I’ve spent a significant amount of my past month in Berlin being a tourist and seeing all there is to see here. There’s a lot to see, so I’ve kept myself well-entertained. I’ve seen so much of Berlin that, after only one month, I’ve become an Expert on All Things Tourism in Berlin.
Since I’m an expert now, I thought that probably I should create a tour that I would take my clone-self on if I found out I had a clone-self who was coming to visit me for a day in Berlin. This tour doesn’t include some of the big-name places that tour guides and non-Experts on All Things Tourism in Berlin will tell you to go see, because everyone already knows about those places, and some of the places on my tour are not as well-known and therefore not riddled with 400,000 international tourists shouting words in languages and bumping into you and blinding you with oh there’s no flash photography allowed sorry. Also, many of these places appeal to my kinesthetic learning style and my love of nature, architecture, and the just-plain-weird.
Here are the places I would take my clone-self:
- Platform 17 at Grunewald Station
On the western edge of the city in a lovely wooded area, you can find a train platform that was used during the early 1940s to deport over ten thousand Jews to ghettos and concentration camps. In the late 1990s, the German national train company Deutsche Bahn created a memorial here to these Jews. The platform is eerily quiet and serene, helping you contemplate all the loss that happened because of those deportations.
- Berlin Wall Memorial:
This memorial to the Berlin Wall stands along a stretch of land where the Wall used to stand. It has a long piece of the original Wall still standing, a metal Wall-inspired art installation, and a memorial to the people who died because of the Wall. There’s also a free little museum across the street where you can watch short informational videos about the Wall, the politics that led to its creation, and the people who risked their lives to escape East Berlin.
- Wohnzimmer Cafe:
The other day my friend J recommended that I take an inventory of Berlin’s coffee shops and figure out which one is best. I did, and Wohnzimmer won the prize. It’s got lots of eclectic and comfy seating, delicious mint tea, and plenty of room and accessibility for working on your computer (free Wifi and lots o’ electrical outlets).
Here’s the place to go if you want to take a gander at some good architecture and get a panoramic view of the whole city in one go. The German Dome, the French Dome, and the Berlin Concert House are all here right next to each other, and you can climb to the top of the French Dome for €3, look at all of the city from high up, and increase your fear of heights tenfold.
- Jewish Museum:
This museum’s building is the architectural masterpiece of Daniel Libeskind. The walkway into the main part of the museum is so interactive and expressive that I recommend taking your time there. The Holocaust Tower, the Garden of Exile, and the “Fallen Leaves” art installation all let you experience, through architecture and art, the isolation, disorientation, and dehumanization that millions of Jews suffered during the Holocaust.
- Spreepark at Plänterwald:
The culmination of my tour is Spreepark, an abandoned theme park on the southeastern side of the city. I’m obsessed with abandoned theme parks like Land of Kong and Dogpatch USA, so of course I love this one too. They give tours of the park on the weekend, but you can walk around the perimeter of the fence whenever you want and see most of the creepy ruins of a park that used to be really popular before it got shut down because of the owner’s massive debt and fear of concrete dinosaurs.