Posted by: cgratton | February 23, 2009

Touring Berlin From the Inside (Out)

Are whipping winter winds and icy temperatures keeping you hiding under your warm bed covers?  Well, unfortunately, sometimes you’re forced to face Mother Nature no matter how cold it is because you’ve already shelled out a boatload of hard-earned cash on a long-awaited trip, and you can’t let yourself waste it by sitting in your hotel room, twiddling your thumbs and watching Pay-Per-View.

This is just the traveler’s dilemma I found myself in when taking a trip to Berlin early last March.  But it wasn’t just a little nippy with some cold gusts of rain.  No.  A mid-winter hurricane was thrashing through central Europe the very weekend of our trip (yes, hurricanes are rare but possible during winter in Europe).

With winds that clocked in over 110 mph, Hurricane Emma left a devastating trail of destruction in its path—nine people died, high speed trains were derailed and millions of euros worth of damage was left in the aftermath.  A Lufthansa jet almost crashed, too:

Luckily, we didn’t experience any serious trouble, as central Berlin (Mitte) escaped the brunt of Emma’s wrath.  But still, the winds were almost gusting us off our feet, and the stinging rain made it a little uncomfortable to tour the streets of Berlin by foot.

The problem then arrives: what do you do when the weather is awful?

Well, for one: when in Germany do as the Germans do!  And that my friends entails beer.  Aaahh, yes, the golden liquid of the German gods.  Not only is it an experience you cannot miss in Germany, but it definitely makes your necessary, freezing outdoor treks much more manageable.

In Potsdamer Platz, a modernized central square in the heart of Berlin, an ultra-contemporary architectural sight is definitely worth a visit– The Sony Center.  This is the Times Square of Berlin, housed in a plaza that’s roof is an impressive steel and glass parachute-like structure.

Definitely the coolest roof in Berlin to cover our heads from the rain.

Definitely the coolest roof in Berlin to cover our heads from the rain.

Inside, the Sony Center showcases a massive, three-story TV screen, tons of restaurants and shops and an IMAX movie theater.

We made our way to a Bavarian brew house, Lindenbräu, to sample authentic German fare, and finally get a chance to drink out of those big, ole’ beer steins.  Although German food is not for everyone, especially vegetarians like me, it definitely sticks to your bones, and can prove to be a life-saver when forced back out into the winter weather.

Take it easy there boys...

Take it easy there boys...

After you’ve gotten your fill, head over to Museum Island, a cluster of Berlin’s most highly acclaimed art and history museums, located on the northern half of the Spree Island.  The island features several museums all focused on classical and ancient art and antiquities.  Sadly, up to 70 percent of the museums were destroyed during WWII, and efforts to rebuild them since have been inconsistent (and infeasible) until very recently.  Even early last year, though, the Neues Museum was closed and the Bode Museum was only partially open.  By 2009, however, all the museums are planned to be fully running again (fingers crossed).

Map of Museum Island

Map of Museum Island

Also make sure to stop by Berlin’s beloved Zoo Berlin and its aquatic offshoot, Zoo Aquarium Berlin.

Zoo Berlin holds the title of housing the most species of any zoo in the world!  But one in particular, Berlin’s most famous animal fixture, is a celebrity of sorts who Berliner’s and German’s go absolutely crazy for—the baby polar bear, Knut.

Now two years old and much bigger, Knut has lost most of his celebrity spotlight (aah, the inevitable troubles of growing up).  But, there could be a new polar bear in town very soon, maybe a Knut Jr.?

More on Berlin to come next…


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