Getting to Know Berlin, Germany
- Potsdamer Platz
- Berlin Philharmonic
- Tiergarten Park
- Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
- Checkpoint Charlie and The Berlin Wall Museum
- The Jewish Museum
Considered one of the best orchestras in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic has 128 world-class musicians that are a delight to see and listen to. We took our daughter who promptly fell asleep during the concert and when she starting snoring, we had to wake her because there is nary a cough, whisper, or sneeze while the musicians are playing. Accordingly, no one leaves their seat before the concert reaches intermission or is over.
The Philharmonie has an excellent website in English with a detailed calendar of upcoming concerts. Tickets can be purchased on-line or in person at the on-site ticket office.
A westerly walk from Potsdamer Platz through Tiergarten Park and then south pass the Berlin Zoo brings the walker to the sight of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which is shocking and impossible to stop staring at as time appears to have stood still.
The church and memorial are open daily and there are free 30 minute tours throughout the day (see the official website below for the complete tour schedule).
Moving east on the southern border of the Mitte district and the northern border of the Friedrichshain–Kreuzberg district, is where Checkpoint Charlie is located and now also includes the Berlin Wall Museum.
The Berlin Wall Museum (which is also referred to as the Checkpoint Charlie Museum) is called the “Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie” and displays the photos, documents, and equipment used for escapes from East Berlin to West Berlin. In addition, the stories of those that tried to escape and those that succeeded are told in film, pictures, and exhibits.
The museum does not display the exhibits in a sophisticated way on large walls with special lighting far from the viewer; the exhibits are displayed to be seen up close to illustrate the extreme risks that people took to escape in cars, submarines, and by foot. The museum has a website: www.mauermuseum.de that provides information on hours and pricing. This is a museum very much worth going to because the exhibits provide the visitor with a better understanding of how Berlin evolved through the 20th century.
Open every day from 9:00 -10:00
Plan to spend the day here, especially if children are along as this place is one of the most engaging museums for kids we’ve ever visited. The new building is divided into four levels with the tour (self guided or with a guide) starting in the lower level, which is devoted to the Holocaust. Some of the exhibits are too strong for young children but are appropriate for older children who have studied the Holocaust in school. The tour then continues to Level 2 and works downwards to Level 1 and then to the ground level. Levels 2 and 1 provide a history of Judaism and through each historical section, children are engaged in every room through exhibits and computers.
My daughter particularly loved the Pomegranate Tree which is a “tree” several floors tall in an atrium that has a winding staircase through the tree to the top. Children are given a paper pomegranate and asked to write about what emancipation means to them and then hang their pomegranate anywhere on the tree, with the most popular spot the top of the tree.
Children are also introduced to historical figures that contributed to industries including cartoons, fashion, movies, and physics. There are coloring stations, pillowed sofas on the floor to watch cartoons (someone who really knows kids thought of this exhibit), and computers that ask kids questions in every room. My daughter was particularly affected by a question in which she was asked “Do you know anyone that doesn’t like someone because a person is Jewish?” My daughter truthfully answered no. After she answered, the computer tallied the day’s answers and told her that 72% of the people answered no but that 28% answered yes. The 28% struck my daughter as hard to comprehend – that someone would not like a person because that person is Jewish; a simple question and surprising collective answer really made my daughter think and ask questions about race and religion.
- In dialing Germany, the country code is 49 and the Berlin city code is 30. If dialing from outside the country, dial 0 11 49 30 and the remainder of the numbers. If dialing from within Germany, dial 0 30 and the remainder of the numbers.
- In winter, the sun rises late and sets early (sometimes by 4:00 pm) so maximize the daylight hours by getting out.
- Most museums and stores stay open late on Thursdays.
- Most stores close late Saturday afternoon and are closed on Sunday.
- Tax and tipping is already included in a restaurant bill but most people leave 5-10%with the server, not on the table.
- The German trains are on time and precise.
- There are no additional taxes on purchases as the VAT is already included.