This summer, I had the opportunity to take a one-day excursion to Berlin. I have to say that this was probably the most action-packed day trip I have ever taken. First, I met up with a great couple who I’d only met the night before at the International Congress on Math Education (ICME), who turned out to be my surrogate parents for the day. We took a train from Hamburg to Berlin, which I believe was about a two-hour trip.
Bus or boat?
As soon as we arrived by train in Berlin (about 100 of us), we were whisked onto tour buses that gave us a one-hour tour of the city. It was a fairly comprehensive tour where we were able to see part of the Berlin Wall, Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial, with 2,711 gray concrete slabs, Checkpoint Charlie and lots of historic buildings. My only complaint is that the bus moved very quickly and I found it difficult to take in what I was seeing along with narration from our tour guide. And every time I tried to take a picture from the bus, we were driving off before I could get a snap! After the bus tour, we immediately boarded a boat for another, more laid-back tour of the city. If you are visiting Berlin, I highly recommend getting a boat tour on the Spree river in the city center. We revisited a lot of the locations we breezed by on the bus, but with a closer view at a more manageable pace.
I am obsessed with the Berlin Cathedral. Located in the heart of Museum Island, we passed it several times by bus, boat and foot when we were walking around the city later in the day. Every time I passed it, I had to take a picture! You do not get to see architecture like this in the United States, and I was just blown away by the beauty and intricate detail of the church, originally built in 1465 and completed in 1905. Like many historic buildings in Berlin, the cathedral had a major renovation to restore damage from the second World War. It is breathtakingly beautiful and too big to miss. Next time I’m in Berlin, I have to get a tour of the interior. I bet it is just as, if not more, spectacular than the facade.
After our tours, our group was brought to a traditional “Biergarten” for a buffet-style lunch. Out of about 20 dishes, about 15 were based on potatoes and sausage! After lunch, we had a few hours to explore the city by foot and public transportation. Public transportation in Germany is very modern and easy to navigate–an inexpensive, easy way to see all the sights. We decided to revisit Museum Island, an ensemble of five world-renowned museums on an island in River Spree right in the heart of Berlin’s city center. For 18 euros, one can buy a ticket to all five museums. We visited the Pergamon and Neues museums, both chock full of antiquities. The Neues houses an impressive collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, including the bust of Nefertiti. Unfortunately, the bust was not open for photography, much to my disappointment! The Pergamon is the most visited museum in Berlin and hosts a beautiful collection of Islamic art as well as the Ishtar Gate, constructed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II circa 575 BCE. It was the eighth gate of the city of Babylon (in present day Iraq) and was the main entrance into the city. The magnificence of the Ishtar Gate was so well known that it made the initial list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.