After a series of trips outside Europe, we decided to visit one of the most historically significant cities on the European continent – Berlin. With about 3,450,000 inhabitants, it is the largest city in Germany and also the capital city. By population, it is second in Europe just behind London.

Unlike most of the big cities we have visited so far, in Berlin, we did not have the feeling that this is a multimillion city. The population density is not as high as in other European capitals. The surface of the city occupies 890 square kilometers. Due to the expressive large surface area, after a 40-minute train ride from the center of Berlin, you will still be within the city limits. Germany, unlike most European countries, had an extremely high level of economic development in 2011, and this is evident in the multitude of construction sites and luxurious facilities currently under construction.

It is impossible not to notice how well they have combined architecturally modern buildings with beautiful old buildings that are quite a number. More interesting is how the former old massive buildings (formerly used as barracks and warehouses) were repurposed into functional and modern centers, such as shopping malls, museums, galleries.

Tourists in Berlin mainly aim to visit the most famous historical sites that mark the city’s development and events. There are such historical monuments all over the city, and they are somewhat far from each other, so this is an additional reason why you cannot fully “experience” the increase in the number of visitors who visit the city.

If you can visit Berlin, consider that you must check in at least two days in advance to see the Reichstag Parliament House. The Berliner Dom, one of the most significant churches in Berlin, can be visited on the same day without notice. The entrance is charged 10 euros, but arm yourself with patience because due to the extreme interest of tourists, you may wait a while.

Although we believe that paying for a visit to the churches is not in the spirit of the same, we must say that it is still worth paying a ticket and seeing the inner decoration of the church. Besides, you have the opportunity to climb high on its dome and walk outside, offering a magnificent view of this great city.

We want to point out that in some other smaller churches, there is also an entrance fee, plus a photo license, but since there is nothing so special about them to be perpetuated, it is our advice not to pay that extra amount.

Before visiting Berlin, our perceptions of it were different from those we acquired after arriving in the city. What we were most interested to see were the remains of the Berlin Wall, which left such a deep mark in the history of the town, especially among those who unfortunately experienced it and felt it on their skin.

To remind you, Berlin was divided into eastern and western parts in 1961. The city was entirely located in East Germany and the German Democratic Republic. The wall was taken down with the fall of communism in 1989, and Berlin became the capital of the united Germany.

We expect to see traces of the Berlin Wall at the site where it was initially built. However, we were surprised to discover that the wall had been almost entirely removed. Parts of the wall could be found scattered throughout the city like a monument. The wall was not built on the spot but made of large precast concrete blocks stacked side by side.

We were told to check the once main crossing between West and East Germany, Checkpoint Charlie, for any wall remnants. Nowadays, two American soldiers dressed in uniforms of that time with an American flag in their hands stand at Checkpoint Charlie. Behind the soldiers, tourists can find Russian fur hats and other assorted hats they can put on their heads for a fun photo opportunity. There is also a beautifully decorated museum that extensively talks about Berlin during the time of the Berlin Wall.

If you’re looking for souvenirs, you can buy small pieces of the wall in different places throughout the city. However, the authenticity of these souvenirs is questionable.

To get an authentic feel of the city, you should move away from the center, at least 15-20 minutes by train, to a peripheral area that’s less regulated than the center.

We embarked on a tour of the eastern part of the city, where you can still see some old and abandoned buildings, which gives a glimpse of what the city looked like before the wall was taken down.

Additionally, the East Side Gallery is nearby, which happens to be the most extensive collection of artwork in the world. The gallery is a 1.3 km long wall made up of original blocks of the Berlin Wall, painted by 105 artists from around the world.

That wall is an expression of the artistic freedom that reigns in Berlin. Substantial opportunities are given to artists who are in large numbers in the city.

They express their art in various ways but never enough space. So they draw on different walls, doors, and windows and thus transform ordinary city streets into street galleries of graffiti that often express artists’ emotions or contain messages that artists send to city dwellers, the government, or the whole world.

Berlin is quite tidy and clean, giving the impression of security at all times of the day and night. You can reach astonishing points in the city by train for a relatively low ticket price.

Two navigable rivers pass through Berlin: the Haver and the Spree, on which were built more bridges than on countless channels through Venice. We believe boat trips are a unique experience, but on this occasion, we did not have enough time to enjoy sailing.

Probably many wonder what Berlin’s nightlife looks like. This city offers countless places for different tastes, from luxurious and expensive restaurants and nightclubs to modest but always original decorated bars.

Berlin is quite tidy and clean, giving the impression of security at all times of the day and night. You can reach astonishing points in the city by train for a relatively low ticket price.

If the weather permits, we recommend cycling through the city, which is very interesting. There are no hills, and bike paths are all over the city. In addition to being on the move, you will avoid unnecessary traffic jams. If you are walking in the city, be careful not to follow the bike trails, as this will cause the cyclist anger.

Accommodation in the narrow and broader city center is quite expensive. If you want an inexpensive overnight, be prepared for modestly decorated hotels. For shopping lovers, there is no end to the pleasure of top-notch offers. The only limit is the depth of your pocket. Shopping centers are concentrated on the Potsdamer Platz, but the most exclusive centers are in the heart of Berlin, such as the Lafayette Gallery or the Hackesche Höfe.

The Lafayette Gallery, situated in the heart of the city, is surrounded by high-end boutiques of the world’s most prestigious brands. This area is not just limited to fashion but also includes luxury car showrooms like Mercedes, Porsche, and Bugatti on the main street.

Hackesche Höfe, previously a Jewish luxury mansion, has been transformed into a shopping mall with seven interconnected courtyards connected by narrow aisles. The mall houses several small but tastefully decorated shops.

There are many parks in Berlin, and the largest (covering an area of 2.3 km²) is in the city center at the Brandenburg Gate. It is Tiergarten, where the Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament, is located at the entrance. Today, it is one of the most fascinating sights of Berlin, thanks to the renovated glass dome from which one can enjoy the beautiful view of Berlin.

Although the winters here can be pretty cold and always accompanied by snow, the rest of the year provides good climatic conditions. If you do not like the cold and winter joys, then for a visit to this European capital, choose a warmer period of the year so that you do not feel the “cold” of the former Iron Curtain in the present.

TEXT & PHOTO – Lovro Barbalich