48-hours is all we had to visit Berlin.
You may wonder why we spent so little time in a city of 3.5 million people, with so much history. Let me tell you why!
We stopped in Berlin during one of our trip to Europe. The two main reasons for our three weeks road adventures were:
- Visit my family in France and spend a little time with them;
- Bring my hubby’s mom to the home country of Norway to see the farm where her grand mother was born.
Everything in between was optional.
When we started to plan the trip, we both wanted to make a stop in Berlin because none of us had been there before. We realized it was out of the way, and it was going to shorten some of the other stops. After 6 months of planning, we knew we could do it, but only had 48-hours in the city.
When time came, we realized really fast that we made one big mistake. We booked all our hotels downtown thinking it would make it easier to access restaurants and key attractions to visit. People in Europe live in the center of towns, and we did not take in consideration the traffic jams we were going to encounter to get to our hotels. We lost precious time. So when we got to Berlin, we decided to cancel our rooms and stopped at a hotel in the suburb near a train station.
The first day we took the train to Central Station (Station Hauptbahnhof) and started walking. Again, more mistakes:
- Walking around was not the answer to see all we wanted to see.
- My hubby’s mom is 75 years old, and she was starting to slow down.
So we did what I never thought I would do in all my travels! We bought tickets for a double decker city tour bus. I do not regret doing it. It allowed us to get a good feel of the entire city. There were only 10 people on the bus. Our guide was in his mid 50’s and had lived in Berlin his entire life. He was a living history book. The bus stopped at several key touristic points, and we got off the bus at checkpoint Charlie. I’m glad we saw it that way, I would have been disappointed otherwise.
The next day we knew exactly what we wanted to see. We took the train again and stopped to the closest station to the Holocaust Memorial. The Memorial is close to 5 acres and is covered with 2,711 concrete pillars of varying heights to create a grid–like structure. It was designed by the New York based architect Peter Eisenmann. You can enter the structure from all four sides at no cost. The attached underground information center holds the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims. This was an unsettling moment. This is our parents/grand parents’ history. It comes alive with historical film, photo documents and video interviews with survivors of the Holocaust. We spent a large part of the day in the area. The Memorial is close to the Brandenburg gate as well as the historic hotel Adlon that remained a social center of the city throughout the Nazi period.
48-hours was not the ideal amount of time, but we believe we made the best out of it. By taking a city tour it allowed us to get a good feel for the town. We know we want to go back, and put Berlin on our bucket list of places to visit again.
The moral of the story, when you don’t have a lot of time
- Plan ahead it will save you precious time to do what you really want to do.
- Do you homework and understand how people live.
- Keep in mind who you are traveling with, and understand their limitations.
- Taking a city bus tour is not cheesy, it allows you to cover a lot of ground in a small amount of time and concentrate on what you really want to see.
- Whatever amount of time you have, make the most out of it.