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Berlin’s highlights

Berlin parks index:
Tiergarten

berlin wall_3I’d always wanted to visit Berlin to see the Wall that divided East from West. The Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse is a dramatic indoor-outdoor museum and memorial that focuses on the destruction of a city and, in particular, a neighborhood. The Wall rose up overnight along Bernauer Strasse, dividing families and parishioners of a the now famous Sophien Church (finally razed by Easter Germany). The museum has a modern-art feel to its design and interactive displays. There are numerous documents (many translated into English) regarding the division and history of the city afterwards, right up until citizens from East and West cut through it in 1989. Outside, a tower takes you up for an overview of the street and the memorial below, including a long section of the wall. Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission is free; donations encouraged. Bernauer Strasse at Ackerstrasse; Nordbahnhof (S1, S2, S25).

Berlin Restaurants
I don’t think spies nor army types had time to grab a bite to eat before crossing the border at Checkpoint Charlie during Cold War days. But today you can take a break near this infamous site at Schloztsky’s Deli, a good sandwich and pizza joint for cheep prices. They also serve beer (as if there’s a Berlin restaurant that doesn’t). Friedrichstrasse 200; Stadtmitte (U6).

Near to Zoo station is Jules Verne, an international cuisine restaurant inspired by, of course, “Around the World in 80 Days.” This restaurant is not some cheesy chain. Its German food is fabulous and portions suitable to non-dieters. Schluterstrasse 61 at Charlottenburg; Savignyplatz (S5, S7, S75, S9).

Hafis is an Iranian restaurant set in the atmosphere of a friend’s living room. You can build your own kebab from a selection of ingredients, or try one of the lamb dishes with Iranian bread. This place is a real treat, and won’t scorch your wallet. Alt Moabit 47, at Mitte; Turmstrasse (U9).

For the traditional, try Schwarzwaldstuben, a comfortable place that can be intimate or variously active, but always a good chill-out spot. The food is Swabian, from southern Germany, and if you’re very careful, you’ll need to be rolled out the door. The Schnitzel and kasspatzle (cheesy noodles) go great together. Open late, serves till 11pm. Tucholskystrasse 48; Oranienburger Tor (U6).

Berlin Nightlife
There are lots of clubs with numbers in their names, and perhaps the hottest (for some years now) is SO36. The postal code-inspired name is easy to remember, and you’ll have unforgettable nights inside with the live music. An eclectic club, SO36 has regular Techno parties and gay events. Set in an alternative neighborhood that is fitting of the club’s atmosphere. (Tip: Berlin is famous for its gay bars, and even if you don’t “play for their team” you’ll have a great time at them and find easy acceptance) Oranienstrasse 190, at Kreuzberg; Kottbusser Tor (U1, U8).

ROCK-IT is nothing less than Rock’n’Roll (and a whole lot of it). Too bad it’s open only Tuesday and Thursday nights. But if you’re in town on either night, go there to escape the otherwise techno and electronic clubs. Obentraustrasse 19/21, at Kreuzberg; Mehringdam (U6, U7).

The three-dance-floor Matrix boasts young crowds and loud music. It mixes the genres up, so draws different sorts of people on special special nights—like reggae-ragga or rock nights. You’ll like the go-go dancers; a great ‘60s throwback. Warschauer Platz 18, at Friedrichshain; Warschauer Strasse (S3, S7, S5, S9).

The wait is worthy of the club on any Saturday night to get into Berghain / Panorama Bar. Electronic music is on tap here. Set in a former power plant (yeah, you read that right), the dance floor is huge. There are numerous back rooms to relax. Dress well and don’t lug cameras or underage friends. Oh, yeah: doors open at midnight. Haaaaaa! Am Wriezener Bahnhof, at Friedrichshain; S-Bahn Ostbahnhof.

Berlin Transportation
The U-Bahn (underground train) and S-Bahn (“fast” train) metro lines are efficient, quick, clean and safe. Tickets are sold at automatic kiosks. You can buy a single-ride (€2.10), day ticket (€5.80), or “Kleingruppenkarte” (€14.80) day ticket for small groups up to five people. Validate them in one of the little yellow machines before getting on the train. Wherever your hotel, hostel or apartment is in Berlin, you’re rarely far from public transportation points.

The CityTourCard is a rail, tram & bus pass (zones A & B) that includes discounts on museums, concert tickets, and selected attractions. While this sounds come-on-ish, there are in fact more than 50 sites and attractions where the card is valid. The card comes in a “48” package at €14.90, valid for 48 hours (from time of validation, i.e., your first ride), and a “72” package (72 hours) at €19.90. Unless you have the legs of a stallion, or like to shell out for cab fare, the CityTourCard is a great deal.

In summertime, bike rentals have become more popular with tourists because Berlin is a hugely bike-friendly city. You can ask your hotel operator where the nearest rental company is located.

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