One week ago from today, I was navigating the snow filled streets in the wintry wonderland that is Berlin in January. Not a usual winter tourist destination (and for good reason), Berlin in January is prone to gray days, mounds of unshoveled snow and a bitter wind that makes even the toughest nose run. With conditions like that, warmth takes precedence over style. Luckily, the city of Berlin has its own style to distract from your lack!
I traveled to Berlin on a NYU sponsored trip to study the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. With this theme in mind I visited the legendary Checkpoint Charlie, A Stasi prison facility, the East Berlin Wall Gallery, Berlin’s Underground bunker system, and Livadia Palace in Potsdam where the Yalta Convention was held. Obviously, the history buff would not be hurting for hot spots to visit in Berlin, and I highly recommend all of the above mentioned sights. However, for those less interested in the Cold War here are my recommendations. With a city as fascinating culturally, historically, and artistically, you really can’t go wrong!
1.Visit the world renowned Pergammon Museum, home to an impressive collection of artifacts (similar to the Met here in NYC) for a fun excursion – perfect for those museum geeks out there.
2. Make sure to hit up a good many coffee shops to enjoy delicious Berlin cakes and teas. Germany may not be famous for its cuisine (one night I accidentally ordered pork knuckle!), but it surely is famous for its apple strudel and for good reason! Einstein Kaffe was my favorite stop. Created with an atmosphere of calm in mind, Einstein is the antithesis to the bustling and noisy Starbucks here in the states. The fruit tarts and strudel are out of control!
3. In Potsdam, check out the lovely San Souci Palace (where I have since decided I must get married). The views of the surrounding town are absolutely breathtaking.
4. Climb the winding ramp to the top of the Reichstag building for a 360 degree view of Berlin. This addition to the historic landmark in Berlin was added by Sir Norman Foster between 1991 and 1994 and is well worth the lengthy lines to get in. Architecturally it is a feat!
5. Take a stroll under the Brandenburg gate overlooking Berlin’s 5th Ave, Unter de Linten, for a breathtaking vista of urban Berlin. Make sure to snap a few photos!
6. Visit the Holocaust Memorial. Not a site for the weak hearted but this monument really is something to see. The feelings of dislocation and abandonment you feel as you walk between the concrete mounds is bone chilling.
7. Dine at Cafe Orpheum for a taste of gourmet German cuisine in a chic environment. The prices are great as is the food. Plus afterward you can stroll the district know for its nightlife and young artist residents.