Our roving reporter Sian Collins takes in the sights and sounds of modern Europe in a series of guides for those looking to plan an enlightening journey… On a budget.
One of the more hectic, business-orientated cities of Europe, Berlin has seen so much history in the last hundred years or so. As you look around, it’s impossible not to see the effects of the Berlin Wall both on 20th century society, and the city as it stands today.
Roughly a third of Berlin’s landmass is made up of parks, forests, rivers and lakes, and the jewel in its crown is the Tiergarten, a leafy urban park which has its roots as a 16th century hunting ground. Nowadays, it’s a surprisingly quiet spot in the centre of the sprawling capital. Five busy roads converge in the centre around the Victory Column, an impressive monument to the wars of the 19th century. Accessed by a tunnel, there is a viewpoint in the column itself which visitors can climb up to see (although it’s best appreciated from a distance to be surveyed in its full glory).
- As well as playing home to grassy fields, wooded areas, lakes and several cafes, the Tiergarten also contains more formal English-style landscaped gardens. Keep an eye out for the wild rabbits. http://www.berlin.de/orte/sehenswuerdigkeiten/tiergarten/index.en.php
Berlin is a city conscious of its country’s shadow years. War memorials freckle the streets, and which ones you visit depend upon your personal interests. However, the most famous of the lot is undoubtedly the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Although the name resonates of tragedy, the site itself is a popular tourist destination and is often full of children and adults alike exploring what it has to offer. A sculpture steeped in symbolism and history, the memorial consists of concrete blocks of varying heights set into an uneven flooring, which creates a labyrinth of winding pathways to be wandered.
- Prefer something a tad artsier and more obscure? Round the corner from the Jewish memorial is the Memorial for the Nazi Era Persecution of Homosexuals. Comprising another concrete block, this one contains a window through which one can watch a video montage of kissing men. What more could you want? Find more here. http://www.visitberlin.de/en/see/museums-art/memorials
Reichstag building & Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th century triumphal arch and one of the most iconic landmarks of Germany. It was here that in 1987 Ronald Reagan uttered his momentous words “tear down this wall!” and has been the location of many other political events and speeches. Nearby stands the Reichstag building, seat of the German parliament. Ruined in a fire in 1933, it has since been restored to its former imposing splendour.
- The Reichstag building is crested by a glass beehive-style dome which visitors can ascend to look out over Berlin. Entry is free but all visitors must be registered in advance online. http://www.bundestag.de/htdocs_e/visits/kuppel/kupp/245686
The Unmissable – Berlin’s TV Tower. Looming high above the rooftops, this tower affords a spectacular panorama over the city. Information boards give an insight into the neighbourhoods each glass panel overlooks, and there’s even a bar. Tickets are no cheaper online, but bear in mind when you buy them from the ticket machines on the ground floor, there will be a wait, so allow a two hour time window when you plan your day. http://www.tv-turm.de/en/
The Probably-Missable – Checkpoint Charlie Museum. The history of the Berlin Wall is fascinating, don’t get me wrong, but this museum might as well be a walk-in textbook. The walls are papered with tomes of writing that even I, an avid reader, struggled to remain focused on. Checkpoint Charlie itself is a significant historical monument, but the museum isn’t worth the entry fee. http://www.mauermuseum.de/
Click here for more in the Europe on a Budget Series.
Header Image Rights; Tom Godber