Every time I go to Europe, I always find my way back to Berlin. I remember when I made my travel plans to see London , Paris , Amsterdam and Berlin, I thought Berlin would be my least favorite of all the cities. Turns out, it’s my favorite city till this day. I feel very comfortable being there and I’ve learned a lot about this wonderful city.
1. Öffentliche Verkehrsmittel (Public Transportation Works)
Being from New Jersey, the example of Public Transportation that I’m familiar with is the expensive, loud and old trains through NJ Transit and also the extremely expensive subway system in New York City . The first couple of times I went to Berlin, I took taxis everywhere for multiple reasons…I was afraid to get lost in a chaotic public transit system, the taxis are typically newer Mercedes Benz’s, I could practice my German with the taxi drivers and as a black male, I’m not used to the extreme ease of getting a taxi as soon as you put your hand out for one. I remember multiple times in New York City where it’s like hunting buffalo to get a taxi to stop and pick you up.
All that aside, I finally decided to use the subway system in Berlin and I love it now. You buy the tickets at the platform but they work off an honor system. There is no turnstyle but undercover officers may ask to see your ticket (big fines if you don’t have one). Don’t forget, after you buy your ticket, you have to put your ticket in the ticket validator (Entwerter). The prices for transit are reasonable, the subways are clean, the trains are clean and modern. The biggest thing is that the system is relatively easy to figure out. If you use Google Maps, it will give you accurate directions, so please don’t be afraid to use their public transportation.
2. Es gibt 2 Flughäfen. Tegal liegt in der Nähe der Stadt … Schönefeld ist weit entfernt (There are 2 Airports. Tegel is near the city…Schönefeld is FAR)
My first trip to Berlin, I flew from Paris ORLY Airport to Schönefeld since I found some really cheap discount flight tickets. I found out the hard way that Schönefeld is about 40-45 minutes driving from the center of the city to this airport, train is about 45 to an hour. If you fly into Tegel which is just north of the city, it’s a 15 minute taxi ride to get there. Both airports have discount airlines that go to them (example: EasyJet).
3. Berlin hat eine riesige türkische Bevölkerung (Berlin has a huge Turkish population)
One of my favorite things about this city is how multi-cultural it is. As you walk around the city, you will notice how big of an influence the Turkish people have had on the city.
There are Turkish restaurants and stands all over the city, lots of Hookah lounges and a lot of the taxi drivers I’ve had were of Turkish decent. Berlin is actually the place I fell in love with Turkish food.
4. Tolle Nachtclubs…aber es gibt regeln (Amazing nightclubs…but there are rules!)
If you love Techno or House music, Berlin is the place to be. I’ve been to multiple clubs and the music is on point. The concept of going to a club in Germany is different than America. Most if not all clubs do not allow pictures or videos being taken, they will literally put a sticker to cover front and rear cameras on your phone. They want people to enjoy themselves without worry that someone is going to take a picture or video of them. The clubs actually remind me of when I was in my late teens going to raves, except you don’t see candy kids and it’s not some niche place that you’re going to, you see all walks of like in the same club and everyone is dancing together. There are people from all over the world who come specifically to party in their clubs for a reason.
But there are rules…well…suggestions if you want to get into a club. First rule, do not go to a club in a big crowd. If there are 4 of you, go in 2’s and enter the line at separate times giving the impression that you’re not together. I have seen first hand people getting denied entry because they are part of a large group. Second, wear darker colors. The uniform of Berlin appears to be black, so if you wear darker colors and not your bright yellow tank-top and shorts, you will likely be able to get into the club. Third and most important, always look at the lineup. All clubs you will go to have a website or they will post it outside the location as to what artists or DJs are playing. Memorize a couple of names because you may get asked questions at the door. I had one bouncer ask “And why are you here?” and we told him we were here to see someone specific and he said “Finally, someone who knows what’s going on! Have fun!” The purpose is they want people who actually want to be there, who aren’t club hopping or possibly causing trouble. They want people who are into the music and artists that will be there so it will be a better experience for everyone…it makes sense.
5. Jeder spricht Englisch (Everyone speaks English)
I’ve been to a number of European countries where English isn’t the native language and while English is spoken all over Europe, the city of Berlin had the most English speakers that I ran into. I was only in 2 situations where the people did not speak any English while in Berlin. This is especially true with the younger generation, they are all taught English going through school so they tend to speak it relatively well.
6. Alle Sehenswürdigkeiten sind in der Nähe (All of the tourist sites are close to each other)
I didn’t realize it until my 3rd visit but all of the main tourist sites are really close to each other and they are accessible by walking mainly down one street.
You start at Alexanderplatz, which is a main shopping area, then you walk through Museum Island to see all the older buildings that were turned into museums. After that, you will make it to the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of the city. Next to the Gate is the Bundestag (German Parliament) and you can end with a nice stroll through Tiergarten to see “El Angel” at the Berlin Victory Column. The only main tourist site that isn’t on that street that I can think of is Checkpoint Charlie but it’s a 20 minute walk from the Brandenburg Gate.
7. Ich mag Currywurst sehr (I really like Currywurst)
There is a restaurant that I always go to near Alexanderplatz called Zur Rippe and I really love their Berliner Currywurst. I highly recommend.
8. Leute sind höflich und hilfreich (People are polite and helpful)
I find that the people I’ve talked to in Berlin were all generally polite and helpful. I’ve been lost and asked for directions, inside taxi’s, in restaurants, in train stations…everyone was nice. My German is alright but if they saw I was struggling, they would switch to English.
9. Alles ist sehr günstig (Everything is very affordable)
I noticed that whenever I go to Berlin, I don’t spend as much money because everything is affordable. Transit tickets for a few days, eating out everyday and even living situations are relatively affordable. It’s a working class city and it’s noticeable. I remember one time I had Lebanese food and they gave me so much food for only 5 Euros…even a whole pack of pita bread to feed a whole family. Just like any city, if you want to spend a ton of money, you can find a way but it’s very easy to have a nice experience without breaking the bank.
10. Gemälde und Graffiti sind ÜBERALL (Paintings and Graffiti are EVERYWHERE)
There are lots of artists and musicians in Berlin but even though Graffiti is illegal, it doesn’t stop people. It’s very artistic though, it’s not distasteful. If you walk around Kreuzberg you will see buildings with paintings on the side of them, small stores with graffiti tagged that tell a story. It’s so creative and gives the city a unique feel.