Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Berlin marked the start of my 10 day summer vacation in Europe. Due to some flight faux pas I landed only around 8:30 pm and hence day 1 was pretty much over. I had kept only 2 nights for Berlin so I was a bit worried that I might have cut it too close. Thankfully that wasn't the case eventually.

To make most of my one and only whole day in Berlin I was out of the door by 9 am. As I usually do, I had chosen a hotel close to public transit (S+U+Bus). It was a beautiful day so I chose to take a bus to the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery).  Key attraction for me at the gallery was a temporary exhibit on Impressionism vs. Expressionism. I had booked a guided tour for it the previous evening that I missed due to flight issues but I was lucky enough to not encounter any queues to the exhibition.

Alte Nationalgalerie is one of the five museums on the Museum Island. This museum along with its stairway rises above the Museum Island. The model that inspired the architect Friedrich August Stiller was the Acropolis of Athens. The other four museums are Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum, Neues Museum and Altes Museum. The Berlin Cathedral is also on the island.

If I was doing only Berlin I would have gone to all 5 museums on the island but since I was short on time, I decided to attend only the ImEx exhibition. A combined ticket to all museums is cheaper but doesn't give one access to temporary exhibits. So I bought ticket only for Alte Nationalgalerie that included all exhibits - temp and permanent. After spending about 3 hours at ImEx exhibit, I headed to Reichstag Building only to find that one needs an online registration at which I didn't have!!! Having missed the chance to tour Riechstag Building, I went back to the museum island and enjoyed a long leisurely lunch by the river.

After lunch I took a train to East Side Gallery (erstwhile Berlin Wall). It was a hot day and may be I was a bit disappointed by the fiasco at Reichstag Building, but I didn't find the Berlin Wall as exciting as it was it hyped to be. After clicking a few photos, I took the train back to the hotel and called it a day. Before I settled for my evening date with Prosecco, I managed to get in a 5K run at the hotel gym and eventually wrapped up my day by 9 PM.

Next day my train to Prague was at 12:47 pm, so I decided to spend the morning walking around the hotel - there were three attractions within walking distance of the hotel. First one was Holocaust Memorial. As the name suggests it is the memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It consists of around 5 acres site covered with 2711 concrete slabs of varying heights arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. There is also an information center located at the site's eastern edge that begins with a timeline that lays out the history from when the National Socialists took power in 1933 through the murder of 500,000 Soviet Jews in 1941.

After the memorial, I walked over to Brandenburg Gate. It is an 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch. It is built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg. The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees. There was a big crowd gathered in the square next to the gate, some body was playing music, groups of tourists were hanging around and just having fun. There are lots of cafes and restaurants around to chill and relax. Overall a real neat place to sit and see the world go by!

Last stop, on way back to hotel, was Tiergarten (Animal Garden) - an urban public park in the city Centre. Thought it was a hot day, the garden felt quite nice and cool. There are lot of sculptures in the garden but mostly you see people hanging around with kids & pets and jogging. After about an hour, I was back in the hotel and took a bus to Hauptbahnhof to catch the train to Prague.

A quick word on the public transit system in Berlin. It's one of the best that I have experienced, I used both the bus and S+U trains. Just print the map of the transport system and find out the nearest station to your destination (through google maps) and you are good to go. Do not rely on google maps for giving you the best or correct route between two locations - you have to do that bit on your own. You can find everything about the Berlin transport system here. It's better to buy a 24/48 hour pass as single ride tickets are expensive and the same pass works across buses and S+U trains.

Berlin is a big city and has loads to offer to everyone, one should definitely consider it for a vacation when done with the more popular destinations like Paris and Rome.
Bode Museum

Altes Museum

Berlin Cathedral
Water body around the Museum Island

East Side Gallery

Holocaust Memorial

Unter den Linden

Brandenberg Gate

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