The next whistle-stop on my world tour is Berlin. It happens to be a city that I have a fair amount of experience in. I lived there for about eight months during my exchange year. It is a city unlike any other that I have been to. It is much grittier than other major German cities. It isn’t spotless. The subways aren’t exactly timely, the entire city isn’t an utterly safe playground for the unprepared. All of that gives Berlin a unique personality.
Berlin was first chartered in 1237. Over the years it has grown and expanded, eventually surpassing the city that first gave it life. Its land area is divided into twelve Bezirke. Each Bezirk acts very similarly to a small city. They are governed by an elected council and a mayor. The Bezirksamt is subordinate to the Senat von Berlin. Berlin’s population totals 3.5 million people. Berlin still bears many scars from the events of the 20th Century. Many of the landmarks from World War II no longer stand. Marks of the Cold War are still evident in the center and east of the city.
Before you get to exploring the city itself, you must first make it there.
Berlin is also unique in the sense that it is rather isolated in comparison to other major European cities. But one must remember that this is relative. It really isn’t very far away from anything if you are used to American-sized distances.
When booking flights you should remember this. The two airports servicing the city are rather small. Oftentimes, flights in and out of Tegel and Schönefeld are rather costly. You should look at flights into Frankfurt am Main, Düsseldorf, Prague, Amsterdam Schiphol, and Munich before booking a flight into Berlin. Specials that can save you large amounts are common going into these airport depending on what your city of origin is. All of these airports have easy access to trains to Berlin. The cost of the train must be factored into the airport decision. Trains can be easily booked ahead of time with Deutsche Bahn. See this post about the German train system for information about booking train tickets in Germany. Train tickets should be airport of choice to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Hbf) or Ostbahnhof if staying in the East.
- Frankfurt am Main (FRA) – Berlin Hbf ~ 4:30
- Düsseldorf (DUS) – Berlin Hbf ~ 4:10
- Munich (MUC) – Berlin Hbf ~ 7:00
- Prague (PRG) – Berlin Hbf ~ 5:35
- Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) – Berlin Hbf ~ 6:35
Buses are another option, but it should be kept in mind that a bus to Berlin is not as comfortable as the train, as fast as the train, and large luggage makes it unwieldy to get to many of the bus stations in the first place. Bus pricing is also usually fairly similar to the lowest train fare class.
Next: Berlin: First Movements