Berlin - trip report

Mar 31st, 2004, 11:54 AM
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Berlin - trip report

This is my first time posting here although I have spent a lot of time lurking in preparation for our trip to Berlin. We have just returned from only a few short days there and enjoyed our visit very much. Thanks to everyone who has posted messages here about Berlin as it helped us greatly. I hope what follows may help others who were thinking about visiting.

We arrived at Tegel Airport from London Heathrow late Saturday afternoon and took the X9 bus to the city centre. The journey time was about 25 minutes to Zoological Garden, which was close to our hotel. We were a little unsure which ticket to buy at the automatic machine so went for the ABC zone option that cost, if I recall correctly, 6 euro. I should say that each and every time on this trip we bought tickets for rail and underground services I think we paid too much!

There were usually always three rates at those automatic ticket machines but we never managed to figure out the most appropriate for us and thought it safer to always take the last option in case a ticket inspector challenged us. OK, we admit to being cowards but our grandchildren would have been proud to see this pair of oldies navigating around a city without asking anyone for help.

We arranged accommodation with the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which is about a 5-minute walk from Zoo, behind the Europa Centre and very close to Ka De We. We could not fault the hotel; our room was largish and at the rear of the building that suited us just fine as it was nice and quiet. We paid 98 euro for Saturday and Monday nights and 80 euro for Sunday (excluding breakfast). The staff was helpful, efficient and very friendly.
billbeth is offline  
Mar 31st, 2004, 11:56 AM
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That first evening we ate at the hotel then strolled through the square at the memorial church and along Kurfurstendamm. We were impressed with the wonderful shop displays and loved too all the little stalls that were open and selling food. The city centre on Saturday evening was very, very busy and we could not figure out if this was some sort of special occasion or perhaps the Berliners liked also to stroll on weekend evenings.

On Sunday morning we strolled the short distance to the station at Zoological Garden and took the 9.30 Regional Express train to Oranienburg (again an ABC zone ticket) arriving there about 10.15am. This was a direct service. Our plan was to visit Sachsenhausen camp. Leaving the station there were no signs for the camp but we had been given directions by one of the staff at the hotel. Turning right after exiting we walked down what appeared to be a main road and at the first set of lights we came across the first Sachsenhausen direction indicator. From there to the camp itself it was signposted all the way. The walk took us about 25 minutes.

At the camp itself there was a museum plus a bookshop (where we bought the set of official leaflets for the camp) plus a small snack bar. There is a lot of restoration work being carried out at the site but it did not really stop us from getting around. We very much appreciated the opportunity to do this and left, subdued and sad.

There have been a number of comments on this board about Sachsenhausen, which we read with interest before planning our short itinerary. Those comments helped us greatly. One thing that folks may be interested in is that the official booklets describe the site as Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, something that has been disputed on here. Some folks said that there were no concentration camps this close to Berlin.
billbeth is offline  
Mar 31st, 2004, 11:58 AM
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We spent a good few hours there and then returned to Zoological Garden and changed to the underground system where we travelled to Potsdamer Platz. Coming out of the U station we turned right and strolled down to the Topography of Terror (5 minutes). Anyone visiting his wonderful city should see this exhibition. All the displays were in German however the information booth provides audio sets in English, which are free (provided you leave your credit card which is returned when you hand back the handset). A book in English is available at the on-site information unit and contains the text and pictures from the exhibition itself.

We headed back to the city for dinner at an Italian restaurant on Kurfurstendamm. Cost was 48 euro for two.

We started our second (and last) full day by walking from the hotel past the Zoological Garden station and alongside the actual Zoo to the beginning of the Avenue of the 17th of June and made our way along it and through the Tiergarten Park passing the monument, die Siegessäule. We did not climb to its top but left that to the many younger folks hanging around at its base.

Continuing along through the Tiergarten we came to the Reichstag on our left where we took more shots for the photo album. Leaving there we continued past the Soviet War Memorial to the Brandenburg Gate. This area was very busy with people perhaps because traffic is no longer passing through and under it!
billbeth is offline  
Mar 31st, 2004, 12:00 PM
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Now on Unter der Linden we continued on our straight line towards Alexanderplatz and the TV tower, passing the amazing BerlinerDom, Neue Wache, and St. Hedwig's Cathedral. We did take a diversion to Museum Island (through lots of road works) to the Pergamon Museum. It was a Monday and it was closed but we now have another reason to revisit!

When we eventually reached Alexanderplatz we found that the TV Tower was also closed so we sat in the area underneath it and enjoyed watching the business of the place. Oh and our grandchildren would have again been pleased, we had a McDonalds lunchbox. This particular area did seem a bit run down but it was full of real people and did have a buzz about it.

The walk this morning had been great, the buildings beautiful (in comparison with west Berlin) and all in all it took us just over 4 hours at a leisurely pace.

After lunch we took the underground from Alexanderplatz to Stadtmitte and changed to another line to get to the stop, Hallesches Tor. Here we strolled for 5 minutes along a well signposted route to the Jewish Museum. The building looks amazing and inside it very modern and bright although we sometimes did get a little bit confused trying to navigate through the place. The exhibits were very interesting and we spent almost 2 hours there.
billbeth is offline  
Mar 31st, 2004, 12:02 PM
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Returning back to the city centre we visited Ka De We. Great store, great food department!

Tuesday was spent travelling home. Coach to the airport from Zoo and then complete chaos at the BA check in desks. Not organised at all and most frustrating. The flight left almost 45 minutes late, which was not at all surprising.

I am sorry if this is all a bit too long but I hope it may help others here who perhaps are thinking of visiting. Thanks again to everyone here for information so freely given.

Kind regards,

Bill
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Mar 31st, 2004, 12:12 PM
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yk
 
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Bill-

Thanks for the report! Brings back great memories for me when I visited Berlin 6 months ago. It is a great city, yet somehow not popular with the US crowd.

Totally agree with the food dept at KaDeWe. We ate at the roof-top garden. One of the best value meals I had in Berlin.

At Tegel, we had a nightmare experience at the Lufthansa desk. We arrived at the airport early (3hr before our flight) and tried to check in. The TA told us that since it was a domestic flight (to FRA), we cannot check in until 1hr prior. So we found a few chairs (those are hard to come by!) and sat for 1.5hrs. At 1.5hr prior to our flight, we got in line to check-in, thinking that it should take no longer than 30mins for us to move up the line (there was less than 10 people ahead of us). We waited in line for 1 full hour before it was our turn, by then the TA "yelled" at us for checking in so late. My father got mad and yelled back at them for being so inefficient (gasp! germany inefficient?). They got quiet and issued our BPs without saying anything further.
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Mar 31st, 2004, 01:28 PM
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hi yk

The airport nonsense on the way back was, for us, the worst experience of the whole trip.

We arrived about 2 hours before departure to allow us to check in and have some breakfast. When we got there the check-in was closed so we spent about 30 minutes eating our first meal of the day.

When we got back to check-in all hell seemed to have broken loose as a rock band was checking in a LOT of baggage and each of the four staff just didnt seem to know what to do with that volume.

They each spent a long time on the phone to someone, disappearing off somewhere time and time again. This left all other passengers standing there for close to one hour. There were a lot of very angry people.

We all eventually got on the aircraft, but there was an announcement by the captain to let us know that every member of the rock band had go back to confirm their luggage as there had been some errors at check-in!

When we eventually took off and got to London there were more delays there before we landed. All in all we were running almost 2 hours late and missed our connection north.

Ah well, it was STILL a great trip and we will return sometime.

Bill
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Mar 31st, 2004, 01:31 PM
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Your post is timely, we plan to visit Berlin in late May. I first visited Berlin in 1967 with my wife and again in 1981 with my kids. Both times the wall was still in place, there was a Checkpoint Charlie and it was a marked difference between West and East, a lesson my "kids", now in their late thirties, still talk about. The Unter den Linden had many shops with fashionable clothes that the East Germans could only think about, it was strictly a showcase. This time we are visiting with German friends and I'm sure it will be a different experience. One thing that has always stuck in my mind since my first visit is the bombed out Kaiser Wilhelm Church, what a powerful memorial.
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Mar 31st, 2004, 01:55 PM
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Richard

One of my regrets is not visiting the Checkpoint Charlie Museum but time was limited and we aren't just as mobile as we used to be. There seemed to be so many interesting places to visit but I had to narrow it all down a little for the time we had available.

Yes, the bombed out Kaiser Wilhelm Church is very powerful, isnt it. The clocks moved forward one hour on the Saturday night we were there and I was very impressed that all the church's clocks had already been changed when we passed early on Sunday morning. Maybe next time we will get the chance see inside the monument.

Bill
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Mar 31st, 2004, 02:55 PM
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billbeth, thanks for the report. You brought back fond memories for me too. I was lucky enough to visit Berlin in the springs of '98 & 99. I liked climbing the "infobox" in the middle of a lot of the construction and looking at how much the city was changing. Dang! Someplace else I need to return to.
indytravel is offline  
Mar 31st, 2004, 03:39 PM
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Yes- Tegel Airport can be a horror at times. I am not sure it is inefficiency, rather than an airport that is just too small to handle the current passenger load. The new airport is not scheduled to open until sometime after 2007! billbeth- I am glad you enjoyed your short trip to Berlin. It has become my favorite city in Europe- primarily because there is something new and exciting every time I visit.
CharlieB is offline  
Apr 1st, 2004, 08:50 AM
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hey bill!

Thank you for this report. It almost made me feel I was back walking through one of my favorite cities. I too need to return sometime soon.

Have to say though that I've never seen the city centre as busy as you describe. Maybe it was a special night of some sort.

Is good you visited Sachenhausen. It had quite an effect on me.

joe
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Apr 1st, 2004, 09:35 AM
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To billbeth and everyone who puts information on this board. I am a new user that although has done a great deal of traveling has never been on this board before. A friend told me about it and it has been great,

We are going to Berlin, Prague and Budapest in September and all of this information is so helpful. I asked this question earlier on a post and got a lot of negative comments so I will ask again in a different way as I never did get any actual answer.
1. Has anyone been to both Sachsenhausen outside Berlin and to Terezenstadt ( probably spelled wrong) outside of Prague. We want to visit one of this areas but as time is limited throught the trip and emotionally I only want to go to one does anyone have any comments. We will be in Berlin for 3 1/2 days and Prague for 3 days.
Also thanks for the airport information. We fly into Berlin and then have to go back to Berlin to fly to Budapest. We were told one hour for check in but I see this is not so . We will alot more time and take our "patience pill"
spiegelcjs is offline  
Apr 1st, 2004, 10:05 AM
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hello spiegelcjs

It was messages on this board that got us interested in visiting Sachsenhausen camp and I am so pleased we did.

Initially we were a bit nervous at making the journey simply because I knew very little about any place outside the city. The city of course was perhaps our comfort zone.

Also, I'm not too comfortable arranging tickets and as I've got older I get perhaps a little anxious about all that. However it all turned out well and was very much worth it.

The camp is large and bleak. It most certainly has atmosphere. The museum was good as was the little bookshop.

In the camp itself you can walk around its large area and access all of remaining buildings. There are two of the old dormitories still there and inside it was quite shocking to see the conditions the folk there had to live in. Attached to one of the dormatories was another museum display concentrating on Jewish prisoners held there.

You can also walk through the camp prison building and it's yard.

One small part of the camp was closed off and workmen were busy there.

I've already detailed the time it took us to get there and back. Also, the few hours we were at the camp were enough. We got the chance to pay our respect and we also left some flowers. It just seemed right to do that.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions please let me know and I'll do my best to help.

Bill
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Apr 2nd, 2004, 10:09 PM
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Thanks Bill. We are going to take this side trip as I believe that the only way for anything like this to never happen again is to never forget.

Thanks for all the information. This board is really great.
spiegelcjs is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 06:12 AM
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you are welcome, speigelcjs.

Before the trip I bookmarked two websites that gave details including pictures of the site. I hope you find them usefulbr />
http://www.berlinphotos.co.uk/oranienburg.htm

http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Sachsenhausen/

One of the sites (the second if I recall correctly) mentions that the camp is signposted as you leave the station. It isn't. You need to turn sharp right and walk down the main road and till you reach the crossroads. The first signpost is at this point.

Bill
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