FOUR DAYS IN BERLIN
Every time mom comes to town we plan to take a journey to a new European city. The first on our list was Berlin, Germany. We spent four days in Berlin doing a lot of walking, sightseeing, eating, and of course, had an occasional German beer. We walked 32 miles and visited the Reichstag Building, Brandenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Museum Island, Berlin Cathedral, Potsdamer Platz, Topography of Terror, Checkpoint Charlie, Rausch Schokoladenhaus, Gendarmenmarkt, and the Mall of Berlin. The international food scene in Rome is unfortunately very limited, so while we were in Berlin we had sushi, dim sum, Thai, and kebabs when we weren’t eating German food. Check out the map HERE to see where we visited, ate, and stayed.
Because we flew in from another European country it was cheaper to fly into Berlin Schönefeld Airport. Getting to the city center was easy from the airport. There’s a metro station outside the terminal that takes you directly to various stops in the city with the S9 train. We stayed at Hotel Allegra and got off at the Friedrichstraße station, about a five-minute walk. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly hotel in a great location (under €250 for three nights) I would highly recommend Hotel Allegra. It was extremely clean and very comfortable. We taxied to two restaurants because we were too tired to walk after long days of sightseeing, but everything else was within a 30-minute walk.
Most people know my travels are centered around food, so our first stop was to fill our stomachs with German food. We had lunch at Gaffel Haus and had two traditional dishes: pork sausage with fried potatoes and sauerkraut, pork chops with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, and German beer.
After lunch, we walked to the Reichstag Building. Admission and audio guides at the Reichstag Building are free, but reserving a time to enter is required. We waited in line for about 30 minutes and because the day reservations were full, we made reservations for 08:30 pm. The Reichstag is a great way to see the city of Berlin, but I recommend making reservations while it’s still light out because it was hard to decipher exactly what we were looking at in the dark. The audio guide was very informative about the history of Berlin, its buildings, and different neighborhoods, so be sure to stop at the counter to pick one up. You can also do a guided tour of the area where Parliament sits, but these tours are only available when they are not sitting.
Pro tip: Reservations for the Reichstag can be made online if they’re made at least a week in advance.
A couple of blocks away from the Reichstag is Brandenburg Gate. Built between 1788 and 1791, Brandenburg Gate is one of the most well-known landmarks of Germany, is often a site for major historical events, and is seen as a symbol of European unity and peace.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Museum, is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs “designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.” The fault of the memorial is that without knowing the name of it, you’d never know the significance of it. Even knowing the name, it’s still very vague. We used Google and Wikipedia to learn more about it while we were standing there wondering what the slabs represented. Because there is no signage to find the entrance to the actual museum under the concrete slabs, you may leave not understanding or learning more about the Holocaust. Walk around the concrete slabs and you’ll eventually find a staircase leading down to the museum. The museum is free (audio guide rental is €3/person) and does not take reservations. We showed up late afternoon on a Friday and waited 20 minutes. The museum includes the timeline of WWII, how Jews were impacted across Europe, many personal stories through letters and pictures, and at the end of the
Craving international food, we headed to Sisaket for Thai food. Every week Sisaket has food flown in from Thailand and the restaurant employs Thai chefs, so you can trust that the dishes are fresh and traditional. We enjoyed tea with lime, lemongrass, ginger, and mint, traditional Thai tea, pineapple fried rice, pad thai, and yellow curry.
Saturday we walked to Museum Island which holds the Berlin Cathedral and many museums like Pergamonmuseum, Alte National Gallery, and Neues Museum. Every Saturday and Sunday there is an art show where you can find handmade jewelry, pottery, handbags, and art. We didn’t visit the museums of Museum Island and only visited the Berlin Cathedral. For €7 you’re able to walk to the top (Berliner Dome) for a 360° view of Berlin. Before climbing up to the dome, make sure to stop in the cathedral for a short 15-minute mass. The organ in the cathedral has almost 7,300 pipes and the organ itself is worth the visit.
We stopped at Ishin for lunch and enjoyed salmon nigiri, unagi (eel) donburi,
We finished the day off spending a few hours walking around the city. No matter where we travel, walking is my favorite mode of transportation because I feel it’s truly the best way to get a feel for a city. An hour walk to your next attraction can introduce you to neighborhoods, shops, and restaurants you would have otherwise never visited. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped to grab doner kebab. Doner kebabs are Turkish, are made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, and typically have various types of sauces, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and cabbage. My new life goal is to eat doner kebab as many times as I can for the rest of my life.
On Sunday we visited Potsdamer Platz and the Topography of Terror. Potsdamer Platz “was totally destroyed during World War II and then left desolate during the Cold War era when the Berlin Wall bisected its former location. Since German reunification, Potsdamer Platz has been the site of major redevelopment projects.” The Sony Center is located in Potsdamer Platz and hosts the International Berlin Film Festival every year. It’s also where the Mercedes-Benz headquarters is located. In Potsdamer Platz, there are remains of the Berlin Wall with signs about the history of the Berlin Wall.
A short walk from Potsdamer Platz is the Topography of Terror. At the site, there are remains of the Berlin Wall at its original location with the damage done to it when Berlin was reunified and people took to it with hammers and picks to bring it down. The museum and audio guides are free and take about an hour to get through. The museum is located at the original site of the SS headquarters and showcases how the Nazi regime used terror to control power.
We stopped at Maximilian’s to try Berlin’s famous currywurst. Currywurst consists of pork sausage topped with a mixture of ketchup and curry powder. The invention of currywurst is attributed to Herta Heuwer when she was given ketchup and curry powder from a British soldier. What started out as cheap street food later became loved by the people of Berlin and is not a traditional Berlin meal.
Because I love food, I’m always looking for food souvenirs. Thanks to a quick Google search, we headed to Rausch Schokoladenhaus, a gourmet chocolate shop featuring the world’s longest praline counter with over 200 pralines and truffles. Their flavors ranged from liqueurs and wines to nuts and fruits. The shop is three stories with the praline counter on the first floor, more gourmet chocolates on the second floor, and a cafe on the third floor. Even if you don’t plan to purchase chocolates, I recommend stopping by Rausch to take a look inside and have dessert and coffee in their cafe. My mom and I shared a mini mango torte along with hot chocolate made with 60% dark chocolate and an iced coffee with ice cream. If you don’t mind waiting, you can request a seat near the window with a perfect view overlooking Gendarmenmarkt.
Craving more Asian cuisines, we had our last dinner in Berlin at Dan’s Dim Sum. There we shared soup dumplings (xiao long bao), shumai, fried pork dumplings (
We spent our last day in Berlin checking out the Mall of Berlin and indulging in another doner kebab. The Mall of Berlin is a three-story, two building mall with 300 stores. It has a few North American stores and tons of European stores ranging from makeup, shoes, clothes, arts
They say that Berlin is not Germany and Germany is not Berlin. Although Berlin may not be a great representation of Germany, I’m excited to explore the rest of Germany over the next three years. Berlin had efficient transportation, was incredibly clean and modern, and their food was international, but the more I travel the more I realize no place is like Rome. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to travel, but I’m even more thankful to call Rome home. These last two weeks have been so special having my mom in town and I’m forever grateful that we’re able to celebrate our relationship with a mother-daughter trip every year.
Until our next journey,