Monday, March 28, 2016

5 Tips For Berlin First-Timers

Traveling to a new city or country is honestly a bit overwhelming at times. You are removed from your comfort zone and you have to make an itinerary and draft a plan out of thin air. For travel neophytes, this can be quite a daunting task, because let’s face it, how are you to know, which ones are the cool and best places to see and check out, without even having been there in the first place.
I had the very same dilemma when I traveled to Berlin, Germany last spring.
My visa was approved three days before my scheduled trip and I had very little time to packs things I needed for a three-week trip, left alone, plan and finalize the nitty gritty details.
It was a good thing that my friend K, happens to be a semi-permanent resident in Berlin, and upon arrival in the city, she gave me a lowdown of things I needed to know as a first-timer in Berlin. Normally, I don’t need much help. But It was first time in the city and I only had 36 hours to spare.
She gave me tips on how to save money on transportation (get a tageskarte), and how to avoid the Police (validate all tickets). She taught me the difference between an S-bahn and a U-bahn.
Best of all, she helped me figure out some of the things I needed to see and needed to do, in order to experience Berlin, from a local’s perspective. These tips, complemented what little pre-trip knowledge I had.
So without further ado, here are 6 Things Can Try/Do on your very first visit to Berlin.
The painting by Dmitri Vrubel
1. Visit the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall 
One of the most important historical events in the 21st century was the reunification of West Berlin and Eastern Germany, that led to the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall in 1989. A great portion of the former wall, was maintained and was turned into an open air gallery, thanks to more than a hundred artists painting on the political and social events in the early 1990’s. The most famous painting on the wall is the painting number 25. Painted by Dmitri Vrubel, it depicted Communist Party of Russia Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev and German leader Erich Honecker locked in a passionate kiss.
Today, the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall is one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin, if not the most and without a doubt, any visitor to Berlin has this item in their bucket list. No matter if he regards himself a tourist or a traveler, one must simply visit this amazing gallery that stands as an inspiration to never again let hate and indifference get the better of us. This gallery stands as a symbol of freedom for everyone.
A snowy day at the Brandenburg Gate
2. Snap a photo in front of the Brandenburg Gate
Another important landmark in Berlin is the 18th century-styled Brandenburg Gate, which is the last city gate formerly used to represent the separation between East and West Berlin. Originally constructed in the 18th century, it was damaged severely during World War 11 and was restored between 2000 to 2002. In support of the gate’s important, the gate has been closed for traffic. The gate was closed off by the wall during the separation that is why it received so much coverage and attention during the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. During its earlier years, the Brandenburg Gate also had severe political importance. Napoleon took the gate’s quadriga to Paris following the defeat of the Prusian army. The quadriga was returned to Berlin after Napoleon’s defeat and the Paris occupation by the Prussian army began.
Nowadays, if you search photos of Berlin, chances are you will see visitors posing or taking selfies in front of the monument. And if you want to convince your friends and family back home, you better take a snap a selfie too in front of this very famous gate.
The World Clock at Alexanderplatz
3. Go around Alexanderplatz
It’s your very first time in Berlin and you have a very limited time to get a feel of the city, and chances are you would want to explore the city for some hip and interesting stuff. Perhaps, you are traveling with friends and family and you want to have a meeting point. No need to look further. Alexanderplatz is the place to go.
Lovingly called Alex by Berliners, Alexanderplatz is one of the largest squares in the city, named after the Russian Czar Alexander I who visited Prussia in the early 19th century.It suffered heavy damage during the war and was restored in the 1960s. Now, it is the largest urban square in the city full of shopping malls (Galleria Kaufhof), restaurants, beer gardens, and it is also an important traffic hub for the city’s more than 3.5 million inhabitants.
The Biergarten at Alexanderplatz sells superb pilsner and currywurst
4. Try Currywurst
I stayed in Berlin for a maximum total of 36 hours and I think I covered a great deal of the city center. And you know what occurred to me? The City is full of Kaiser marts and currywurst stalls.  On the streets, in train stations, you won’t fail to see stalls selling this proudly German street food.
Currywurst is basically steamed and then fried pork. It is served with curry sauce and fries. I was on a diet during my visit to Berlin, but I just couldn’t let the opportunity to try authentic and superb currywurst. I was not disappointed.
K contemplating how to finish the Eisbein
Inside Max and Moritz
5. Eat an Einsbein
If you are more adventurous when it comes to food, and wants to explore Berlin by way of its gastronomy, then I suggest that you try having a big serving of Eisbein. My friend K, dragged me to Oranienstrasse to try this dish at one of the awesome German restaurants in this street, Max and Moritz, established in 1902 and is considered an institution in Berlin.
Einsbein is a salt-cured pig knuckle dish which is boiled for a long time to soften the meat and skin to  astonishing levels. It is then served with sauerkraut and peas. Sometimes, you can have fries to go with it too. It was amazing and despite my diet, I tried some helpings but K just most of it. The serving is huge (food for 2-3 people), and we even had some take out because we can’t finish it.
Berlin is a magnificent city, full of history and culture. It should definitely be part of anyone’s bucket lists. To truly discover all its wonder, you have to spend a few days, or longer, because there is just so much to see and experience.
If time is limited though, I hope that my recommendations are enough for you to have a better understanding and appreciation of Berlin.