Europe has long been considered as a dream destination for many travel enthusiasts. Its medieval cities, verdant meadows and diverse culture has always acted as a magnet for travelers. But it is also known to be prohibitively expensive especially for people from countries whose currency exchange rate is abysmal as compared to the Euro.So when I was selected as an exchange student to study a term of 3 months at Toulouse Business School, France the first thing I wanted to do was to devise a plan to experience Europe on a budget as I was a student and was not earning since a year. I checked my curriculum and found out that I had 15 days to travel during the hectic term. The idea that I had in my mind was to experience Europe rather than just marking places off my bucket-list. I spoke to a lot of people, did a lot of research and came to a conclusion that one needed to spend at-least 2 days in a particular city to get the real feel of it. I had heard from my friends that the EuRail is the cheapest option to travel in Europe, but I found out that the statement is true only if you have more than a month to travel, For a shorter time and for a solo traveler (EuRail gives couple discounts) the most inexpensive option to travel is by bus, and EuroLines buses were the best and most convenient for me.Planning:
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Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)
Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is a beautiful town gate near western end of the avenue Unter den Linden. It is famous because it symbolizes the division of Germany and the country’s reunification. The gate was named Friedenstor (Peace Gate) because it symobolized peace at the time of difficult war. he sandstone structure is composed of 12 Doric columns, the gate has five passages. The central and widest one was reserved for the royals, the adjacent passages were used by the aristocrats while ordinary citizens used the outer two. The Brandenburg Gate, a monumental gate it is the national symbol of Germany, it was built in the eighteenth century, the gate stood between East and West Germany and is Berlin's most famous landmark. The gate is decorated with reliefs and sculptures. The design of the Brandenburg Gate was inspired by the Acropolis in Athens. The monument is crowned with the sculpture of the Quadriga, a four-horsed chariot driven by Victoria, the winged goddess of victory.
We visited the Reichstag building. A building which was originally used to house the Imperial Diet until it was damaged by fire in 1933 and then fell into a period of disuse. It was partially refurbished in the 60’s but was reopened in 1999 after a full restoration and now houses the German Parliament. The restoration included the addition of a giant glass dome at the top which gives a 360 degree view of the city. We know nothing about politics, but the dome was really cool.
Berlin has plenty of museums (one has to choose only couple of them, else more than a week time is required to explore all), we chose Pergamon museum, an amazing one, it took about 3-4 hours to explorer the museum. One can plan visit by using this link: http://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/pergamonmuseum/plan-your-visit/adress.html.
One of Berlin's biggest tourist traps is worth a visit, if only to observe the slightly absurd, but entirely self-aware spectacle of watching tourists pose for pictures with men dressed in military costumes. What used to be a US Army Checkpoint to control movement of people between East and West Berlin, is today a monument to the Cold War, appropriately flanked by a glittering McDonalds in the background.
Tiergarten Park is a huge park in the middle of the city. It has streams, statues and a musical bell tower. The western edge connects to the Zoo. The eastern edge holds the Brandenburg Gate, along which the wall used to run. We spent over an hour riding around there and still didn’t see half of it. In the evening at Brandenburg Gate (located at the far East end of the park) we found musical talents entertaining the tourists as well as neon lite pedicabs (similar to a rickshaw but more pod like) waiting to zip you around town.
Old National Gallery (Alte Nationalgalerie)
The Alte National Galerie (Old national gallery) houses one of the most important collections of 19th century painting in Germany and includes masterpieces by Caspar David Friedrich, Adolph Menzel Edouard Manet Claude Monet, not to mention Auguste Renoir and Auguste Rodin. The Alte National Galerie is one of the five museums forming the ensemble known as Berlin’s Museum Island – a UNESCO World Heritage site. The architect Stüler, his building resembles a Greek temple. Sculptures on the tympanum show Germania, the personification of the German nation, as a patron of the arts. The temple is raised and rests on an enormous pedestal. Massive steps outside the neoclassical-style building lead to a platform in front of the portico. The Old National Gallery is most well-known for its fine collection of nineteenth-century paintings. The Alte Nationalgalerie also boasts the world's largest collection of works by Adolph von Menzel, one of the most prominent German artists of the nineteenth century. The museum also has a collection of statues, including many works from German sculptors Christian Daniel Rauch, Johann Gottfried Schadow and Reinhold Begas. There are also some bronzes by Auguste Rodin on display.
If you're looking for a place to really get yourself going, try the Berghain/Panorama Bar. In a meticulously re-purposed former power station, these separate but connected club spaces of the Panorama Bar is open all weekend; the bigger Berghain is open only on Saturdays. Combined, Berghain/Panorama Bar is simply the best club in Berlin. The door policy is savage, but inside you'll find a spectacular interior and a sexually charged, anything-goes atmosphere that pulses to a world-class sound system. Powered by some of Europe's finest techno DJs, this is Berlin decadence, 21st-century style.
The one sight that is worth mentioning is the Holocaust Memorial. The last time we were here, it was still in construction. When I first saw the completed creation, I thought it was a waste of space, money, and an insult to the ideals it was meant to honor. A grand square block is filled with rectangular, dark depression moon gray solid blocks of varying heights. They are set in rows that have paths through both horizontally and vertically. The paths are undulating, so as you walk you are rising and descending amongst these massive columns. I set off walking, while Ron took off in another direction. I was ready to continue to criticize this monumental failure as I walked, but something transformed me as I did. With each step of disappearing behind extremely high columns and reappearing with the shorter ones, I gained a sense of walking, wakeful meditation. I felt a peace surround me. Each column then represented a person from the Holocaust each telling their own story as I walked by their life path, sharing with me their tale of sorrow. In some aisles, I was all alone while in others I could see another at a distance, many columns away. I felt a connection with these strangers as we listened to what secrets were being shared.
Central Apartments Berlin
Berlin to me, was more a person than a city. It has the attributes of a rebel, that has struggled to become its own person. The sense of place and history in Berlin is very strong. A lot of our time was spent exploring the recent past - the Second World War, the Berlin Wall, rise and fall of the Soviet regime in East Berlin. The city is also a great (and cheap!) place to shop , eat and drink. <br /><br />The city is filled with little streets and alleyways that are sites of bars and restaurants enclosed by graffiti and poster covered walls. <br /><br />The city never fails to surprise.
Absynth Depot is a bar/shop that obviously caters to those in search of the rare and ultimately powerful drink of the same name. The legendary "green fairy" of Absynth was made famous by the artists like Van Gogh who partook of the spirit. This quaint shop offers some 60 varieties of the spellbinding stuff. The prices here are pretty high, and service is not really at a premium either, but for the perfect exhilaration the essence imparts, this is the place to experience it. But be careful, too much and exhilaration can turn to lopping off one's own ear.
We favored East Berlin. We loved its pub and restaurant lined streets in the Friedrichshain community. It was vibrant in the evening without a clique type vibe that you can get in some trendy areas in other cities. People were enjoying food along the table lined sidewalks, chatting and laughing. Others enjoyed watching the soccer game that was televised from inside some of the restaurants. Open alcohol is most definitely allowed on the streets and in the malls…and everywhere, which is a shock for someone from North America. But it was definitely a welcomed change in culture.
Filmpark Babelsberg takes you straight into a state-of-the-art film set for a glimpse behind the scenes. If you are a film-geek, you'd relish walking through what was the world's first movie-studio of its scale and was the epicentre of European filmmaking when it first opened in 1912. The Hunger Games and Captain America: Civil War were filmed in Babelsberg, along with films like The Pianist and Inglorious Bastards.
Victory Column (Siegessaule)
The Victory Column is a monument in Berlin, Germany. Designed by Heinrich Strack. It is one of the best symbols of Berlin. It is known as "Golden Lizzie" in Berlin slang. The reason for its being built was Prussia’s victory in the German-Danish war in 1864. The 8.3 metre high bronze sculpture weighing 35 tonnes, which was created by Friedrich Drake, represents Victoria wearing a helmet and holding a laurel wreath in one hand and, in the other, a staff bearing an iron cross. The victory goddess Victoria from Roman mythology is analogous to the Greek equivalent of Nike. Her eagle helmet also lets Victoria appear as Borussia, the female personification of Prussia. The 285 steps of the spiral staircase inside the Victory Column don't lead to the spindle and a hundred years of slumber, you will however need to be rather determined and fit to climb the tapering staircase. The base is decorated with large bronze reliefs that depict scenes from the wars. The colonnade above the base is decorated with a mosaic frieze created by Anton von Werner. It depicts the Liberation Wars and subsequent unification of Germany in 1871. The statue represents the Goddess of Victory, but Berliners affectionately call her Goldelse.
The Newton Bar is one of the classiest places in Berlin for a casual drink. Named for famed photographer Helmut Newton, the bar exudes style from ever corner, and even from the risqué full-length print it is famous for. Old school ambiance, fine cigars, exquisite cognac, what else is there? The place always attracts a mixed crowd of tourists and locals to revel in a superb selection of cocktails and other indulgences. This is indeed a very special place to relax.
Harry's New York Bar
Located in the Grand Hotel Esplanade Harry's New York Bar is one of Berlin's most famous bars. Cocktails here are so superb this is one bar actually famous for them. An elegant venue, also expect live music to the tune of the bar's piano. Mixologists at Harry's build classic Martini's beneath the portraits of US presidents while a jazzman tinkles on the piano.
Berlin Wall Memorial
Everybody knows the history of Berlin wall, it divided the country into East Germany and West Germany. The Wall was a 155km-long symbol of oppression that turned West Berlin into an island of democracy within a sea of socialism. There’s a memorial in the spot where Peter Fechter died on Zimmerstrasse. Wondering who is Peter Fechter? Well, he was a German bricklayer, He was about 18 when he became the first vitcim of Berlin wall's border guards who tried to cross over to reach West Germany. The tour begins from East side gallery to Bernauer Strasse. It is an open-air art exhibition on the banks of river Spree. There are more memorials of the wall victims just to the South of Reichstag on the eastern of Scheidemannstrasse. There are bike tours that guide you along part of the wall. There's 160km-long Berliner Mauerweg signpost, they have created a path for walking and cycling.