I’ve written a couple of posts recently thinking about the future of travel and how things might be different post Covid-19. It’s hard to imagine how things will be, isn’t it? Let’s not just look forward into the unknown, though. It’s good to look back at some travel memories also.
Germany holds a special place in my heart; it was our first over seas posting, its a place that taught me a lot about myself and my youngest child was born there. Berlin is firm favourite. Being a bit of a history geek and a lover of a laid back vibe, Berlin is a good fit for me. Being a place we’ve had many family breaks, it’s a city of happy memories.
There are some obvious places to go when in Berlin. Many of them connected to darker times in German history. Interesting places, but likely to be crowded. If you are willing to wander a bit though, there are some gems to be found. Like the disappearing rabbits of Berlin.
The Rabbit fieldor “Kaninchenfeld” located at the site of a former border crossing in the Wedding district of the city is a series of rabbit shaped plaques and stones designed by artist Karla Sachse as a celebration of a lesser known aspect of the cities past. In the divided years, a thriving population of rabbits called this area home. Having the ability to scamper and tunnel between East and West without restriction, the rabbits came to represent the freedom that the people had lost. The rabbits had no regard for the border itself, the guards, or the demands and restrictions of the Communist regime.
Rabbits aren’t the only plaques you’ll find set in the ground in Berlin. The city is abundant in Stolpersteine. When you consider each small square represents one person, it’s very thought provoking.
You’ll spot Stolpersteine in plenty of places around the city, but particularly in historic areas like the Hackesche Hof. Built in 1906 and regenerated in the nineties, the courtyards and alleyways are now a place where people live, eat, drink, create, shop work and play. The whole neighbourhood has a rebellious, carefree feel and I love it.
So Berlin memories…history, rabbits, cool neighbourhoods. What else does this city have in abundance? Museums. Great museums and plenty of ’em. Get a glimpse into daily life in East Germany and try your hand at driving a Trabi via the simulator at the DDR museum.
The kids were actually pretty good at driving the Trabi. Me not so much. I won’t be braving the Berlin traffic in one, put it that way!
For something completely different, head to Body Worlds a.k.a The Menschen Museum. Based on the work of Dr Gunter von Hagen and his ‘plastination’ technique, the museum encourages the visitor to explore every aspect of the human body. Enter with an open mind and be prepared to see yourself in a different light when you leave.
For a museum (sort of ) with a bit of a difference, head to Ritter Schokowelt. The name of this place translates as ‘Chocolate world’ and it lives up to the title. The big draw here is that you can create your own chocolate bar. Pick a base, add extras and toppings and pick it up half an hour later when it has set. While you wait, browse the shop and tiny chocolate museum or just relax in the cafe. It’s a nice place to round off a bit of sight seeing.
Berlin isn’t all city streets and indoor attractions though. If getting outdoors is your thing, there are plenty of options. My favourite Berlin park is a little out of the way but worth the effort. Naturpark Schoneberger Suedgelande is now a city park, but began life as a train yard. It operated until the end of WW2, shut down in the 1950’s and nature reclaimed the site. Many of the original features have been retained, creating an interesting juxtaposition of heavy industry and natural beauty.
Paths trace the route of the old railway lines and in the heart of the park sits a historic steam engine. This is not the biggest or best known Berlin park, but it’s peaceful and interesting and a bit different. And its my favourite.
Brilliant as Berlin is, there might be a day when you crave a change of scene or a change of pace. For all out relaxing and fun, it has to be a day trip to Tropical Islands. This indoor rainforest, complete with wildlife, can also offer waterslides, hot air balloon rides and a sauna complex. All housed in a former airship hangar.
For something a bit different, head out to Beelitz Heilstatten. A complex of buildings and outhouses, this is an abandoned sanatorium with a very interesting past. It has served as a modern centre for medicine in the fight against TB, treated a patient by the name of Hitler in WW1 and was taken by the Russians at the end of WW2. Explore the abandoned buildings from ground level or by taking an elevated walkway that allows you to look down on the old buildings. I’d do both, it’s a fascinating day out. Nothing like an abandoned hospital to get the imagination fired up!
To round off on a relaxing note…my final, favourite Berlin drop -in has got to be the flagship store at Nivea Haus. I’m a Nivea fan, the scent of the old school Nivea cream is so evocative for me. I’ve passed a love of Nivea onto my three daughters so a stock up at the flag ship store when we are in town is a given.
Life has changed a lot since I lived in Germany and Berlin was just a short car ride away. Since then, I’ve relocated to Wiltshire via a year in Edinburgh along the way. Where ever I go, Berlin will always have a place in my heart.
If there’s a city that’s captured your heart, I’d love to know about it. Let’s chat in the comments, and please do drop a link if you’ve any blog posts or articles to share.