Berlin: Steeped in history, with something for everyone

Kani Alavi?s mural, It Happened in November, is one of many on The East Side Gallery
Kani Alavi?s mural, It Happened in November, is one of many on The East Side Gallery

There can be few better places in Europe to visit for a long weekend than Berlin.

There can be few better places in Europe to visit for a long weekend than Berlin.

It has something for everyone, be they art fan, football tourist, history enthusiast or food connoisseur.

Berlin is a city steeped in history and the past permeates almost every corner of the German capital. Of course, not all of the history is a cause for celebration. The Second World War and the subsequent Soviet occupation of East Berlin are unavoidable. But while not celebrated, they are important and the sensitive way the difficult issues are handled across the city does Berlin great credit.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe offers an emotional take on the country’s history. Built from 2,711 blocks of varying heights, the memorial was designed by Peter Eisenman, who wanted to invoke a sense of panic an uneasiness in visitors. It certainly has the desired effect.

Perhaps the pick of the historical attractions is the DDR Museum.

The award-winning museum provides a snapshot of life in the east of the city, with an array of interactive displays, including a bugged flat which allows visitors to eavesdrop on fellow museum-goers, Stasi style.

For those who want to sample East Berlin without the education bits, the museum is joined to a restaurant which serves traditional Soviet dishes which perfectly complete the immersive experience.

A short S-Bahn trip away is The East Side Gallery, the longest preserved stretch of the Berlin Wall. It boasts more than 100 eye- catching murals painted by artists from across the globe, including Dimitri Vrubel, Martin Moos and Kani Alavi.

The Berlin Wall may be what foreigners think of when they think of Berlin, but when it comes to official symbols, nothing tops the bear.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt would be rude, then, to not at track down at least a couple of them during any stay. When in Rome, so to speak.

Berlin Zoo is a delightful animal park with, as you would expect, an almost unrivalled array of bears, including a particularly grumpy one who lives next door to an unruly pack of wolves and appears to spend much of his days looking at them and tutting.

An ideal place to recharge batteries after a day at the zoo is the Cafe am Neuen See in the Tiergarten. Expect traditional German food, a friendly atmosphere and an idyllic lakeside setting. Perfect for a romantic end to a busy day counting bears.

There isn’t space to do justice to Museum Island, Checkpoint Charlie, The Reichstag or even the city’s top football team, Hertha BSC, who play at the architecturally impressive Olympiastadion, and regularly attract visiting fans from these shores.

Berlin is just one of those places. However many times you go, you will still find something new. It is best experienced for yourself.