BerlinIt was high time for a new adventure, but funds were somewhat limited, so when an email from Ryanair pinged its way into my email inbox announcing £9.99 flight deals within minutes I had booked myself flights to Berlin for a couple of days… why Berlin you may wonder?

Well I had never been to Germany and it seemed as good a place as any to explore!

I booked myself a couple of nights in a cheap hotel- yes I could have gone even cheaper by using a hostel but to be honest I am at the stage in my life when I just want my own room rather that fight for a bunk bed in a room full of strangers, some of whom are almost certainly bound to snore.

There was a slight hitch the week before I went- I received an email stating that my hotel could no longer accommodate me as it would be closed, and so they had booked me alternative accommodation at the airport… trouble is it was not the airport I was flying into! I emailed back to say that this was not acceptable and luckily they booked me into the Mercure which seemed to be a bit of an upgrade, but hey, who’s complaining!!

Travelling to the airport for my Dublin trip I remember feeling very nervous, but this time it seemed much easier, even with the language barrier (I do not Deutsch sprechen) … just goes to show that once you jump in and do something out of your comfort zone doing it again becomes easier and easier.

After an early start and a short flight I landed in Schonefeld Airport, feeling my excitement rise as we descended over motorways marked with unfamiliar road signs- I always find it so exciting to be in a different country!

There is a regular train service connecting the airport to the city and I had been a little nervous about purchasing a ticket but all the machines have an English option. I had read that tickets must be validated and had a moment of panic as I had no idea what this meant, but spotted a small red post with a flashing green light on it standing on the platform- I hopefully shoved my ticket into the slot, there was a clunk and it came out stamped with a series of numbers.

I decided to get off at Alexanderplatz, as it was too early to check into the hotel, so I found the most authentic German market ever (where I was delighted to be able to buy a little piece of the Berlin Wall in a Perspex case) and an amazing chocolate shop whilst gawking at the TV Tower and the red Ratshausen, the former town hall. Berlin still seems to be in the process of being rebuilt after the devastation of the Second World War and its skylines are full of cranes.

The Rathaus and 'Alex' TV Tower

The Rathaus and ‘Alex’ TV Tower

Wandering through the streets of Berlin is a delight, with lovely little churches and shops to explore, and I slowly made my way to the Brandenburg Gate, passing the Museum Island and the cathedral (Berliner Dom) with its impressive green domed roof. I kept getting distracted by souvenir shops, which were all selling various sized bits of the Berlin Wall, but finally reached the gate and walked through its arches. The Tiegarten is on the other side of the Brandenburg Gate- a huge area of greenery with lots of little paths to explore, but I was getting very tired after my early start and just wanted to sit down, so head down I plodded on to my hotel. My original intention was to go out for an evening meal, but once settled I just couldn’t be bothered so ate a reasonably priced bowl of pasta in the hotel restaurant before crashing out.

Berliner Dom- the Cathedral

Berliner Dom- the Cathedral

I had a full day’s sight seeing planned the next day and after breakfast of a croissant and coffee at a nearby Turkish café I found the U-Bahn and purchased a day ticket, remembering to validate it in the little red post. It was drizzly as I headed out of the station at Zoologischer Gardens towards the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This once magnificent church was bombed during the war and largely destroyed- the shattered spire and entrance hall with its spectacular mosaic roof have been restored and turned into a museum. I went into the new octagonal church constructed where the nave would have been and listened to the organ for a few minutes.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

I decided to walk back to the Brandenburg Gate along the outskirts of the Tiergarten- every so often I came across little information posts in German and English explaining historical sites or memorials to those lost in the Holocaust… I must say, Germany has a lot of history but not all of it very nice!

The Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe is impressive- a series of granite blocks of varying sizes, with uneven walkways crisscrossing them. Many of the blocks dwarfed me and it felt rather like a vast cemetery, which may well have been the intention.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

I was particularly keen to see Checkpoint Charlie- complete with reconstructed hut, signs and ‘guards’ in uniforms, standing with umbrellas in the rain but happily posing for countless selfies. The Wall Museum is here too, and is vast- a maze of cluttered rooms with a wealth of information on the Berlin Wall, its construction and various successful and less than successful attempts. I happily spent a couple of hours in here out of the rain.

The Wall has its own memorial- a double row of bricks marks the length of its course, but I was eager to see if there was any parts of it left standing, and was thrilled to see a stretch of the wall on Niederkirchnerstrasse. Although there were chunks missing from the mallets of souvenir hunters, I was still able to get a sense of what it must have been like to live in a divided city.

The Berlin Wall!

The Berlin Wall!

The wall stands next to the rather grim sounding exhibition called the ‘Topography of Terrors’, built on the site of the former headquarters of the SS. Free to enter, it is as grim as it sounds- the many information boards on the rise of the SS and ensuing holocaust do not make for easy reading…

It was dark when I came out, so after fortifying myself with a massive pizza and beer, I took a walk around the city at night and was surprised and delighted to discover colourful light displays projected into the Concert Hall in the Gendarmenmarkt and the Brandenburg Gate- I have just discovered that this is done every October for the Festival of Lights so I was very lucky to be there at that time!

Light display on the Concert Hall

Light display on the Concert Hall

I didn’t get back to the hotel until gone midnight, but didn’t quite have quite such an uneventful flight home as thanks to the train I intended to catch to the airport being cancelled I ended up cutting it very fine indeed and only just made my boarding gate!

... and the Brandenburg Gate

… and the Brandenburg Gate

Another great little adventure, a new city explored and a new country visited!

You don’t have to go abroad to explore a new city- just pick a city in the UK you have never visited before. Or become a tourist in your home city- go and visit those attractions you have never actually been to! I promise you will discover something new. And the more you get yourself out of your comfort zone- the easier and easier it gets to do it again and again!

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