Tag Archives: Berlin

What to do in Berlin and the best Berlin attractions.

Three places to understand the Holocaust in Berlin

You may wonder why you should disturb your holiday enjoyment with thoughts of the Holocaust – that dark episode of European history which saw the systematic murder of millions of Jews. After all, you’re in Berlin, the party capital, known for its nightlife and culture.

But I think that to get under the skin of a place, you need to absorb something of its history, the good the bad and the ugly. When I’m travelling with children, as I was on this trip, I prefer to show them something of the world as it is and give them a glimpse of the dark side as well as the beauty in life – I think it makes them more rounded citizens of the world. Also, I’ve found that you can experience these things to different degrees, depending on where your level of interest and the level to which you’re prepared to be disturbed and unsettled.

So here are three places in Berlin where you can experience something of the Holocaust at different levels.

Jewish Museum Berlin

The Jewish Museum
This is the place if you’re looking for a more in depth understanding of Jewish life and the Holocaust. I should say that I didn’t have time on my recent to visit to go to the museum, which covers Jewish history and culture in Germany as well as a section on the Holocaust. Designed by Daniel Libeskind, the museum is a visually striking combination of an old building with a shiny new glass and metallic facade. The museum is arranges around three intersecting axis; The Axis of Exile, the Axis of Continuity and the Axis of Holocaust which culminates in the Holocaust tower, a dark and empty space which gives the feeling of no escape. This is the place for a rounded view of Jewish history and everyday life in which the surroundings are as symbolic as the things on display.

Judisches Museum Lindenstrasse 9-14, Kreuzberg, 10969 Berlin Nearest Station; Hallesches Tor

At the Anne Frank Museum in Berlin

The Anne Frank Museum
See the holocaust through the eyes of Anne Frank, a 12 year old Jewish girl who hid with her family in Amsterdam, but was eventually captured and died in Bergen-Belsen. Throughout her hiding she wrote a diary about her everyday experiences and her hopes and fears for the future. This is a small museum in a courtyard off Rosenthalerstasse with lots of photographs depicting Anne growing up, her family life and the warehouse where her family hid to try and escape deportation. You can read Anne’s words and look at some of the objects from her daily life to feel what life was like for the Jews under the Nazis.

In a second room are colourful wigwams with video installations in which teenagers of today explore their thoughts about their lives and their hopes for the future, set along side similar thoughts from Anne Frank. We also watched a 30 minute film in English which told the story of Anne’s life and the times in which she lived. This museum is ideal for children from eight up to teens as it is a manageable size and helps them to identify with the holocaust through the eyes of a child just like themselves.

Anne Frank Museum, Rosenthaler Strasse 39, Mitte, D-10178 Berlin Nearest station; Hakescher Markt

Holocaust memorial in Berlin

The Holocaust Memorial
Close to the Brandenburg gate is the Holocaust memorial, designed by architect Peter Eisenmann. It is a large plaza containing grey rectangular concrete blocks of different sizes and heights. From the edge the memorial looks just like a sea of blocks, all in straight lines, but as you walk into the centre, you find that the ground drops downwards, and the blocks become taller, so that they loom menacingly over your head. The ground undulates in an unsettling way and you can walk through to the other side until you emerge again with relief and can see the world around you again.

The smooth, faceless blocks represent the millions of Jews who died in the war and to one side there is also an underground information centre where you can understand more about the Holocaust.

Although it has dark overtones, I found the design of the memorial encouraged interaction from visitors and I saw many children playing hide and seek among the blocks or playing on top of them. It reminded me of a formal topiary garden where you can slip in between the dark cypress in a game of now you see me, now you don’t.

This is the ideal place for those who want a little understanding of the Holocaust without being disturbed by too many dark thoughts, and especially younger children who could have fun there while gaining some understanding of the message behind it.

The Holocaust Memorial, Stresemannstrasse 90 10963 Kreuzberg, Berlin Nearest Station; Potsdamer Platz, Free to visit.

What do you think about visiting places that remind you of humanity’s darker side – an integral part of your travelling experience or something you’d rather not think about when on holiday?

Jewish museum photo by Weye.org on Flickr other photos by Heatheronhertravels

Best of Berlin Tips

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Get on top of Berlin for free

Berlin certainly got a big boost from German reunification and one of my favourite results there is the new dome on top of the German parliament, the Reichstag Dome. This glass dome literally sits on top of the parliament building (yes, above the politicians!) and not only is it an architectural marvel in itself, you can also get some gorgeous views over Berlin.

Berlin Reichstag Dome

Even better, there is no charge to go up to the dome and to walk up its spiral pathway to the top of Berlin. If you go in summer, there are often some long queues – I’ve always managed to get there early in the day although in August, even an 8.30am arrival will see you waiting for a while – but it’s worth it. The Reichstag Dome is open from eight until midnight although the last admission is at 10.00pm.

Best of Berlin Tips

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Tips for What to Do in Germany

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Great street art around Europe

Don’t get me wrong, I hate to see a scribbled graffiti tag defacing an attractive building as much as anyone. But I do love to see great street-art on my travels, it’s a gift to the photographer and brightens up many a run-down city neighbourhood. I’ve noticed that street-art often springs up in areas that are due for regeneration and in fact is often a catalyst or symbol of that regeneration. Here’s a run-down of some of the great street-art I’ve found on my travels around Europe.

Street-art in Stokes Croft, Bristol

Street-art in Stokes Croft, Bristol

Starting with my home town of Bristol, the best place to see street-art is the neighbourhood of Stokes Croft, close to the city centre. This is an area where the residents are fighting to retain the arty, bohemian feel of the neighbourhood and stop it being over-run with expensive flats. Leading the use of street-art in the regeneration of the area is the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, which gives details on it’s website of the street-canvases open to artists. Bristol is also the home town of Banksy, the international street-artist who has hit the big time and you can still see a few of his works around the city.

Banksy mural in Bristol

Banksy mural in Bristol

When I visited Valencia in spring 2008, I loved all the street-art in the Barrio Carmen neighbourhood. This is an old part of town with narrow streets and is also the centre of the night-life in Valencia. By day you’ll find quiet squares and funky designer shops, but by night the place comes alive with bars and nightclubs and the party goes on until dawn.

Street-art in Valencia

Street-art in Valencia

All around the area, old buildings are being replaced by new apartment blocks and on the builder’s hoardings you can see plenty of interesting, if temporary street-art. It was also the only place I’ve come across religious street-art in a homage to the local patron saint of that area of town.

Religious street-art in Valencia

Religious street-art in Valencia

If you’re in eastern Sardinia, you must not miss the mountain village of Orgosolo, once the haunt of bandits and kidnappers. Now you’re perfectly safe, as the village has become an open-air art gallery, attracting visitors who come to wander round the village to look at the street-art. The trend was started by the art teacher at the local school, Francesco del Casino, a talented artist from Siena who is influenced by Picasso, and over the years many other artists have added their work around the village. Many of the murals are on themes of social injustice and protest, harking back to the days when this area of Sardinia felt forgotten and neglected by the central government.

Mural in Orgosolo, Sardinia

Mural in Orgosolo, Sardinia

I’m looking forward to a visit to Berlin in Spring 2009 where a large section of the Berlin wall has now been transformed into the East Side gallery. Berlin’s artistic reputation stemmed in part from the communist days, when young Germans had a choice of either doing military service, or going to live in Berlin for a year, as no-one wanted to be there on the doorstep of the eastern bloc. Many artists who didn’t fancy a spell in the military took the latter choice and when the wall came down the East side gallery became a colourful symbol of new hope for the future.

East side gallery on Berlin by Franfiorini/Flickr

East side gallery on Berlin by Franfiorini/Flickr

 

Review of Generator Hostel, Berlin

Good – right next to S Bahn, tram and bus stops, good continental buffet breakfast, clean shared bathroom facilities, reasonable prices

Bad – noisy, mainly from banging fire and room doors but also surprisingly from housekeeping staff starting work early and talking loudly to each other

Rating – 7 out of 10

I choose the Generator Hostel for a stay of 4 nights during my attendance at the Berlin Travel Trade Fair in March 2008. Prices had rocketed at any accommodation close to the Fairground in the west of Berlin, so opted for this hostel, a converted factory, in the east of the city. I’d booked a twin room as I initially thought my husband might come over for a couple of nights. In any case I didn’t want to sleep in a dorm. It cost 213 US dollars for the 4 nights for a twin room including breakfast, booked through a third party, after searching for the best price on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

On check in I was upgraded to a four bedded room which was more spacious and told jokingly by the receptionist I could have a different bed for every night of my stay. The room was clean, apart from some stains on the carpet and had a small sink. The issue of stained carpets is being addresses as laminate flooring was being laid in the rooms during my stay.

I never had any problems with access to the bathroom facilities which were always clean but the toilet paper was more like kitchen roll.

The breakfast was pretty good, fresh white rolls and sliced rye bread, a selection of cereals, yoghurt, cheese, jams and salami. The coffee from the machine was very good.

My only problem, serious to me, was not being able to sleep. There was a certain level of noise made by other residents from the adjacent rooms, the corridor and slamming doors but I was awakened every morning from around 06.30 by housekeeping staff banging away and talking very loudly to each other.

I have been disturbed by noise from other residents in more expensive accommodation on some occasions and I acknowledge that I am a light sleeper but the experience has really put me off staying in hostels in the future.

Save 30% at the Generator Hostel, Berlin

I’ve been looking for budget accommodation in Berlin for my attendance at the Travel Bloggers Summit. I’ll be out most of the time so I really just need a basic, clean place to sleep for the night. Ideally l’d like to be near the venue but there is nothing reasonably priced as the Berlin Travel Fair is on. I decided I’d just have to be prepared to travel a bit to and from the venue. I read up on the Generator Hostel in east Berlin. It’s a converted factory. The reviews were fairly positive. I have to admit I’m hoping I get a quiet room and I know hostels can be a bit noisy but I can’t imagine early March is peak season for party goers.

Check point Charlie, Berlin

Check Point Charlie in Berlin

I visited the HotelsCombined price comparison site and found a twin (no singles available) with shared bathroom facilities for 4 nights for £120 with Reserveahotelonline.com, a twin ensuite cost £163 through Hotel-Board.com. I decided to go for the cheaper option with shared bathroom. When I visited the Generator Hostel website there were only twin ensuite rooms available and the price was £239. That’s quite a difference a saving of £76 or around 30% by booking with Hotel-Board found by HotelsCombined.

The cancellation fees vary greatly between supplier. With Reserveahotelonline I had to pay the total amount upfront for my twin room and the cancellation fees are rather punitive, you lose 50% if you cancel between 30 – 41 days before arrival, 75% if it’s 15 – 25 days and 100% if it’s within 14 days. With Hotel-Board.com the policy wasn’t very clear, it said normally 7 days notice with no penalty but 21 days in peak periods. With the Generator Hostel you pay no deposit and can cancel with no penalty up to 48 hours before arrival.

You can use the search below to find the best price at the Generator Hostel.

Powered by Hotels Combined

I’m a qualified travel blogger

Well according to PhocusWright, who’ve invited me to attend the PhocusWright Bloggers Summit in Berlin 5 – 6 March as a qualified travel industry blogger. The Summit is a wonderful opportunity for me to meet other travel bloggers, exchange ideas and examine the influence of blogging on travel businesses.

Remains of the Berlin Wall

Remains of Berlin Wall in 2009

I’m also looking forward to doing some sightseeing in Berlin.