A Very Small Introduction To Berlin

by : Cathy Peterson

In the past century, Berlin has undergone more identity shifts than Bob Dylan. To many people, Berlin evokes unfortunate images of World War II or stereotyped images of lederhosen , but the reality is that Berlin is a city of the 21st century, brimming with vibrance. This short introductory guide aims to lay out a few must-see spots within walking distance of each other. Your trip will most likely start at the new Hautbahnhof (main train station), which sits near the German parliament building (Reichstag).

A good way to get over the jet lag is to go up to the glass cupola in the building, which provides a good “starter" view of the city. Be prepared to wait as the line is usually long. After the Reichstag, you can walk to the Brandenburger Tor and admire the statue on top of the gate. Adjacent to the gate is the Adlon Hotel, recently famous for Michael Jackson's baby-dangling escapades. The hotel serves glamorous clientele and is partly owned by Queen Elizabeth II.

On a pleasant day, it is a good idea to dine outdoors – Berlin is famous both for its sausages and for its döner kebabs, which were brought to Germany by Turkish immigrants. After a döner and some snapshots, the next thing to do is walk down Unter den Linden in the direction of the Fernsehturm (TV tower) and Alexanderplatz. At the Fernsehturm, you will have to wait in line again for a magnificent view of the city, 368 metres from the ground. Once at the top, however, you can also have the pleasure of dining at the city's highest restaurant, which revolves 360 degrees approximately every 30 minutes.

There are plenty of quality shops and cafes in the vicinity of Under den Linden, including the large Dussmann Kulturkaufhaus (a book, music, and media store). Unter den Linden intersects with Friedrichstraβe, which is near the historic Museuminsel (literally: Museum island – really more of a peninsula). No trip to Berlin is complete without a venture out there, especially to see the priceless antiques at the Pergamon. Free audio guides are available there in many languages, so even if you are not a classics expert, you will soon become one! Since Museuminsel is bounded by the river Spree , a pleasant way to spend the afternoon is on one of the many boat tours offered by various companies.

A popular spot is the art complex Tacheles, located on Oranienburger Strasse. It began as an anarchistic squat and now features bars, galleries, theatres, and a cinema within its walls. During the day it is free to enter and browse or purchase from the galleries of the many local artists who display here.