Onto the second part of our Berlin trip! (If you missed the first check out my post here!) After a few days at the hotel we had made ourselves at home and loved the location. As a reminder we were staying at the Hotel CALMA which was in the Berlin Mitte (central) area.
We were around the corner from U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations, near lots of restaurants and the outdoor courtyard had come in handy for evening drinks. Breakfast was continental so we had unlimited meats, cheeses, cereal and bread to start the day. We had a ‘medium’ sized room which was more than big enough, the staff were friendly and forgave us for our poor German language skills!
Sunday was the busiest day of the trip. We tried to pack in lots of tourist attractions and started with the one closest to our hotel. We walked to the Museum of Natural History, which was filled with dinosaur bones and animals. The museum even had a world record holder, the worlds tallest mounted dinosaur skeleton, a huge 43ft 6 inches high!
Another special exhibit was Tristan the T-Rex, originally found in the USA he is now the only original T-Rex skeleton in Europe! We loved this exhibition because aside from getting up close to the dinosaur there was lots of information about the species we’d never seen before.
Once we had visited all of the exhibitions it was still pre-lunch time so we took the train to the Berlin Story Bunker, a former bomb shelter from WW2. This place contained two exhibitions, one detailing the full history of Berlin and the second (which we chose) was Hitler – How could it happen? I think this is a question which everyone wonders, how did the situation escalate so much and how did so many atrocities happen?
We walked into the Bunker (no photo’s were allowed so you won’t see any from me!) and were given an audioguide to break up the large portions of text which filled the walls. Beginning with stories and photo’s of Hitlers birth and youth we delved into his life story. This exhibition has been described as controversial as the aim is to understand why and how someone could develop to have the personalities and desired of Hitler. Some have described it as sympathising but I would disagree with that, perhaps my years of studying and practicing psychology have changed my mind set. But of course Hitler wasn’t simply born as the man he became.
We spent over 3 hours in the bunker, reading and listening to detailed accounts of how Hitler came to power and ultimately committed suicide in his own bunker. Some photos were hard to look at and we were constantly shocked by how truly awful life was for specific groups of people. If you want to find out more about the man behind the facade, I would recommend here over anywhere else. So detailed and thoroughly researched, I found the Bunker one of the most interesting and educational experiences.
As we walked deeper into the bunker we knew we would eventually find a reconstruction of Hitler’s own Bunker from the day he committed suicide. We were able to see the layout of the bunker and the main room (were the acts were committed) was recreated to give a feel for the size and interior of the bunker. It was kind of surreal and the only existing reconstruction, so I would recommend this place if you’re interested in WW2 history!
After 3 hours in the bunker we were ready to leave, but at the end of the war hundreds of people died within the walls of the bunker. It was filled with people and later flooded, after days of people being trapped. I couldn’t imagine being cramped in the bunker, in fact, I wouldn’t want to imagine it. One woman who had been a child at the time described her experience and it was honestly awful. I won’t go into details here in case you visit yourself!
Keeping in with the theme of the war, we walked to the nearby site of Hitler’s real bunker (now a car park if you were wondering). A sign commemorates where the bunker once stood. I find it fitting that life has continued since and the place hasn’t been dedicated to the man himself.
Close by, you can easily walk to the Holocaust Memorial so we decided to visit on our way to the Reichstag Building. I hadn’t realised that the memorial actually includes an underground exhibit where you could spend at least an hour finding out about the lived experiences of holocaust victims and survivors. Since we were booked into the Reichstag, we didn’t have long to spend at the memorial, we had a quick walk through and spent a while at the top walking through the memorial itself.
Once you leave the exhibit, you surface in the middle of the memorial. The blocks are much taller than a person and you walk out feeling disorientated and uncomfortable, not knowing where to go. This is the type of feeling the artist wanted to recreate, making visitors feel in some sense the way Jewish people felt at the time. The memorial is a pretty profound experience and definitely one we should all visit at some point.
After spending most of the day visiting WW2 related places, I had pre-booked to visit the Reichstag Building. We arrived at the parliamentary building in time for a quick security check before we went into the building and up to the infamous dome.
We decided to walk around the outside of the roof to take in the panoramic views before heading into the dome with an audio tour. The views from the top of the Reichstag are beautiful and it’s free to visit. Its necessary to book tickets in advanced and you need to take your passport to confirm your identity, but it’s worth the trip!
When entering the dome, the audio guide starts up automatically and the guide signposts famous landmarks which can be seen from the dome. When we reached the top we realised that the dome has an open top. There’s a place to lay down and we looked out through the dome into the sky, it was a lovely place to relax!
After our time at the Reichstag, we walked a few minutes to see the Brandenburg Gate. We arrived at the perfect time and were able to see the sunset through the beautiful gate.
After a really busy day, we were so so hungry! I looked online and we found that Vapino was close by, we had never been to Vapino before but realised that its a chain with stores in the UK. We arrived and no one explained to us how the restaurant worked. Turned out that you chose what you wanted and had to visit the pizza or pasta bar to order. It took us a while to work it out but we managed to get some food before we starved!
We started the day by taking the underground to the East Side Gallery to finally see the artistic side of the Berlin Wall. The sun was shining so we were happy to walk along the wall and check out all of the art.
Most of the pieces were politically motivated in one way or another but they were all created by amazing artists. We walked all the way from one end to the other in around an hour, taking a few photos along the way.
A word of warning, pick pocketers are pretty active in this area, a group of people tried to stop us to sign a petition (which is a well known pick pocketing tactic) so just be aware of your belongings and don’t stop to sign anything!!
We took a look in a few of the small shops along the way, but decided to not stop by the free museum since we wanted to spend most of the day at the zoo which was on the other side of the city.
We walked to the station and saw a perfectly placed McDonalds (we were so thirsty from being outdoors!) and decided to try out German McDonalds! This is sort of a tradition for us and we weren’t disappointed at the differences between the UK and here. First of all, we bought a chicken box, not a chicken nugget box a chicken box half filled with nuggets and half filled with chicken wings! That’s right we tried our first ever McDonalds chicken wings! Not only that but there were lots of new options we didn’t have the chance to try.
We walked upstairs and realised that McDonalds had it’s own mini cafe! Serving coffee, cakes and snacks, it was literally a separate cafe. Another thing we had never seen before!
After eating ourselves into a chicken coma, we made our way down to the U-bahn and took thankfully just one train to the zoo. This was the furthest west we had been in the city so we were looking forward to seeing what awaited us!
After getting a little bit lost in the station, we surfaced right outside Berlin Zoo. Thank goodness we didn’t need to do any more navigating! As you would expect there were lots of animals to see, so we set out straight away to see as many as we could before closing.
One of the first places we came across was a petting zoo – my favourite kind of place! We went into the area and started out petting some small lambs before we noticed that we could buy some food to feed them. We went around the park and fed the shetland ponies, sheep, donkeys and goats!
I fell in love with the baby goats who slowly ate from our hands and were happy to be petted!
After getting to interact with some of the animals, we made our way around the park. We hadn’t realised but this zoo had Giant Pandas which were amazing to see! One of my favourite parts of the park was seeing the gorillas, I love monkeys anyway, but we managed to watch a silverback gorilla completing one of the enrichment puzzles! He was making small tools out of twigs and managed to work out how to get food out of the game.
We managed to just finish our trip around the zoo before it closed, so we decided to go back to the hotel for a rest. We had been walking for 8 hours solid and definitely deserved a sit down! We decided to just visit a small restaurant near the hotel that night since we couldn’t face walking much further!
We were sad to be leaving after a wonderful time in Berlin. We had our last continental breakfast and packed up before checking out of the hotel. Taking the bus back to the airport we were once again packed into a small space. Thankfully we got on early enough to get seats so we were much more comfortable this time! Walking around in the sun I wasn’t ready to leave such lovely weather, I couldn’t even bring myself to take my coat onto the plane, in denial that we would soon be back in the cold!
If any of you ever travel to Berlin Tegel, you’ll notice that the airport could do with some updating. We were quickly through security and were expecting to find a large duty free/restaurant area. We were sadly disappointed! We walked through a tiny duty free shop (and picked up some Berliner to take home) reaching a small snacks stand which which sold the only food after security checks. In a large white room (which somehow looked like a construction project) we tried and failed to find seats. I decided to sit on the floor and we sat for over an hour in a non-air-conditioned room which contained five flights worth of passengers!
Thankfully, our flight was quick and painless, with us arriving in Edinburgh earlier than expected. The second we stepped off the plane I was missing the warmth of Berlin already!
After an amazing time in Berlin, I couldn’t recommend it enough! There were still so many places we didn’t have chance to visit, so I think we will be back to Germany over the next few years to see more! The trip was even better than we had anticipated and we can’t wait to go back again!