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Martin's Travel Journal Just a few photos and ramblings from my trips.

Berlin

GERMANY | Friday, 20 August 2010 | Views [709]

Arriving in Berlin for just a few days may seem like only small opportunity to see most of the City and, yes it is, but at the same time Berlin is surprisingly small and quite flat - making it ideal to cycle around.

Grabbing a hire back for 20 Euros for 24 hours is great value (shopping around and finding the best deal) and with that I was off to discover the German capital. Being based in Kreuzberg, which is South of Mitte and a traditionally a poor area of Berlin but now is a centre of art with quite a Bohemian feel (and a large student population), I was just a stones throw from my planned starting point - Checkpoint Charlie.

Checkpoint Charlie was the only point where people could cross form East to West Berlin. It is now a massive tourist trap but it has to be visited, just because this is one of the factors that has made Berlin the city it is today. The history is still so recent and relevant that any visitor must make the time to visit this site, as well as the wall - the remains of which are now few and far between but should still be seen.

Cycling further into the City I headed for the centre of the Mitte, travelling away from the Brandenburg Gate. Neue Wache was my first port of call. After seeing Checkpoint Charlie is seemed only right to visit this amazing memorial to the victims of the war. The simplicity of the Neue Wacher is the most staggering thing.

Further back down the road from the Neue Wacher is the the infamous Reiter Denkmal (the statue of Frederick The Great) and then across the road is the Bebel-Platz, a massive open space where the Nazi book burning took place. The Platz is surrounded by majestic buildings including the St Hedwigs Katherale.

I walked across to the Zeughaus, a former arsenal that is now the German Museum. I took in the museum's free exhibitions that follows the history of Germany since Romantimes right through to the fall of the Wall.

After some lunch on the banks of the Canal with the staggering Berliner Dom I cycled across the to take in the Dom, discovering the many areas inside that are open to the public, including the tower and the amazing views from the observation posts at the top.

Heading East I took in the Marx-Engles Forum before cycling up to the Fernshturm, the massive television tower that can be seen from pretty much anywhere in Berlin, standing at 1197ft and built in 1969. It is the real landmark of Berlin.

From this point I cycled back down to the Friedrichswerdersche Kirche before heading back for dinner.

From Kreuzberg it is an easy cycle up to the Tiegarten, the 495 Acre Park that the City surrounds. Cycling through the Park you would not believe you are in the capital but out in the German countryside, until you find your way through to the chaotic traffic of the Grosser Ster, which in the middle stands the iconic Stegessaule, built in 1864 to commemorate victory in the Prussian-Danish war. From here it's a small cycle up to the Schloss Bellevue, the official residence of the German Federal President and located in the delightful Englischer Garten.

From here I cycled past the House of World Culture and stopped at the war memorial before heading down the Strass Des 17 Juni towards the Brandenburger Tor, or Brandenberg Gate, though due to an event taking place (apparently involving German Chancellor Angela Merkel) I was unable to get closer than from the road.

I cycled round from the Gate to the impressive holocaust memorial, which covers 205,000 Sq Ft, with slabs of concrete that symbolise the murdered millions. From here it was short cycle down to the river for food (the Berlin speciality of Curry-Wurst) and drinks on the river bank to bring in the evening. Berlin nightlife is fantastic.

The next day was spent away from the Mitte, and the morning was spent in Charlottenburg, the centre of the old West Berlin and this is obvious from the new buildings and the sopping centre of Berlin. In amongst the new buildings, skyscrapers and shops is the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche. The Neo-Romaesque church stands out amongst it's more contemporary neighbours in this area, and is unique due to the bomb damage from 1943. The British Airforce dropped a bomb on this church that fell through the roof and the church has been preserved as it is. However a new bell tower has been built next to the church. Any visit to Berlin must include this church.

For a relaxing end to my trip to Berlin a visit to Viktoria Park, with it's majestic waterfalls, hills and great views of the city and on a hot summer's day such as this is a fantastic place for a relaxing afternoon. After the park we headed north to the more modern Sony Centre for dinner.

Berlin is jam packed full of history, art, food, drink and a great night life - and to top it all off it is very cheap compared to other cities in Europe. A few days does not do it justice and it is definitely a City I will be returning to in the near future.

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