Berlin, a beautiful mess: You would love to lose yourself here

Rooted in the mirage of modern history and a refreshing burst of street art and culture, Berlin is perhaps one of the most captivating and under-appreciated cities of Europe.
By Prerna Madan | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2016 04:30 PM IST

“Paris is always Paris but Berlin is never Berlin!”

When former French cultural minister Jack Lang made this remark in early 21st century, he wouldn’t have thought it would hold true today. This quote pretty much sums up the ever-transient concoction that is this city.

Rooted in the mirage of modern history and a refreshing burst of street art and culture, the German capital is perhaps one of the most captivating and under-appreciated cities of Europe.

Finding an economical place to stay in Berlin is not too hard – the best option being Wombats Hostel -- can range between 11-30 Euros, the most expensive being a private room.

The wall-sized window in the room opens to a perfect view of the stellar TV tower and checks in just fine in cleanliness quotient and comfort level. You can also cash in your ‘Free Drink’ coupon in Wombat’s seventh floor roof-top bar where most of your stranger roomies might end up anyway.

The city’s public transportation network is vast and reeks of the German efficiency often cited. Travel in its diverse train network – S Bahn and U Bahn -- which are like ivy creeping along a wall, covering every nook and corner of the city. An attempt to memorise train routes will only be futile, so carrying a map is a must.

Experience Berlin with aimless train rides at night, to witness this metropolitan chaos in its entirety. One day tickets cost just over 6-7 Euros and are applicable to its tram and bus network as well, but remember, these are only valid till 3 am from the day of the purchase, so choose wisely.

Berlin was razed to rubble in the Second World War, yet it stands today, a testimony to its tumultuous history and a Pandora’s Box of elements new and old, ever reinventing its identity and always on the move.

Endless museums on World War 2, Nazism, Holocaust and the subsequent East-West divide will drive any geek crazy.

Then there are still-standing concrete structures like the former Luftwaffe (Nazi Germany’s air force) headquarters, also controlled by the Soviet Union once and currently an income tax office – along with the classical architecture of churches, the grandiose Humboldt University, a pantheon commemorating victims of the Holocaust and of course, the iconic Parliament Reichstag – the sheer variety a proof of Berlin’s complexity.

It’s mind-boggling to stand in a random parking lot a few blocks from the iconic Brandenburg Gate, only to be told by your ‘Free Tour’ guide that this was where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s bunker once existed. The {P} parking symbol nearby was even more baffling -- it was where the “Fuhrer” and his wife Eva Braun’s corpses were burnt.

Almost every concentration camp built by the Nazi regime used to have a sign saying “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work makes you free”), a cruel irony of the Adolf Hitler-led anti-semitic government. (Picture courtesy: Mad Art Photography)
Almost every concentration camp built by the Nazi regime used to have a sign saying “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work makes you free”), a cruel irony of the Adolf Hitler-led anti-semitic government. (Picture courtesy: Mad Art Photography)

Think again if you believe you’ve reached the pinnacle. You haven’t even ventured to the East Side gallery and heard seemingly impossible -- but genius -- stories of attempted escapes during the German divide.

Top off your tour with a visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, an hour away from Berlin via train to the Oranienburg station. The setting may be overwhelming and eerie, and the weather tinted with grey, but the bitter taste is part and parcel of the city and an essential reminder of history.

Street art is also a significant movement in Berlin’s cultural extravaganza. The city’s walls and metro trains are enveloped with symbols and graffiti, even around the Olympic Stadium. Look around and chuckle at the “If you want tickets, contact ***” sign on the ground! Here’s hoping it was actually painted during the 1936 Summer Olympics (in all honestly, it was probably during the World Cup only!).

Berlin is also a foodie’s delight, including – wait for it – a vegetarian’s. Try one of the various food joints around the East Side gallery – especially the Lebanese falafel and noodle box that make up a sumptuous meal complete with a dish and a drink in just over five Euros per person.

A week, ten days, a year, or even a lifetime may be insufficient to fully grasp this city. It is in a continual state of metamorphosis, always evolving, spurting out the unexpected every time you think you’ve figured it out. Truly, Berlin is... never just Berlin.

If Berlin was the embodiment of modern history, how about hopping over to ancient Roman era?

Continue the series here:

From Vienna to Rome: Here’s how you backpack across Europe on a budget
Swoop in: Prague, the land of Czech beer and medieval bridges
Backpacking in Italy? When in Rome, don’t do as the Romans do

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
US to accept new visa applications by those denied due to Trump 'Muslim ban'(Twitter/USAinKSA)
US to accept new visa applications by those denied due to Trump 'Muslim ban'(Twitter/USAinKSA)

US to accept new visa applications by those denied due to Trump 'Muslim ban'

Reuters
UPDATED ON MAR 09, 2021 07:54 AM IST
In a bid to overturn Trump's so-called Muslim ban, Joe Biden's government said applicants who were refused visas prior to Jan 20, 2020, must submit new applications and fees while those who were denied on or after Jan. 20, 2020, may seek reconsideration
Close
As the US vaccination rollout has sped up, so, too, have requests for vaxications.(Unsplash)
As the US vaccination rollout has sped up, so, too, have requests for vaxications.(Unsplash)

Celebratory ‘vaxications’ are giving the travel industry a boost

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 05:27 PM IST
Pent-up demand and a surplus of spending money have itchy travelers eager to check off their bucket lists.
Close
Here's how artificial intelligence and IoT can improve travel experience(Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash)
Here's how artificial intelligence and IoT can improve travel experience(Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash)

Here's how artificial intelligence and IoT can improve travel experience

ANI
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 05:05 PM IST
Artificial intelligence and IoT to give more personalised ticket booking experience and help users find the best deals and recommendations to fulfill their travel plans with ease.
Close
Vaccine Passport: Thailand backs digital travel pass before easing quarantine(Photos by Gareth Harrison and Sumit Chinchane on Unsplash)
Vaccine Passport: Thailand backs digital travel pass before easing quarantine(Photos by Gareth Harrison and Sumit Chinchane on Unsplash)

Vaccine Passport: Thailand backs digital travel pass before easing quarantine

Bloomberg
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 04:55 PM IST
Ahead of wider reopening plans and easing of quarantine for vaccinated tourists, Thailand backs the proposal to issue vaccine passports to boost tourism amid Covid-19
Close
A sweet and serene slice of farm life
A sweet and serene slice of farm life

A sweet and serene slice of farm life

By Swati Chaturvedi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 04:37 PM IST
With agritourism on rise, farm stays, are blossoming with urban dwellers flocking these tranquil places to get a taste of the simple and sweet farm life.
Close
The market for all types of Covid-19 travel coverage is estimated to be between $30 billion to $40 billion a year, according to travel insurance consultant Robyn Ingle.(Unsplash)
The market for all types of Covid-19 travel coverage is estimated to be between $30 billion to $40 billion a year, according to travel insurance consultant Robyn Ingle.(Unsplash)

Covid-19 travel insurance becoming a vacation staple

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 11:50 AM IST
Covid-19 insurance policies are increasingly joining passports and sunscreen as vacation staples, creating opportunities for insurers as more countries require mandatory coverage in case visitors fall ill from the coronavirus.
Close
Representational Image(Unsplash)
Representational Image(Unsplash)

Travelers must rely on instinct over algorithms for online hotel booking: Study

ANI, Washington Dc
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 07:21 PM IST
Researchers during a recent study found that travelers looking to book a hotel should believe their gut instinct instead of relying on computer algorithms to find fake reviews.
Close
The main aim of organizing this festival was to promote Doodhpathri as an attractive tourist resort just like Gulmarg and Pahalgam. Doodhpathri is a green, open meadow and beautiful valley about 42 kilometres from Srinagar. (Representational Image) (Unsplash)
The main aim of organizing this festival was to promote Doodhpathri as an attractive tourist resort just like Gulmarg and Pahalgam. Doodhpathri is a green, open meadow and beautiful valley about 42 kilometres from Srinagar. (Representational Image) (Unsplash)

Three-day festival held in J-K's Doodhpathri to promote tourism

ANI, Budgam (jammu And Kashmir) [india]
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 06:17 PM IST
The Tourism department of Jammu and Kashmir kicked off a three-day tourism festival at Doodhpathri tourist resort in Budgam district on Saturday.
Close
Taj Mahal(Unsplash)
Taj Mahal(Unsplash)

Women's Day: Free entry for women visitors to all centrally protected monuments

PTI, India
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 04:25 PM IST
Women visitors, both foreign and Indian, will be allowed free entry to all centrally protected monuments on March 8 to mark International Women's Day, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said in an order on Saturday.
Close
The state relaxed guidelines for reopening outdoor venues. Covid-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths have plunged, and vaccination rates are rising.(Unsplash)
The state relaxed guidelines for reopening outdoor venues. Covid-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths have plunged, and vaccination rates are rising.(Unsplash)

California OKs reopening ball parks and Disneyland

AP, Sacramento, California
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 11:56 AM IST
California has cleared a path for fans to hit the stands at opening day baseball games and return to Disneyland nearly a year after coronavirus restrictions shuttered major entertainment spots.
Close
The quarantine relaxation, discussed at a meeting chaired by Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn on Saturday, will initially be considered for top five tourist destinations such as Phuket and Krabi, the Post reported.(Pixabay)
The quarantine relaxation, discussed at a meeting chaired by Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn on Saturday, will initially be considered for top five tourist destinations such as Phuket and Krabi, the Post reported.(Pixabay)

Thailand plans to ease quarantine rules for tourists, Bangkok post says

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 10:50 AM IST
Thailand plans to relax quarantine rules for foreign visitors from next month as part of a series of steps being considered to revive the nation’s tourism sector, the Bangkok Post reported.
Close
The move is designed to close a loophole which allowed travellers from Britain and Brazil to reach Portugal by stopping over in a country from which travel was authorised.(Unsplash)
The move is designed to close a loophole which allowed travellers from Britain and Brazil to reach Portugal by stopping over in a country from which travel was authorised.(Unsplash)

Portugal to quarantine passengers on indirect flights from UK, Brazil

Reuters, Lisbon
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 10:26 AM IST
Passengers flying indirectly to Portugal from Britain or Brazil must present a negative Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before departure and quarantine for two weeks upon arrival from Sunday onward.
Close
Night and day in South America: Buenos Aires welcomes nightlife, new lockdowns in Brazil(Unsplashed)
Night and day in South America: Buenos Aires welcomes nightlife, new lockdowns in Brazil(Unsplashed)

Argentina reopens theater, welcomes nightlife as Brazil starts new lockdown

Reuters, Buenos Aires
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:03 AM IST
The two neighbouring countries in South America, Brazil and Argentina, are taking very different steps at the moment. While Buenos Aires is embracing the nightlife again, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have announced tighter restrictions.
Close
Maharashtra travellers to carry negative Covid-19 report in Madhya Pradesh(Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash)
Maharashtra travellers to carry negative Covid-19 report in Madhya Pradesh(Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash)

Maharashtra travellers to carry negative Covid-19 report in Madhya Pradesh

PTI
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 05:52 PM IST
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan makes it mandatory for travellers coming from Maharashtra to carry a negative coronavirus report as Covid-19 cases spike in Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Betul, Chhindwara, Ujjain and the state's districts bordering Maharashtra
Close
Under current lockdown rules, holidays are banned and only those travelling for specific work or family reasons are allowed to go abroad.(Reuters)
Under current lockdown rules, holidays are banned and only those travelling for specific work or family reasons are allowed to go abroad.(Reuters)

Britain brings in new paperwork for lockdown travellers

Reuters, London
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 12:07 PM IST
Britain said on Friday it would require people travelling abroad from March 8 to carry a new form setting out why their trip was permitted under strict lockdown restrictions.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP