As massive history geeks Berlin was definitely top of our must see list. Dougie booked a weekend away for us for my Birthday and I was so excited. We had both watched lots of documentaries about the WW2 and the Cold War so we had worked out all the places we wanted to see and planned out an itinerary.
Berlin gets nicknamed the Grey City but it was anything but Grey, even if we were there in a cold and cloudy February. 70 years ago Berlin was the capital of the a regime that prosecuted and murdered millions but now it is a bustling vibrant city that is so full of colour and life.
How we got there
We stay on the east of Scotland and had to travel to Glasgow to get the plane. This was my first time flying with easy jet and I thought it was a really good experience. We boarded quickly, the cabin crew were really friendly and helpful and the flight was smooth and fairly comfortable considering it is a budget airline.
We were told before we went to buy a Berlin Welcome card, which you can buy online or pick up in the airport when you arrive. This gives you free public transport for the duration of your stay, as well as discount on the top attractions. It’s very useful if your on a budget as it means you don’t have to pay out extra for airport transfers. When we arrived we had a short walk to the train station, which is all easily signposted, then hopped on the train to the Central Station.
Where we stayed
We had picked a hotel that was quite literally a stones throw away from the main train station. The Meininger Hotel also doubles up as a hostel and had a very lively atmosphere. We are used to more relaxed accommodation but this was a nice change as it all seemed very social and was full of young people sitting around in the colourful lobby just chatting! Our room was a bit on the small side but was just a base so we weren’t to bothered. The bed was comfortable and there was a large mirror to get ready, so I was happy. The location is great aswell, we could easily hop on the SBahn and Ubahn from the central station and it was in walking distance to the Tiergarten and the Reichstag building.
What we did
- Ice Hockey – As massive hockey fans we had to check out the Eisbaren Berlin. It is by far the best hockey atmosphere I have ever seen. Their rink, the Mercedes Benz arena, has a capacity of just over 14,000 and it’s beautiful. It’s so modern, clean and the seats are really comfortable. From the minute we arrived we felt welcome, even wearing our teams top (we got the complete opposite whilst in Warsaw). We even had someone come up to us and ask us where we were visiting from and all about our local team. The players entrance was something we don’t really see here in the uk. They use lights, fire and projections to put on a really amazing show! My favourite part of the night, apart from the game of course, was listening to the fans in the Fankurve. This is an all standing zone where fans fly flags, wave their scarfs and sing songs. They had a really big rivalry going on with the away team last fans and it was such an awesome atmosphere. After the game home and away fans mingle in the makeshift bar that happened to be under a bridge in the middle of the city. So if your a hockey fan definitely check this out.
- Visited War Cemetery – I knew I had family from my village that had been killed in the World War One and was buried in Berlin, so I wanted to make sure we visited. We travelled by train to a little village called Stahnsdorf, which was literally the middle of nowhere. The civilian cemetery looked just like a forest, we had been walking around 20 minutes and I was sure we were in the wrong place. Then eventually the Forrest cleared and there was just rows and rows of white headstones. We looked around and sure enough there it was. Arch Garland. I never really thought I would be emotional but standing in a foreign country in the middle of nowhere you wondered what they must have went through to get from a tiny village in Scotland to here, so far from home and so young. We left some little remembrance plaques and a Scottish thistle and spent some time just taking in the still and peacefulness. I was the first person to visit his grave in over 100 years and I really hope to go back maybe with some of my family.
Top 3 Attractions
- The DDR Museum – This museum explains all about life in Eastern Germany. You can explore the apartments of the tower block and try on what the East German ladies wore, take home some of their finest recipes and even watch their tv. The place is full of amazing things to do. Listen to secret Stasi phone calls, try out the interrogation room and take a seat in a Trabant ( The East German Car). It’s so interactive. It’s the only museum I’ve been to that you are encouraged to open drawers, look in cupboards and genuinely just snoop around! Definitely on my must see list!
- Berlin Unterwelten Tour – After watching the Hunting Hitler documentary we really wanted to do one of these tours to see some of the many thousands of underground tunnels under Berlin. We done the Dark Worlds tour that taught us all about the life as a German Citizen during WW2. We were taken into a normal looking train station that had one single green door. Behind it was a labyrinth of tunnels where thousands of people took shelter during bombing raids. The tour was really good. The guides were really informative and the group number wasn’t to big so we managed to see everything and didn’t feel rushed. One of the best things we saw was the white glow in the dark paint that they used for people to see during power cuts and 70 years on it still worked!
- Checkpoint Charlie and Museum – I didn’t really know much about the Berlin Wall until I got to here and I found it fascinating how the city has became so different in such a short space of time. Standing at checkpoint Charlie you would not think that it was once the most important border crossing between East and West Germany. The museum tells of many daring escapes in tunnels, on zip wires and even how two families managed to get over the wall in a hot air balloon. There is parts of the wall that have been painted by many artist and you can also buy your own little piece of the Berlin Wall. It’s got a lot to take in and is a lot of reading, I would have like to spend a little more time there but it was closing (We were the last ones on there and I thought we’d been locked in). So I really hope to go back to Berlin and visit again.
There was so much other stuff that we got up to and loads more I’d love to go back and check out. I’d definitely recommend everyone to take a visit to Berlin but especially if you are interested in WW2 or the Cold War. If anyone has any questions about going there just drop me a message and I will try and answer you.