27 Feb Berlin, the place to be
by Philipp Reichel from Germany
Berlin must be the most German city ever, right? I mean, it is the capital, the biggest city in Germany and has seen both sides of Germany’s history. Well, jokes on you, it isn’t. In fact, Berlin is probably the most non-German city I have ever been to.
Is that a good thing, though? Hell yes! It is such a vivid place with all its sights that have been shaped by two different backgrounds and a culturally diverse community that reminded me of the United States. You would often hear people speaking every other language but German, which kind of impressed me, to be honest. You will most definitely not feel alone in Berlin no matter where you are from. There is always someone around the corner that may speak your language. I really liked that.
You will find interesting locations to capture great photos all over the place. You can literally just go anywhere you want and you will be able to take a good picture or two. Apart from the obvious places (Alexanderplatz, TV tower, Brandenburger Tor), there are so many places to see, you will need some days to see most of Berlin.
If you need some places to go, start here:
University library (Humboldt University) – Jacob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum
While it is not freely accessible to everyone all the time, make sure to only visit during the public hours. Also, leave your backpack at home – they won’t let you in with it. I kind of snuck into the library, leaving most of the gear with my girlfriend and took some shots. The students studying in there did not seem to be very happy about, that is why you should avoid going there when it is quiet work hours.
Oberbaum by Philipp Reichel
Friedrichshain / Kreuzberg Area
An area that used to be a place to avoid 20 years ago – nowadays, after years of gentrification, it is probably the hippest and most interesting part of Berlin. Lots and lots and lots of beautiful streets, architecture and interesting people.
I took this picture on the Oberbaum bridge, which connects Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg and it was such a nice place to be around.
One thing to add: The Berliners told me to avoid Kreuzberg at night, as the drug scene would become alive then. When I talked through Kreuzberg during the day, however, it did at no point feel uneasy.
Also, walking along the Spree riverside is super soothing and relaxing, so you may want to pay Friedrichshain / Kreuzberg a visit.
Kreuzberg by Philipp Reichel
Yes, public transport. It is your way to get around Berlin and I would STRONGLY advise to get a VBB ticket and use the subway / and commuter trains. (You will pay ~30€ for 2 people for a whole weekend and getting caught is not worth it)
There will always be a train coming and leaving anywhere you go, you do not have to worry about the subway schedule. If you failed to catch a train just wait a couple minutes and catch the next one. It is that easy.
Also, some train stations are simply gorgeous.
Snapped this one in Kreuzberg, but there are literally a billion beautiful stations to take thousands of photos. I had to contain myself not posting a couple hundred pictures of the metro alone.
Some stations I remember being great locations to take photos: Kurfürstendamm, Eberswalder Strasse, Potsdamer Platz.
Also there is the main station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, which is a crazy huge and mesmerizing masterpiece of architecture. There are 5 or 6 floors that seamlessly blend into one huge place. Go check it out.
HBF by Philipp Reichel
While I was not able to make it to Teufelsberg during my short stay, it will be the next place I am going to explore, when I am back in Berlin. It used to be an old CIA surveillance site that is now empty and open to exploring (they offer guided tours for ~10€). If you are into Urban exploration, this is your best place. Lots of graffiti, dirty and old hallways and probably the second best view of Berlin.
Keep in mind that it takes some time to go there, so consider that when planning your day.
I do not even know what this place is all about, but it looked super cool from far away, so I got to know where I had to go and headed there and snapped a couple of photos. Great place to be creative.
The tourist spots
There are a lot of spots that are flooded with people; for a good reason. The Brandenburger Tor is a must-see place, also the Holocaust Memorial is a must-see place, with all its symmetries and geometric shapes. Most people will take the very same picture, as did I, but you must experience the vibe around there. It is so depressing and disconcerting walking through the blocks of concrete. The artist(s) did a great job on delivering a message here:
Other POIs: Alexander Platz, Potsdamer Platz, TV Tower, Kurfürstendamm, Tiergarten). If you plan on seeing Berlin from above from the TV Tower, bring a lot of time. We would have waited 5 hours to go to the top, which we ultimately did not do.
Tempodrom by Philipp Reichel
Explore (e.g. the government district)
Seriously, you can go anywhere you want and snap nice pictures. Berlin has that much to offer. Trust me. The government district has outstanding architecture, the places around Alexanderplatz is great for doing street photography and surrounding Berlin, there are tons of lakes and nature if you want to explore rural Germany. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself and explore on your own. At last, it is the most fun thing to do.
Wanna eat out? Check out Lily Burger
A friend of mine actually recommended Lily Burger to me. A great burger restaurant with a lot of choice on both the burgers and sides. You can basically build your own burger (seriously, you can have everything) and choose from a lot of different sides. They also had a lot of other things to eat, but I could barely finish my burger. The beef was perfectly grilled and really delicious.
Would I have passed by it without knowing how good it was, I would have never checked it out, to be honest. It looked really inconspicuous and normal from outside, but the inside was all flashy. It may also be a good bar at night, but we only had lunch and big plans for the day, so god knows.
The address is Am Friedrichshain 34, 10407 Berlin – if you want to check it out.
New Years’s Eve by Philipp Reichel
About the trip:
My girlfriend has planned and booked the whole trip without me knowing, so I could not really prepare for anything, that is why I just googled some places of interest before, went there and tried to gather impressions from the city itself. For the most parts, we just walked around and explored the area.
There is just a nice and comforting vibe about that city, which is difficult to explain with words. I felt safe and “at home” during my whole stay, although Berlin is such a large scale city. While I did not have the chance to meet with a lot of people, the photography community is really big and there are tons of people running around with cameras.
We stayed for 2 nights and came in by plane. One of those nights was New Year’s Eve, which we spent eating out, then going to a bar in Friedrichshain, where we had a couple of drinks and some badass scalloped nachos. For the actual NYE, we talked to the Spree (near Oberbaum bridge) and watched the fireworks from there.
Actually, the fireworks started WAY before 00.00am. In fact, people started firing crackers and shooting New Year rockets at around sunset. You could hear the cracks and bangs all over the place, very different from what I grew up to. It was interesting to see the city fill up with smoke from all the fireworks and there was definitely an overcast for 2-3 hours from it.
During the day, we spent most of our time exploring the city, either by walking around the streets or by taking the subway. As most places are quite far apart and would involve hours
If you want see more about Philipp Reichel, you can visit philippreichel.de