Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, East Berlin become a historical and artistic hub. The following is a suggested day trip to explore the wall and sample the flavor of this city.
Begin the day with a quick breakfast of coffee and pastries at Coffee Fellows. Other reliable local chains include Balzac Coffee and Cafe Einstein.
At 10:00am, hop on board the City Circle Sightseeing Bus’ Purple Tour for a self-guided tour of the Berlin Wall. This tour stops at 12 destinations and runs for 1 hour and 40 minutes with buses coming every 20 minutes. Allow ample time to get off at stops to explore and take photographs.
In particular, pay a visit to the Berlin Wall Memorial that stretches for 1.4 kilometers along the border of former Bernauer Strass. Along the grounds, one sees the facades of some apartment buildings that later became the wall dividing the east and west. Some families jumped out of these apartments trying to escape, and an outdoor memorial pays tribute to these souls. Also, a Chapel of Reconciliation on the memorial grounds offers a quiet place for prayer and reflection for those who are so inclined. An indoor museum features a historical exhibit and an observation deck where one can can an aerial view of this memorial.
Also, be sure to stop at the East Side Gallery. This portion of the wall features the works of over a hundred artists. Other stops along the wall worth visiting include Checkpoint Charlie, the green Mauerpark, the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, and a former Stasi remand prison. Be sure to keep an eye out for the double row of cobblestones along some of Berlin’s streets that mark the route of the Berlin Wall.
At the Checkpoint Charlie stop, one can also stop for lunch at Vapianos at Potsdamer Platz. This euro-chic chain of casual dining restaurants offers Italian fare served cafeteria style.
After finishing the tour of the Berlin Wall, stroll along the art galleries and cafes dotted throughout the 8 quarters of the Scheunenviertel. After the wall came down, this region emerged as a centralized hub where East Berlin’s creative class gathered. Pay a visit to the Museum of Otto Weidt’s workshop. Here Weidt employed deaf and blind Jews during World War II. Also, be sure to check out the nonprofit Haus Schwarzenberg, This courtyard filled with street art that gives on a glimpse of what this area was like in 1989.
Time permitting, take a stroll along Berlin’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island), a unique ensemble of five museums – the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Pergamon Museum, the Bode Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie. These five museums are listed on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, and their collections span over six thousand years of artistic accomplishments. If one can stay for two days in Berlin, consider spending the second day taking in these five museums.
Next, pay a visit to the Topography of Terror, an outdoor and indoor history museum located on the site of the former headquarters for the SS and Gestapo from 1933 to 1945. A documentation center chronicles the Nazi party’s history and their atrocities. This museum remains open until 8pm though visitors should aim to get there by 7pm in order to see the entire collection.
Conclude one’s day sightseeing with a visit to the Brandenburg Gate. This 26-meter-high sandstone sculpture built in 1791 was used by guards and toll-collectors during the period when this city was divided.
Then take a short walk to the Einstein Unter den Linden. This Viennese styled café is open until 10pm and offers a good selection of Austrian specialties with the menu in German and English. Be sure to try the Viennese apfelstrudel.
Those on a budget should consider getting the Berlin Welcome Card. This card provides free public transport and discounts of up to 50 percent at over 200 cultural and tourist attractions. The card which is available for two, three, four, five, or six days starts at €19.50.
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