The first part of my Berlin trip journal! I'm not going to write day-by-day or anything, especially since many of those were extreme performances anyway; running from one place to another with a camera hanging around my neck all the time. Instead, I'm going to write travelling tips, hopefully someone will find them useful!
When I first laid my eyes on the S and U Bahn route map, I just thought "bloody hell" and wished I wouldn't have to do it ever again. However, I was trying to find a way from the airport Tegel to our hotel. Well, I later found an updated version of the map which was only slightly different, but enough to make it simpler. As a graphic designer who made her thesis on using colors to convey information, I could still complain to the designer of the map, but well... :> Things get much easier when you try it in practice once or twice!
Seriously: using public transport in Berlin is ridiculously easy. We used the S (local train) and U Bahn (underground) daily, and relied mostly on those. We only used buses on our way from the airport to the city center and back (and in Potsdam). Same tickets are valid in all those forms of transport (and in trams, which we didn't use). It's also quite easy to get off at the right stop since the following stops or stations were displayed somewhere in those vehicles. Some U-Bahn carriages were an exception though, but it was usually easy enough to see the name of the station when the train was only slowing down. The trickiest part was finding your way out of the biggest stations! :> And if you were changing from S to U or vice versa, it was potentially difficult to find the right track – however, usually there were not too many different tracks for public transport, and by following the U and S letters in signs it was easy enough to find your way to the right place. That was particularly useful at bigger stations with long-distance traffic trains.
Besides, the trains were usually on time, and even if they were not, you never had to wait for long. I cannot remember what our longest wait really was, but waiting for the bus to the airport for seven minutes felt long after the local trains.
At the main railway station
The Warschauer Straße station, in the east (surprise)
Berlin Welcome Card
This is a good option for tourists to consider! Public transport tickets for a few days (a few different options, we took the five-day one since that's how long we were there), with the fare zones AB or ABC. The AB zone is probably enough for those who only stay in Berlin, and Tegel airport is inside that area as well. But since we wanted to visit the neighbouring city Potsdam, we took the ABC zone cards. 35,90€, and besides the unlimited use of public transport, you can also get a lot of discounts with the card. For example: We got 25% off the entrance fees to the TV tower and the zoo. And at least we never had to wonder how to use the ticket vending machines. Ah, extra saved brain cells.
This is a remarkable, big street in Berlin (on the western side). I'm mentioning it so soon since it was so close to our hotel. It is considered the most important shopping street too, though it depends on what you want to shop. :> If you're looking for high quality brands, then sure yeah, they all have stores there. Louis Vuitton, Prada, Rolex, Gucci... Not my cup of tea. Some H&M stores as well, but I wouldn't visit them in Germany. And on the other hand I didn't go there for shopping to begin with. A big and posh department store called KaDeWe is very close too, not in Kurfürstendamm though, but if you continue east from where Ku'damm ends and another street begins, you'll soon be there. Europa Center, another shopping center, is very close too, west of KaDeWe towards Ku'damm. There is quite an awesome cafe and restaurant on the top floor of KaDeWe! We only tried the cafe though. If you're into pastries and such, go try. Although the department store itself is expensive, I thought the cafe prices were reasonable. My piece of apple cake was less than four euros, but oh damn – it was HUGE. And seriously: there's a lot to choose from.
KaDeWe, only near Ku'damm
However, I thought the best thing in Ku'damm was Hard Rock Cafe! So yeah, if you're hunting for those experiences, it's on the southern side of the street.
Another big street with shopping possibilities and some culture. The S Bahn station with the same name is located closer to the northern end of the street, between Hauptbahnhof (the main railway station west from it) and Alexanderplatz (the former eastern center) (with some S-Bahn stops in between). A good plan might be to go to the Friedrichstrße station and head south; you will find shops to visit, and you're heading for Checkpoint Charlie. However, if you choose to walk from the station to the checkpoint, don't do it just because "it's just a few U-Bahn stops away anyway" – it's much longer than it would seem. That's what we thought, and we were doing just that late on Sunday evening – couldn't pop to the stores. Checkpoint Charlie is the most famous East-West Berlin crossing point with those "YOU ARE LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR" signs. American sector huh, pun intended with that McDonald's restaurant right at the border these days?
Yours truly looks a bit exhausted, but we had only been walking for ten hours at that point...
The next part will follow as soon as I find the time to write it! I've been trying to update my portfolio as well, it's such a dull chore. Auf wiedersehen!