[BERLIN] — It’d been a looong time since I was last in Berlin. So long ago, it’s scary. Back when I was in college in Rome, when the Wall was around. When Checkpoint Charlie was a real checkpoint.

The city just seemed to be numb then, both sides. Mostly old people on the streets, not many. Can’t remember anyone young. Everything seemed grey and colorless. Eerie. You could roll a down the main strassens and not hit a soul. The only shops around seemed to sell Bavarian beer mugs and cuckoo clocks, not sneakers.

Stating the obvious, today is so much more different. Alive. So many kids and cute moms with strollers, everywhere, Third Wave coffee shops and colors in faces now. Everyone smiling. Streets bustling. Sharp new architecture and construction, everywhere.


The last time I was in Berlin, the Wall was around and standing up straight, with barbed wire and armed guards. When Checkpoint Charlie was a real checkpoint.

The first time I was here, it was by accident; we were in Paris, actually. In those days, Paris was super expensive for us stupid college kids. And a shithole if you can believe it. Everything was broken there, too. Payphones. Streetlights. The Metro. Everything was dirty then. And scary-ass over-priced fleabag hotels run by mean old ladies.

So, being the resourceful, thieving lot we were, we’d go to Paris, have a look ‘round and to save money, at the end of each day we’d jump on a train with our free Eurail passes, sleep for free, switch trains in the middle of the night and return back the next morning.

One night we picked a train headed for Berlin as our turn-around destination. It was the train whistle that woke us up. Hungover, we quickly realized we were on the very last stop in West Berlin before it headed on to the Communist side and their “machine gun-toting guards” that everyone had warned us about. (which was very rare back then, commonplace today).

After a collective “Oh shit! Shit!” we had one of those movie moments with everyone throwing their backpacks out the door of the moving train, including our loose yellow Timberlands (they were big then) and landed barefoot on the train platform, watching as the train pulled away past the final barbed wire barricades to the East. Destination: dark Warsaw.

I liked it better this time. Much better. What a city.


A Weekend in Berlin

It was ironic that after being there in those bleak, grey times, even visiting the monochromatic Communist East Berlin, now I was on my way to Berlin in 2016 to scope out moving there after the paralyzing election of Donald Trump. The roles were reversed:  now Berlin is lively, welcoming, multicultural and accepting of everybody.

My how things have changed.

Here are some of my favorite things I found over a long winter weekend in Berlin.

  • The streets of the old Jewish Quarter are just amazing. Endless huge industrial buildings, now with design firms, cool shops and nice restaurants.

  • The Zoo Sbahn stop is a huge office and retail area, loaded with old and new.
  • Book tickets at the old school Flic Flac circus.
  • Head toward the the Museum Island, a gorgeous area of world-class museums. See three I visited below.

Three Great Berlin Museums

Neues Museum

The Neues Museum is a perfect ancient history museum, capturing everything from prehistoric, to Egyptian, Roman, German, etc. all under one roof. It’s conveniently located on Museum Island, Berlin’s awesome walkable area of all major museums in one place. Whatever your mood, you can just pick a different type of museum, all world class. It is such a treasured place that it’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Neues Museum Berlin statue
Definitely stop into the Neues Museum. My favorite. Lots of cool old stuff. And a really neat museum design. Sometimes I think I like cool museum designs better than the stuff in museums.

So much more to see.  Whatever your interests, you’ll find it here. Here are all the museums on Museum Island:

Museum Island museum listings


Deutsches Technikmuseum/The German Museum of Technology

The Deutsches Technikmuseum is loaded with cool things showcasing the best of German engineering. Think Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. As a dude with an 11 year old inside him, I was in heaven. It’s kind of in an isolated area, but easily reached in 10-15 minutes by the S or UBahn.

Deutsches Technikmuseum airplanes
This really resonated with my inner 11 year old. I was in heaven looking at all these wonderful flying machines.

Contemporary Photography at C/O Berlin

The C/O Berlin  is a groovy little photography museum on the buzzy southside of Berlin. When I was there it included this beautiful Gordon Parks exhibit. Never have really seen all his work before. It’ll move ya.

C/O Berlin Gordan Parks nuns
Fascinating to see a big exhibit when I was there on the American civil rights photographer Gordon Parks. I never really knew his stuff. But learned about it in Berlin. This image just transfixed me.



Where to Eat in Berlin

Restaurant Austria Kreuzberg
Fantastic traditional Austrian meal at a cool little neighborhood place in Kreuzberg called…wait for it… Austria. Exactly what I was looking for. I think you’d like it, too.

Here is Cordobar’s website

And Austria’s website. And the TripAdvisor page on Austria.

House of Small Wonder’s website.

Here’s a great article from the New York Times on Berlin’s Cocktail Dens.

Exploring Kreuzberg, One of the Many Cool Neighborhoods of Berlin

Kreuzberg used to be a squatter’s haven that Berlin used to be known for in the 80s and 90s, then Berlin’s Turkish workers slowly came in, fixed up the buildings and built a melting pot of wonderful cultures, with killer kebobs and Turkish restaurants all over, including the cool Turkish Market on every Friday.

Now with the influx of so many young families, there seems to be a big gentrification going on, with strollers and hot mommies fighting the sidewalks.  Loved this area, cool buildings and flats and just a nice place where all kinds of people live. Not to mention, many great restaurants.

Walk through the Friday Turkish market with me:

Turkish Market in Berlin. Fridays in Kreuzberg. Must listen for full effect.

Last visited November 2017

More Information I Found on What to do in Berlin

My Berlin Google Map

For years, I’ve been a clipper. I have a big four drawer file cabinet with all sorts of files, broken out by City and Country.  Whenever I run across an article of somewhere I want to go in the future, I rip it out and file away, waiting for the day I eventually go there. Before I go, I read through all those articles and find the cool places I want to check out and plot them on Google Maps.

When I’m traveling, I tend to just walk and walk and walk. So each day, I just look at the map I created on my phone and just head where the most stars are.  It’s amazing how effective this is. Instead of picking places randomly scattered all over the city, it makes more sense to go neighborhood by neighborhood. And it’s freakishly cool how, consolidating all these cool places, from so many different sources, from all these years, they all kind cluster together and point you where to go.

Here’s my map of cool stuff I plotted for Berlin. Restaurants. Shops. Museums. Cool things. With such a short time there, I didn’t get a chance to see many of them, or I got there and they weren’t open for lunch, etc.  Don’t do what I did and just go, do look them up to see if they are open first.

Top Berlin Sites
You can save this map your self, or bookmark it so when you’re there, you can pull it up. Each star gives the name, location and usually there’s a link to their website.

Here’s the link: https://goo.gl/maps/G1anXf62D3B2

Here’s where I’d recommend staying in Berlin. LOVED this design hotel. And if you like this, check out my other posts on Hamburg, another favorite German city. And my favorite cool places to eat in Hamburg. And this incredibly fun miniature train museum in Hamburg.

Here is a great comprehensive guide to Berlin by Tripedia http://tripedia.info/location/europe/germany/berlin/  which is mostly sourced by local contributors and has just about everything you need.  Check it out.

Here is Conde Nast Traveller’s UK awesome Berlin Guide. And this great story from Conde Nast Traveler in 2015 “The Perfect Weekend In Berlin.”

Travel & Leisure’s Berlin Guide.

And the always helpful and dependable NY Times 36 Hours in Berlin suggestions. As well as their excellent collection of travel-related stories on Berlin.

And a super guide on Berlin from The Independent. And here’s a good overview from Time Out that describes each neighborhood in Berlin.

Last visited November 2017

3 Discussions on
  • Just ran across your postings about Berlin, Dan. My daughter spent 11 pretty cool months in Berlin, living in a fantastic corner apartment in Kreuzberg looking at the canal. She loved Berlin and would definitely recommend you going back in the summer. We visited for Christmas; short, cold days but really delightful. I felt like we just scratched the surface during our visit.

    • Oh that’s so cool she was there. I’m actually thinking of moving there… but who knows. May go back over Xmas or Tgiving again this year. Last trip, I barely got to see much.

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