So last week I was in Berlin,
pointing my camera at lots of interesting things. Its going to take a while to sort through
all 1400 shots to make a series of videos, so in the meantime I thought
I would just present a few tips for people intending to
visit the city as a tourist. You know: the tips the guide books
should have given you, but didnt. If youre confident about striking out on your own, a lot of the sights have information displays, many of them translated into English, and some of
them translated into other languages as well.
You can learn a great deal
without even having to go into a museum. You may find some small exhibitions
in very unlikely places. Some of the U-Bahn stations, for example, are virtual museums or art galleries
in their own right. Some are worth looking at
just for the architecture.
But Berlin is a big place, and driving is not easy.
Parking is nearly impossible. With so many attractions
scattered over such a wide area, you are going to need transport. Obviously, there are the sightseeing buses, and in many cases you can buy a ticket
that lasts for 24 hours that allows you to hop off and on as you wish. If your time is limited,
then one recommendation is to do the entire tour in one go, and then go back and revisit some of the
sights that seemed most interesting to you.
A slightly more cost-effective alternative is
to use the ordinary buses. Routes 100 and 200 go past many of the major
tourist attractions in central Berlin; but they are very popular with tourists, and its very difficult to get a prized seat
near the front of the top deck unless you make a very early start
or are in Berlin out of season. So heres what you do. Start at the zoo, but dont get on at the main bus station.
Instead, walk along the length
of the train station until the end, turn left, go under the bridge, and you should see the bus depot ahead of you. And opposite the bus depot is a bus stop
that almost nobody knows exists. And if you get on there, I can almost guarantee
that youll be first on the bus. So: public transport in Berlin
for those who think they may need it.
There are buses, obviously; and in former
East Berlin there are also trams. Then theres the U-Bahn, which is a metro system rather like the London Underground
or the New York Subway; and the S-Bahn, which is a mass-transit
commuter rail system. And you can also use other local trains. These services are all integrated into one system, so you can use the same ticket on all of them.
This is what I had: its called a CityTourCard, and it came with a little map,
which was very useful, and some discounts on some attractions. Theres also the WelcomeCard, which is similar, slightly more expensive, but it has
more discounts on more attractions and a little guide book. These are the websites to go to
for further information about these tickets; and Ive also put links in the video description,
if youre watching this on YouTube. Before you start your first journey,
you need to validate your ticket by inserting it into a validation machine
like this one, which youll find in all stations
and on all buses and trams.
There are no barriers,
but there are frequent spot checks. Obviously, there is a downside: there will be times when trains and buses
are going to be very full; and as excellent as Berlins public transportation
system is and it is excellent its not always a very pleasant experience. If you ever get lost in Berlin, look for
the nearest bus shelter or tram shelter. Therell be a detailed street-map there,
showing you exactly where you are.
Be prepared to be disappointed from time to time. 25 Years after reunification,
Berlin is still rebuilding, so a lot of the attractions
may be behind scaffolding. This sometimes also affects public transport, so expect services to be
rerouted or even suspended. Berlin is relatively safe,
but obviously not risk-free.
In crowded places you will have to
watch out for pickpockets. Going out at night is quite safe,
but still take care. Go with a friend its usually more fun that way and avoid confrontations with strangers. One thing I did notice is that the shell game
is alive and well in Berlin, so apparently enough people
are still being suckered into it.
Dont be one of them. Now, I didnt actually want to be
caught out filming any of these people, because theyre not very pleasant. But basically, you see them playing a game where the object is to guess under which little
box a little ball is to be found. You see lots of people apparently winning
lots of money, but they are shills.
If you have a go, you will lose. The Berliners themselves are famously rude,
and they are proud of it. Youre not supposed to take offence:
its just the way they are. Ive heard people say that in that respect,
theyre quite similar to New Yorkers.
People who work in the service industry
particularly are likely to be efficient, but theyre not going to bother to pretend
that theyre pleased to see you. Finally, Berlin sees a lot of protests
and demonstrations, especially around the Brandenburg Gate and the
Government Quarter, for obvious reasons. If you have to catch a train or a plane, make sure you give yourself plenty of time,
just in case you get held up. I was actually quite lucky
to catch my train back home, because the bus I was planning to take
to the station wasnt running due to a demonstration right outside
the central train station itself, forcing me to take a much more complicated route
by U-Bahn and S-Bahn.
Luckily, I had given myself 40 minutes leeway, so all that actually happened was, I missed lunch. And thats it. Berlin is well worth visiting, and has a lot more to offer
than you could fit in an entire week. Really, just…