8 days in Berlin... from tara axford on Vimeo.
Berlin, was one of those places that had crept into my mind as a destination to visit. It didn't disappoint. It was colourful, stimulating, yet also calming. I was happiest just wandering the streets. With big cities it can be overwhelming working out what to see, what to leave out. My tip would be to do a tour on arriving - get your bearings. I did this 'alternative' one first. It took me to neighbourhoods that I wanted to visit, but wouldn't have gone to immediately. Alex our guide moved at a good pace - just the right amount of history and local street art based knowledge. We caught a couple of trains (a great intro to the German transport system) + walked for 3 hours.
I also discovered free tours are a 'thing' in Europe. You sign up - for free - then you have the option of tipping the guide how much you think the tour is worth. Excellent. I did this one, although both companies offer several different options, including evening + more specialised trips. It was an ideal way to tick off a few of the key points of historical interest while leaving me plenty of time to embrace getting lost on my own.
I stayed in a wonderful apartment in the old East Berlin (via airbnb) - which really added to the experience of listening to Stasiland by Anna Funder, as an audio book some evenings. Because of this focus, I sidestepped popular museum island and went to the DDR museum, and visited The Story of Berlin. Both these museums have a multimedia approach to telling a story. You can walk through recreated scenes or vignettes, you can pick items up, open drawers and cupboards, listen to audio - ultimately get a real sense of some of Berlin's history, without just walking up and down corridors peering into glass cabinets.
Images such as this - which showed the impact of a 'sudden' wall between two parts of the city were fascinating.. as was visiting it's remains.
I had purchased Lonely Planets pocket guide, as this was super overview and had an actual MAP, good for avoiding excessive 3G/4G charges. Although free wifi was available in most cafes - a perfectly timed pitstop. Having cash on hand rather than relying on cards was indeed a good tip, others would be that shops are shut Sundays. So head to Mauerpark if flea markets are your thing.
Berlin in September, for me, had it all. Colourful neighbourhoods, fabulous food for every palate and budget, history, inspiration, super art supply shop,
fab soy flat whites ....
plenty to explore and experience.