam. You’ll get help at the Central Stations ‘Kundencenter’ (customer support).

First stop: Go by public transport to ‘Tiergarten’ (serviced by S7/75/5) or Hansaplatz (serviced by the U9) and walk towards the Siegessäule. The Siegessäule or ‘Goldelse’ is one of the most common sights in Berlin. You’ll be able to get there by walkways and pedestrian tunnels – try to capture the column while walking towards it on the staircase – it is one of the best possibilities for a great shot. I haven’t done it myself yet but I wanted to do that for ages 😉

The Quadriga

The Quadriga

After the Siegessäule you get back onto the sidewalk and head towards the Brandenburg gate. Walk down the ‘Straße des 17. Juni‘ and you’ll soon get to the Brandenburg Gate – there is a lot of information about the German separation, the 3rd Reich and many other parts of German history around that place. Take your time, walk through the gate to the ‘Pariser Platz’ and stop just before the gate to do a shot like the one on the right.
The Pariser Platz is heaven for tourists and pickpockets – keep an eye on your belongings because even if there is some police around criminals may take a chance. No open handbags, no unattended Rucksacks or similar things. Keep an eye on your belongings because due to the current security situation everyone is really really scared of unattended luggage and you don’t want to be the cause of a mayor police intervention because they think your luggage is some kind of bomb…
After you did all the shots you want to at the Pariser Platz and Brandenburg Gate, please head back towards the Siegessäule but turn right, directly after you passed through the gate and walk towards the Reichstag.

The Reichstags cupola

The Reichstags cupola

In case you want to visit the famous cupola, you’ll have to reserve some places. It is for free but the authorities want to know who attends… Reserve your ticket here, book at least three weeks ahead to get safe places, if you want to have a tour, book ahead even sooner, I’d recommend something around two months (which is the last date to choose on that page). When you booked but don’t get any kind of confirmation, print out the mail with the reserved time and go to the information at the entrance – they’ll look if you got your place (and which time they booked you) and will tell you when to be there for admission. Remember to bring along your passports or national ID cards. They’ll briefly scan your bags and a guide will take you to the Reichstag. The sight from up there is amazing. I think its even better than from the Fernsehturm.

You’ll get around one hour of time on the roof terrace, maybe a bit more but they don’t really check when you get off that place. Just leave when you feel like it but consider that you won’t be able to go up there again. Audioguides are available in a vast mass of languages. I think they have most common languages in the EU and some specialities like Chinese as well… The pictures to take inside the cupola are great, just have a look.

After you got down again, head towards the Kanzleramt, walk around there and then get back the way you came. Walk towards the gate again, then past it. Pass the American Embassy to see the Holocaust memorial.

The Holocaust Memorial during fall

The Holocaust Memorial during fall

The Holocaust Memorial during fall

The Holocaust Memorial during fall

Turn around for a nice and different view of the Brandenburg gate.
At the memorial there are some possibilities for quite candid shots – depending on the people walking around or the ones you brought along.

The Memorial was erected in 2003, inaugurated in 2005, 60 years after the end of the second world war.
Due to the fact that the German history, as every nation history, has some dark spots, and the third Reich was one of them, we try to keep this in mind, teaching and warning the younger generation – like mine – that something like that should never (NEVER!) happen again and is inexcusable.
Some say that the concrete blocks resemble tombstones, some say that they resemble the dead. I don’t know which interpretation is ‘right’ though I see them a tombstones. A huge sea of them, warning everyone walking by and showing the cruelty of those days…
There is an information center with relics and information (oh dear, really?) and reports of witnesses and so on. I have never been there because the information from school were already quite detailed
The Holocaust Memorial during fall and well… I know what they did, I read the papers and fight with more contemporary issues at the moment… But – you may have a look, I think it should be for free as well.
Now walk past the whole thing (to that side which is NOT near the American Embassy) and down the Französische Straße.

Shot of 'thinkers' at the Gendarmenmarket

Shot of ‘thinkers’ at the Gendarmenmarket

You’ll walk past the famous Friedrichstraße (it’s on later in another part of the tour) and reach the well-known Gendarmenmarkt.
There are many things to see at this place.
The fountain in the middle is wonderful, there are artists and people and when its crowded there are loads and loads of possibilities for candid and unique shots.
Ensure you take some time, sit down and enjoy yourself. If you brought along something to eat, you may feel like sitting down on one of the benches and enjoy your food – there is not that much around to get cheap things but if you are willing to pay a bit (or a huge bit more) the food might be actually good. But I have no idea where to go…
Get back to the street you came from, it is behind the shady benches beyond the trees (when in doubt use the map) and walk on. Just move in the same direction as before – no not coming to this place but leaving it.

Reflection in the ministries facade during construction works

Reflection in the ministries façade during construction works

ou will now walk past the Bundesaußenministerium (ministry of foreign affairs) which is only included due to its wonderful glass façade, it’s really nice to play with the reflection. I like it quite a lot and it might be nice for you as well.
When you walk on, just go straight ahead. Maybe walk right after you passed the second bridge to visit the Nikolaiviertel – a really beautiful place with many nice spots to eat something or just relax in the sun (when there is sun while you are there).

The red city hall

The red city hall

You’ll walk past the “Rotes Rathaus”, another famous spot in Berlin. It is the seat of Berlin current mayor and senate of the federal state of Berlin. The house was named after its red façade, and was in times of the cold war the seat of east Berlin government. Have a look, it is worth it.
As you might have already noticed: we reached the end of this part of the tour. You walked from the Siegessäule all the way to the Alexanderplatz which is literally halfway through the city. You might be exhausted now. You’d have every reason as you’ve already seen a lot of the city of Berlin.

And this is it for today.
Before going to the next part, head over Bright Pigments and check her blog out. You won’t regret it.

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4 thoughts on “Guest post – A brief introduction to Berlin – Part 01

  1. Pingback: Guest post – A brief introduction to Berlin – Part 01 | brightpigments photography

  2. Pingback: Guest post – A brief introduction to Berlin – Part 02 | Beste Glatisant

  3. Pingback: Guest post – A brief introduction to Berlin – Post 03 | Beste Glatisant

  4. Pingback: Guest Post: A Brief Intro To Berlin « Blog of Hammad Rais

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