Greetings from Berlin
The Grey City
Schöne Grüße or Greetings, from Berlin! I can’t believe it’s been nearly 20 years since I last was in Germany. It is as beautiful and as cold as I remember it.
This time I find myself in the capital. It’s known as The Grey City, mostly because of the weather but it was rebuilt with concrete after the war so it pretty much IS grey.
Apart from not being the most glam city, I do feel it has claim to the name “The Other City That Never Sleeps”. It’s just buzzing. People are out on the streets living life 24/7. I’ve never seen so many people up and down the streets. They sure walk a lot. I for sure walked a lot!
Good to know...
1. Best time to visit:
There is no bad time really.
In terms of weather, May to October is not too hot and not too cold. It is more crowded during this time though. July is the liveliest with people enjoying the parks and riverbanks and October is the festivities month. If you enjoy large gatherings, then this is definitely the month to visit.
2. The weather ranges from comfortable to very cold
January is the coldest month and July the hottest.
It is a very pretty place when snowing, which makes it an ideal winter getaway. This year the winter was mild, so there’s been no snow, but it remains a picturesque city. Many sights are outdoors and in general the city is outdoor-oriented, so prepare to dress in layers. I didn’t bring gloves because I knew my fingers would be on my phone a lot, and the touchscreen doesn’t work so well with gloves (though you now get gloves that have touch points…. yep). I opted to keep my hands warm with the occasional Glühwein found at street stalls. Next time I will be sure to bring gloves, beanies, hooded coats and an umbrella! Also I remember from my previous visit that it helps to have anti-slip shoes for when it does snow.
3. Public Transport.
Access to the city’s public transport system is a good idea. It is available 24 hours a day and works like a bomb! I don’t really want to reference a bomb in this case, since this is Germany – it was heavily bombed in WWII.
BVG is the main public transport company in Berlin and the mobile app can be found here for download.
It allows you access on the busses, U-Bahn and S-Bahn. Once you have the app, you can buy various tickets ranging from Day Tickets, a 7 Day Ticket and there are even Tourist Tickets like the City Tour Card or Welcome Card which include discount offers.
Depending on your plans, this is well worth it.
Alternatively, taxis are everywhere. I used Uber a couple of times. However the cost of a taxis vs public transport is not comparable. Although interestingly, just about EVERY taxi is a Mercedes!
They make use of two-prong plugs.
The currency used is the Euro, and while I opted to only use my credit card throughout my entire visit, I will say that when I go again it would be best to have Euros on me as well. Many cafe’s, stalls or pop-ups prefer cash, especially when buying street food, and tipping is also highly preferred in cash.
6. Traffic rules
One amazing thing in Germany is how everyone obeys the traffic lights. In South Africa people weave through cars and walk even when the lights are red, even when there are cars coming.
Not here. If it’s red, you wait.
I later learned it is in fact illegal to cross a red light. No wonder people look at you like you are some kind of rebel…. 🤔
Street art and artists.
A street organ played by an organ grinder is one of the scenes you might encounter in the Berlin Mitte. Street art is all over, even in unsuspecting areas. Murals, graffiti, abstract expressionism – it’s an urban art world all in its own right.
1. The jelly donut
JFK said in a speech back in 1964 “Ich bin ein Berliner”, which means “I am a jelly doughnut”. What he meant to say was “Ich bin Berliner” meaning “I am a Berliner (or citizen of Berlin). Quite amusing when you’re a german listing to a president. But fortunately they all understood his meaning.
2. There were two walls.
3. Canals are plenty.
When looking at a map of Berlin you can see a network of rivers and canals. There are literally more than double the amount of bridges here than in Venice.
4. The Underground is huge.
The Berlin underworld is mind blowing. It is estimated that 40% of Berlin’s structures are under the ground. The Berliner Unterwelten offer guided tours to visit many of these attractions.
5. There are more museums than rainy days.
And this is your reason to not worry about the cold. There are more than 170 museums.
There’s a diverse range of architecture to be seen, from Neo-Classical to baroque, from organic to contemporary to modern, The architecture is off the charts!
1. Obviously Pretzels
Pretzels are everywhere. People eat them plain, with seeds, cheese and even chocolate. Others add slices of meat and it seems all day is a good time to have pretzels.
It is one of Germany’s most popular street dishes. Definitely not one of mine, haha.
Pork sausage seasoned with curry powder and tomato sauce. It’s usually served with fries.
Kartoffelpuffer is basically potato fritters. In Berlin it is again offered as a savory or sweet option with for instance an apple sauce or garlic sauce.
Pork knuckles grilled to perfection and served with sauerkraut.
Bread-crusted pork or veal usually served with a fried egg on top and a side of potatoes.
6. Döner Kebab
Now we are talking! This is a mouth orgasm.
It is actually a Turkish kebab with meat (lamb, mutton, beef or chicken) that is vertically rotated on a spit. The outer layer is sliced into thin shavings as it cooks. Add your choice of salad or vegetable accompaniments like tomato and onion, cabbage, pickle, peppers, chillies and sauces, and you have a döner kebab.
An Austrian desert meaning apple whirlpool, but is a flaky thin pastry filled with cooked apples, raisins and cinnamon, topped off with vanilla ice-cream.
8. Ein Berliner
Haha. The jelly doughnut… Also known as a Berliner Pfannkuchen.
Any beer in a beer garden will do. The Germans have a tendency to mix beer with coke or fruit juice or syrups – which I just don’t get, but if you like it, they do it.
For the cold, and usually only offered during winter is the mulled wine.
Usually consumed after a meal is a Schnaps or the well known Underberg – apparently a great digestive. I’ve had enough of them to know that it doesn’t particularly do much for my own digestive system, but I do love it, haha.
Some of the best coffees can be enjoyed in Germany.
I ♥ Berlin
The time flies by too quickly. There is just so much to see and do. I hope to come back and explore more of the city sometime in the future.
In my next post I list some of the sights that you must make time to see. Like for instance the East Side Gallery. A definite must-see!
I go a little more in depth about the attractions that I managed to visit, and also the ones I didn’t get to.
Berlin, you are a beaut!