Berlin Wall Memorial site

For visitors to the Berlin Wall memorial the first decision to make will be which direction to take it in. I think the majority of people start from the visitor centre at the corner of Gartenstrasse and Bernauer Strasse having arrived via Nordbahnhof S-Bahn. The only disadvantage is that you start from the spot where you get the books and souvenirs (genuine piece of the wall only €5.95!), so you need to make your mind up before you’ve seen everything or get the tram back. The main advantage in starting from here, if you don’t know too much of the Wall’s history, is you can see two short films (15 mins each) in the first floor auditorium to give you some background information. The English language versions start on the hour. But I don’t think it will be much of a problem to start from Bernauer Strasse U-Bahn and work your way down to Nordbahnhof. In fact this might help to put the ‘Ghost Station’ exhibition in Nordbahnhof station into context.

Berlin Wall memorial

Berlin Wall memorial

The thing to be aware of is that this is a big memorial, around 1.4km, with a lot of information so allow plenty of time. Heading out of the visitor centre you will cross the road to the start of the memorial and this will give you your first view of how the Wall was constructed in its final phase, you will also come to the first of the information posts on your route. These posts have a variety of themes and styles, some have printed information, others are audio posts and others show short videos. There is a blend of straightforward historical information, news reports and personal testimony from both sides of the wall, even from one of the Border Guards. Most things are translated if they are not in English already. In this first section you will come to the Window of Remembrance memorial to the 136 known victims of the Wall, which consists of a photo of each person, where available, and their name being read out at a nearby information post.

Berlin Wall memorial

Berlin Wall memorial

The next major part of the memorial is at the corner of Ackerstrasse, on one side of Bernauer Strasse is a reconstructed section of the Wall with the ‘Death Strip’, on the opposite side is the viewing tower and Documentation Centre. The reconstruction gives an impression of how the Wall would have looked in the late Eighties with a Guard Tower and lighting. This is certainly the focal point of the memorial and is definitely not to be missed. If you get the chance to approach this section from the North down Ackerstrasse you can get an impression of how imposing the Wall was as you glimpse the guard tower through the trees and bushes at the end of the street. The Documentation Centre gives you more of the historical background to the Wall’s construction and contains an exhibition of documents detailing the East German government’s plans for the Wall.

From this section heading East you will pass the Chapel of Reconciliation, around the Chapel you will notice the footprint of the original church traced on the ground. For this final section the most interesting features are at, or below, ground level. Here you will find the routes of several of the escape tunnels marked across the strip as well as a feature currently under development the foundations of the houses that were knocked down to clear the strip.

This was never going to be an easy project, but I believe the designers have done an excellent job of bringing together the various aspects of this memorial. There is a lot of information here for those who want to know the history of the Wall, its significance during the Cold War and how it affected the lives of those who lived in its shadow. The memorial to its victims is simple yet moving.

Written and Contributed by Mark Beadle

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Thirst for Knowledge: a tour of the old Kindl beer brewery, Berlin

We gather under the shadow of an impressive, looming old brewery – the former Kindl-Area in Neukölln – in an eerie, industrial wasteland that might feel intimidating if it wasn’t so familiar, so Berlin.   As the nearby clock tower strikes four o’clock, we file punctually into the brewery to start the Berliner Unterwelten guided tour. I’m excited. Beer is an important part of the city’s history and I’m thirsty for knowledge.

old Kindl brewery

old Kindl brewery



Luckily, I don’t have to wait long for refreshment. The tour’s introduction is delivered by a passionate and knowledgeable guide who has facts on tap. We learn the historical significance of beer brewing since the middle ages, when beer was the staple drink of the entire population, including children and pregnant women.  The brewing process removes harmful bacteria so back then it was much safer than water, despite the obvious pitfalls.



In 1516, the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law) was implemented in Bavaria and spread quickly throughout the country. It stipulated that the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops. Today, the law no longer exists but there is still a hangover of traditional brewing customs and German beer is some of the purest and tastiest in the world.

Inside the brewery

Inside the brewery



Brewing beer required cellars because before refrigeration, going underground was the only way to control the temperature. Berlin’s water table is particularly high, so the old breweries were clustered around the high ground in Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg- Neukölln.  As technologies have dramatically changed the brewing process, the old breweries have been rendered defunct and, sadly, most have been demolished or converted. Touring the Kindl brewery is a rare treat, and understandably popular.



We start our tour at the beginning of the brewing journey, in a huge, imposing room with stunning art deco detail. A glance around the room confirms that these brewers took immense pride in all aspects of their work. I’m starting to fancy a beer, but first we must explore the depths of the cellars and learn the fascinating history of brewing techniques.  This first room is where the carbohydrates from the grain are broken down into sugars and the unwanted proteins removed from the sludge. Then, downstairs in a massive, open cellar, the yeast is added and the mixture left to ferment. Down further, to about 20 metres, and it gets very chilly. Here is where the liquid is put into Lager (German for storage and the origin of the name) until it is ready to drink.



The cellars are dingy, wet, smelly and cold, but this only adds to the atmosphere, and our guide’s enthusiasm and knowledge are more than enough to keep the group warm and engaged. After an hour we emerge squinting into the afternoon, our pupils racing to contract in the low autumn sun. We’ve worked up quite a thirst by now but before we hit the bar there’s one final area left to see – the modern Rollberg micro-brewery.  Located in a section of the old brewery building, the Rollberg brewery and bar are a stark reminder of the world-shaping effects of technological progress.

beer!

beer!

Where once immense cellars were carved out of hillsides, the process can now happen in a room no larger than a corner pub.  The pub is, of course, exactly where we end up to finally sample the three varieties of Rollberg – Rot, Hell and Weizen (red, light and wheat). Prost!




The Rollberg Brewery is open from 5pm on Saturdays and from 2pm on Sundays. The Berliner Unterwelten tour (German only) takes place every Saturday at 4pm and costs €10. Participants must bring their own torch.

By Natalie Holmes – www.horseshoenail.org

If you are coming to Berlin looking for adventure, a beer tour maybe and a place to stay, take a look at our, berlin accommodation selection

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Reichenberger Straße in Kreuzberg Berlin – the Kiez is alright


Sandwiched between Görlitzer Park and the Landwehr Canal, Reichenberger Straße is a long, cobbled street flanked by magnificent trees, where the seeds of change have been planted and are beginning to bear fruit. 

Located in west Kreuzberg, the old Turkish quarter, gentrification has been slower here than in other areas such as Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg, and the street is a perfect example of a city still in flux.

Reichenbergerstrasse

Reichenbergerstrasse


Opposition to development is starkly evident, from community organisations against rent increases to the crudely strewn graffiti that intersperses the new cafes, bars and restaurants, all of which continue to pop up in an ongoing neighbourhood tit-for-tat.

Despite (and probably because of) the conflict between development and resistance, Reichenberger Straße is currently a beautiful and interesting place. A vibe of authenticity, which in neighbouring corners is often drowned by development, still exists.

From the chaos of Kotti, walk east along Reichenberger Straße.

Canal near to Reichenbergerstr

Canal near to Reichenbergerstr


The road stretches about 1.5km and at the end you’ll find a lovely park on the banks of a mini triangular lake where two canals meet.  This little-known oasis features two ping-pong tables, a beer garden and kids’ play area and is the perfect place to relax at any time of the year with barbecues in summer, picturesque walks in spring and autumn, and even ice skating on the frozen canal in winter.

Along the way there are some notable pit-stop opportunities, including the eccentrically named Bastard cafe (# 122), which serves a tasty breakfast, Goûter (# 143), a gorgeous new French eatery, and Five Elephants (# 101), which serves the best coffee in the area. Stock up on Italian delicacies and fine wine at Martinello (# 115), or sit outside and watch the world go by over their excellent risotto. As the sun goes down, step into Soul Cat (# 73) for live music, retro DJs, and a welcoming atmosphere that’s almost as refreshing as the beer.

Written by Natalie Holmes – http://www.horseshoenail.org

If you like what you hear about the Reichenbergerkiez and are looking for somewhere to stay for a few nights nearby, take a look at apartments in Kreuzberg

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Free Classical Music in Berlin

One of the best things about Berlin, especially in the summer, is that all sorts of open spaces get used for a wide range of performance including music. And what is even better is that quite a lot of it is free!

Bode Museum - Berlin

Bode Museum - Berlin

This is quite appealing to us, as new parents, as it means that we can get to see something as a family without having to worry about tickets or disturbing other people once we’re there. So when some friends of ours suggested that we go along to the Sonntagskonzerte at the Bode Museum we agreed straight away.This particular series has been running for the last 5 years from the end of June through to early August. The first concert featured music by Dvorak and Beethoven and this evening we were being treated to Prokofiev and Bruckner.

The weather report on the morning of the concert warned us that there could be ‘showers’ and, possibly, thunderstorms towards the evening. We decided that it was worth the risk so we all set off with the prams covered and umbrellas for the grown-ups. We had to dodge one shower as we walked down but it didn’t last too long so we continued on. As we approached the rear of the museum the rain had started to fall again, the sky had darkened ominously and thunder rumbled not so far away. As it was still around 30 minutes before the concert was due to start we made a dash to a nearby archway to wait out the storm. After a few minutes the rain could be described as torrential, lightning lit up the sky overhead and we started to consider collecting two of every animal. Then just 10 minutes before the concert was due to start the rain stopped and we tentatively returned to the seated area to find that, in the best Berlin tradition, no-one in the first two rows had given up their seat and the remaining places were quickly filling up.

In the end the concert started pretty much on time and we all had a great time, the children behaved themselves and the distant flashes of lightning even added to the occasion. It is well worth keeping an eye out for other free concerts particularly at the churches, cathedrals and music schools. One very good option is the lunchtime concert at the Berlin Philharmonic which takes place in the foyer there every Tuesday at 1.00p.m from 6th September.

Fantastic tips by guest writer Mark Beadle

If you are coming to Berlin and looking for somewhere to stay take a look at our Short Stay Apartments in Berlin

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St.Gaudy Café- Berlin

Berlin is justifiably proud of its cafés and the St. Gaudy Café is certainly up there amongst the best. So what is it that makes this one stand out? Firstly, it is more than just a place to grab a quick coffee and a cake. This is a place to get away from the bustle of the adjacent Schönhauser Allee and settle down with your newspaper, book or magazine or to just sit and contemplate the good things in life.

St Gaudy Street cafe

St Gaudy Street cafe


This is something you notice as soon as you cross the threshold, the café just exudes an air of calm. This continues as you place your order; if your German is slim to non-existent there is no need to worry as everyone here speaks good English. There is a bit of a mis-conception that service in Berlin varies between abrupt and rude, so when I say that the guys and girls here could be the friendliest bunch in Berlin you might not be that impressed. But these guys are the genuine article, not the ‘corporate friendly’ you get in some restaurant chains.

Once you have settled down with your coffee and cake, or beer or wine if it’s not too early in the day, you will notice that quite a few events are being advertised and not only that but they all seem to be taking place in the café. In fact there is so much going on that it almost seems that they have taken on the role of an unofficial cultural centre.

St Gaudy Cafe

St Gaudy Cafe

For those who are only in Berlin for a short visit there will be the chance to catch some live music, possibly from a visiting performer or at one of the regular Berlin Folk Society evenings, or maybe some poetry and reading from the Letters Society or even a philosophy presentation. There are also the regular weekly film nights during the cooler months.

If you are in Berlin for a bit longer you may take the opportunity to practice your English or German skills at the weekly language exchange, or you might like to join the book club or you could even take a course in portrait photography.

St.Gaudy Café…more than just bloody good coffee.

The café is located at the end of Gaudystrasse and is just a short walk from Schönhauser Allee S + U Bahn. Most events are free entry and donations for the performers are more than welcome.

By Guest Writer Mark Beadle

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Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night of Museums), Berlin – 27th August 6pm to 2am

Staying up late in Berlin need not involve nightclubs and all-night parties, although the Long Night of Museums is certainly a celebration of sorts. Berlin started the Long Night idea way back in 1997 – when just 12 museums were involved – and has grown into an extremely popular event with over 120 venues and 150,000 visitors expected to participate this year.

Museum für Naturkunde/Quinet-Flickr

Museum für Naturkunde/Quinet Flickr



Berlin, with its Soviet influences, is said to have borrowed the idea from St. Petersburg, which holds a White Nights festival during those long summer evenings when the sun barely sets.  Indeed, held during the last weekend in August, the event provides a perfect opportunity to enjoy the final headiness of summer before September starts to draw the nights in. One Long Night of culture before the season of long dark nights begins.



The Long Night of Museums takes place over almost 400 square kilometres of the city centre. Participating venues open their doors between 6pm and 2am for visitors to explore, free of charge, the wonders within. The crowds, special programme, and magnificent buildings and exhibitions combine to create an exciting atmosphere not to be missed. Succeeding year on year in its goal of introducing new people to the cultural institutions of Germany’s capital, the concept has spread to more than 120 cities in Europe alone. This year, the theme in Berlin is music. A number of the city’s choirs will perform in venues throughout the evening, culminating with an open-air performance, with which the audience are invited to join in.

The full programme is impressive and despite free shuttle buses and a reliable metro network, there’s simply no way to experience it all. The best approach is to scan the programme, study the map (or vice versa!) and make the most of the original and best Long Night of Museums. Some highlights include the Energy Museum, which has an exhibition on energy supply technology, and the Deutsches Historisches Museum offering special shows and guided tours in English (6-9pm in the foyer).  Some interesting insights are sure to be gleaned at the Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen, which used to be a prison and is now a memorial to the lives of political prisoners of the former GDR. Similarly, the Kreuzberg Museum examines immigration and urban development in the area.  Perhaps most intriguing of all is a rare opportunity to glimpse the inside of Germany’s Freemason headquarters, where they’ll be showing an exhibition about the brotherhood’s famously clandestine rituals and customs.www.lange-nacht-der-museen.de

By Guest Writer Natalie Holmes

If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Berlin during the Long Night of the Museums, then take a look Be My Guest

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The Fans Football Team in Berlin – Reasons to be Union

Despite the fact that Berlin hosted the World Cup Final recently, as well as a sell-out opening game for the women’s finals, it does not come across as a football town. In fact many visitors remain convinced that Berlin only has one team. Which is strange when you consider that London often has five teams in the Premier League with a population only around double the size. At a push some fans may vaguely recall Dynamo Berlin’s European exploits back in the old DDR days.

fans

fans

But for those who don’t have their head turned by the bright lights, big stadium, sort of famous players and attractive opposition of Hertha there is a little gem of a team gradually building a reputation down in Köpenick the home of 1.FC Union Berlin.
So why would someone drag themselves all the way down to Köpenick to watch a team they’ve never heard of playing in the 2.Bundesliga?

Well, firstly, there’s the stadium. As you get off the S-Bahn at Köpenick , don’t worry it’s only twenty minutes from Alexanderplatz, follow the crowd out of the right hand exit, cross the road and walk back alongside the tracks then go through the underpass and turn right into the forest, yes, the forest. Follow the track and after an hundred metres or so you will get your first sight of the Stadion An der Alten Försterei. It is likely that the stadium is more well known than the team as this is the ‘stadium the fans built’. Although outside help was needed for specialist things like the roof, while the team played at a different stadium, a couple of hundred volunteers provided the materials, cash and muscle power to re-develop the stadium. I have even heard a die-hard Dynamo fan describe it as ‘ a brilliant effort”. The stadium itself holds almost 19 000 mostly standing, which means you don’t spill the beer so much jumping out of your seat.

pitch

pitch

Secondly, the quality of the football is actually quite good and the atmosphere is second to none. Union have a decent home record and, having spent too long in the lower leagues, the fans really get behind the team. It is always difficult to compare exactly but the standard is comparable with the Championship (2nd league) in the UK. In a pre-season friendly last year they were unlucky to only draw with Middlesborough and this year they comfortably beat Heart of Midlothian. In fact you will actually be going to see, as a result of head to head games last season, Berlin’s top team. After a particularly poor season Hertha found themselves in the same division as Union who had only been promoted the season before. In the first game an early Hertha goal seemed to set them up for a comfortable victory, but constant Union pressure eventually told and an equaliser was scored in the last few minutes. In the return game at the Olympiastadion, despite conceding another early goal, Union secured victory with two superb strikes of their own. Although Hertha did secure promotion back to the Bundesliga there are some good fixtures this season including the visit of everyone’s favourite cult side St Pauli.

The owners have stated that their aim is to get Union established in the Bundesliga, so get yourself down to Köpenick this season before they become too famous. How many times will you have the opportunity to walk through a forest to a ground!
Und Niemals Vergessen – Eisern Union!

Written by Mark Beadle (An Eisern Union fan maybe!)

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