extracts from a Berlin travel guide I worked on for three and a half weeks, during my first internship:
Feature: Introduction to Berlin
Much has been written about Berlin’s blend of history, outstanding culture and infamous nightlife. Proclaimed the capital of cool, Berlin is where you can “go to all-night parties, attend a screening of an arthouse film and an anti-Trump demonstration within 24 hours”, as The Times noted. Some talk about Berlin’s fall from grace, wondering if the city’s growing popularity diminished its authenticity and turned the city into a growingly expensive tourist trap.
From Marlene Dietrich, who sang “I still keep a suitcase in Berlin” with a piercing longing, to the rebellious singer Iggy Pop, who called Berlin his home, many artists have voiced their love for Berlin.
“You are crazy, my child. You must go to Berlin” (Franz von Suppé)
Affordable, buzzing, wild and carefree, Berlin is a symbol for tolerance and open-mindedness. Unlike other metropolises in Europe, it’s a place where you can relax. Berliners do not rush. They take their time, basking in the sun with their low-cut T-shirts and heavily tattooed arms, flicking back their occasionally bright-coloured hair.
Nights in Berlin are freaky, intense and fiery. The club culture is exhilarating; anything goes. Berlin is a techno capital: notorious DJs, outrageous raves and 36-hour long parties. There are plenty of clubs to choose from, perhaps the most infamous being Berghain, which pays the same taxes as theatres and concert halls, as it is considered to produce work of cultural significance.
It’s magical to lose yourself in Berlin’s night scene, in the hazy beat of electronic music and in the half-clothed masses. There is a strong sense of acceptance. You are free to be yourself. You won’t be judged.
“Berlin, the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine” (David Bowie)
Berlin is a home to artists and a paradise to emerging creators, who come here to pursue their dreams. There are around 20,000 artists living and working in the city, lured by cheap rents, the city’s libertine energy and the massive studio spaces. The street art mirrors the city’s fantastic art scene.
Berlin is bursting with culture and history. It has 175 museums, even more than New York. It’s an open museum too: from the Berlin Wall to Checkpoint Charlie and to the Nazi book burning site at Babelplatz, Berlin’s unique history can be seen by foot.
“Berlin is cheap, but sexy” (Klaus Wowereit)
Berlin is the cheapest capital city in Western Europe. While it is getting expensive, perhaps because of its touristy appeal, it is the perfect place for backpackers, artists and adventurers for now. You can get a cup of coffee for €2, a lunch for less than €10, a pint of beer for €2-4, a day travel pass for €6,50 and a decent double room in a hotel for €50 per night. What is more, some of the attractions of Berlin are free, such as East Side Gallery, Raw Tempel and Yaam Beach.
Paris is always Paris and Berlin is never Berlin! (Jack Lang)
Nonetheless, Berlin is constantly changing, you never know what to expect. You need to experience it yourself.
Reviews: Art, Beauty & Vegan Food
Beyond Compare: How African and European Sculptures Carve the Essence of Humanity
There are few exhibitions as fascinating as Bode Museum’s “Beyond Compare”. “Beyond Compare” brings together, compares and analyses the sculptural traditions of two continents by displaying, side by side, 70 African sculptures, along with renowned masterpieces from Byzantium, Italy and central Europe.
Despite their radical stylistic differences, it is interesting to observe how the artworks touch the same themes. They illustrate the frailty of the human experience, exploring subjects such as death, beauty, motherhood, power, spirituality and love. Cultures apart, humans seemed to be moved by the same matters; it is remarkable to see the dainty, gothic sculpture of Madonna, Virgin of Mercy, appear next to a seemingly raw sculpture which represents a power figure from Congo. The second sculpture looks quite crude next to the carefully-carved Madonna, but both were made with the intent to ask for protection, to invoke forces that are beyond the physical world.
In the exhibition’s first slide, it is noted that the works displayed were made by human beings, and not by “cultures”, “tribes”, “ethnic groups” or “nations”. It is important to keep this in mind while strolling through the museum, as this exhibition is not an objective comparison between two different cultures, but a soft reflection of human nature.
Address: Am Kupfergraben, 10117 Berlin. Closest stations: Friedrichstraße, Hackescher Markt; Bus TXL Staatsoper, Lustgarten, Friedrichstraße. Opening hours: Monday – closed; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 10:00 – 18:00; Thursday: 10.00 – 20.00. Prices: 12,00 EUR, Reduced 6,00. Website: https://www.smb.museum/museen-und-einrichtungen/bode-museum/home.html Contact: Tel 030 266 42 42 42
Enjoy the silence in Museum der Stille
Museum der Stille (“Museum of Silence”) is a unique invitation to embrace the silence in the middle of the lively district of Berlin Mitte. It’s a small, free and beautiful exhibition of paintings and architectural models that illustrate different stages of stillness. It is lovely, subtle and, above all, silent. In the middle of the museum, there is only one piercing painting of a woman who’s gazing through you, with a simple wooden bench in front it. The walls are a deep, warm red and the light is dimmed. The profound silence makes the experience sincere and intense; you are struck by a strong feeling of here and now. While at the beginning you might be put off by the awkwardness of hearing your feet clumsily shuffling through the museum, you will gently ease into the museum’s serenity, if you let yourself. For once, you do not have to rush. It’s enough just to take it all in.
Even after leaving the museum and walking back into broad daylight, the spell of silence is not broken. You might be finding yourself humming Depeche Mode and thinking that they were right, perhaps. It is enough just to enjoy the silence.
Address: Linienstraße 154A, 10115 Berlin Closest stations: Oranienburger Tor, Oranienburger Straße. Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 14:00 – 19:00 Prices: Free Website: http://museum-der-stille.de/de/ Contact: email@example.com Tel: +49 (0) 30 278 919 90
CWC Gallery: exploring the modern and the contemporary
If you have a soft spot for art, but find most museums to be too sombre and a little old-fashioned, CWC Gallery might just be the place for you. “CWC” stands for “Camera Work Contemporary” and, as its name suggests, it focuses on contemporary and slightly modern positions found in photography, painting and sculpture. The gallery is in the heart of the bohemian Berlin-Mitte quarter and, while stylish and elegant, it isn’t pretentious and it has an easy-going vibe. It’s also completely free!
The first floor is a homage to the 1990s that recreates the dreamy allure of the era. Wandering around, you are charmed by goddesses of the ‘90s: photos of the iconic Iman, Gisele Bündchen, Uma Thurman and Halle Berry, all captured by Micheal Comte, are plastered on walls. Their half-smile and bouncy curls will leave you longing. You can soothe your temporary nostalgia by moving onto the next floors, where you can admire a beautifully curated and impressive exhibition of modern works of art, some of which display a striking social commentary.
In the same building, you can also find quite an interesting permanent exhibition about The Kennedys, which explores the political success and the private life of John F. Kennedy. The admission fee is 5€.
Address: Auguststraße 11–13, 10117 Berlin Closest stations: Oranienburger Tor, Oranienburger Straße. Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 10:00 -18:00 Saturday 11:00 – 18:00. . Prices: Free. Website: https://camerawork.de/ Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel 030 24048614
Yoyo FoodWorld: the oldest vegan fast-food joint in Berlin
Yoyo FoodWorld is a hip fast-food joint on the Gärtnerstrasse 27 and the first and oldest vegan fast-food in Berlin.
For almost ten years, Yoyo hasn’t been your typical fast-food. Its atmosphere is similar to one of a quiet, cozy indie bar. Indoors, the light is slightly dimmed and there are photos of famous musicians and philosophers plastered on the restaurant’s walls, along with cult film posters that would make any film student swoon. Soft rock music plays in the background. The outdoor sitting is just as delightful, as the area surrounding the joint is lovely and inviting.
The food is cheap, fantastic and sure to satisfy your cravings, as the options are varied. They have 3,50€ burgers, 6,50€ pizza, 5€ wraps, 6€ schnitzels, 5€ seitan Currywursts, 3,80€ sea food and meatballs at the price of 8 for 3,20€. All the dishes are deliciously vegan and would work perfectly as comfort food or hangover food. It’s also the place to take your friends to convince them that vegan food is tasty.
Another highlight is the toilet, which is exceptionally cool. It’s filled with queer stickers, feminist and political statements, colourful graffiti and carefully scribbled love poems; ideal for a quirky Instagram post.
Address: Gärtnerstraße 27, 10245 Berlin Closest stations: Samariterstr., Frankfurter Tor, Warschauer Str. Opening hours: Monday- Thursday 12:00 – 23:00, Friday – Saturday 12:00 – 00:00, Sunday 12:00 – 23:00. Prices: € Website: http://www.yoyofoodworld-berlin.de/ Contact: email@example.com
Get fettundbetrunken at the Chaostheorie
Chaostheorie is the first vegan cocktail bar in Germany. Their slogan is “fettundbetrunken”: “fat and drunk”, so expect to find a perfect mix of cheap comfort food and funky alcohol.
Onto the first part of their motto, “fat”: the food is fantastic. From a veganized traditional cuisine to more modern dishes, the highlights are juicy currywursts, enormous doner kebabs, fries with dripping dips, pulled mushroom burgers and thick cheese meatball sandwiches. To sweeten things up, the selection of house-made cakes is flavourful to say the least. The Oreo cake, smooth and crunchy at the same time, is a popular favourite. The soft drinks are also a dream: creamy milkshakes, Snickers, Manner or Oreo flavored, and rich freakshakes. You can settle for classic options, too: late macchiato, hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows, coffee with caramelized milk and hot applesauce with cinnamon and vanilla soya milk.
Now, onto the second part of their motto…”drunk”! You can sip traditional cocktails or try out the bartender’s specials: experimental and refreshing mixtures such as Julep Blue, bourbon, blue curaçao, ginger ale and limette.
The place itself is cozy: dim light, soft indie music, shelves stacked with books and a lovely photobooth perfect for making memories.
Even if you’re looking for a quiet afternoon with good food or for a tipsy evening, in Chaostheorie you can find the things you thought you’d never enjoy again once you went vegan.
Address: Schliemannstraße 15, 10437 Berlin. Closest Stations: Prenzlauer Alle, Stargarder Str., Schönhauser Allee. Opening Hours: Mon, Tue, Wed: 17:00 – 22:00; Thu: 17:00 – 23:00; Fri: 17:00 – 01:00; Sat: 15:00 – 01:00; Sun: 15:00 – 22:00. Price range: € (under €10). Website: http://www.chaostheorie.berlin/ Contact: 030/548 907 34; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Challenge yourself at the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art
The Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art is a remarkable contemporary art institution located in the Berlin’s picturesque district Mitte. The building is a sight itself and it has a sophisticated allure, tall and elegant. The outdoor café has a lovely Parisian appeal and it’s where the hip tattooed artists you might have seen on Tumblr sip their coffees in the afternoon.
The works of art exhibited in the Institute are complex. You can marvel at political activist art, video art, visual art or interactive art. They’re also controversial, with people either excitedly praising them or dismissing them as meaningless. The exhibitions are divided into rooms: in some rooms you might be deafened by booming nature sounds, while in others you might be asked to take off your shoes and wander into an empty, soundproof room, where you’d be faced with a gut-wrenching documentary about the condition of the modern black artist. However, you never know what to expect, as the exhibits change constantly. Nonetheless, the works of emerging young artists are unique and do not hold the reassurance of traditional art: they challenge you and shake you. They draw out a strong response, be it positive or negative.
Finally, even if you occasionally roll your eyes at modern art, you should give the KW Institute a chance. At least one of the works of art displayed might move you.
Address: Auguststraße 69, 10117 Berlin. Closest stations: Oranienburger Tor, Oranienburger Straße. Price: 16€ general entrance, 10€ reduced. Opening hours: Monday: 11:00 – 19:00. Tuesday: Closed. Wednesday: 11:00-19:00. Thursday: 11:00-21:00. Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 11:00 – 19:00. Website: https://www.kw-berlin.de/ Contact : +49 30 243459-0, email@example.com.
Be Here, Be Queer at the Schwules Museum
The Schwules Museum is the world’s first gay museum, originally opened in 1985. It exhibits the violent history and the injustices the LGBTQ community endured in the past, as well as Berlin’s current queer life.
Schwules is not your typical queer museum. If you expect it to be bustling with colour and rainbows, you might be taken aback. To an extent, it is exceptionally colourful, with cheeky illustrations of young gay couples kissing, soft porn photos and neon slogans about love. But a more serious tone is predominant. The permanent exhibitions also depict gay history milestones, such as the feminist revolution, the composition of the first feminist songs of the German movement or the protests of a working group of lesbian teachers. In the middle of the museum, there’s a memorial dedicated to the LGBT people who were killed in concentration camps. Their names are written in blood-red. You will also shudder upon entering the museum, where you can see a lengthy list of countries where homosexuality is currently considered a punishable crime.
It is important to go to the Schwules Museum because you will be reminded of how painful history is and how the free world we live in required sacrifices. And how, for some, the world still isn’t free.
It is not allowed to take pictures, which at first might be quite annoying, as your initial impulse might be to want to immortalize everything. However, this might help you take in all the information and carefully weigh what you’re seeing.
Finally, is important to go to the Schwules Museum because you will be reminded of how painful history is and how the free world we live in required sacrifices. And how, for some, the world still isn’t free.
Address: Lützowstraße 73, 10785 Berlin Closest Stations: U Nollendorfplatz, U Kurfürstenstraße, Lützowstraße / Potsdamer Straße, Lützowplatz. Opening hours: Monday: 14:00 – 18:00, Tuesday: Closed, Wednesday: 14:00 – 18:00, Thursday: 14:00 – 20:00, Friday: 14:00 -18:00, Saturday: 14:00 – 19:00, Sunday: 14:00 – 18:00. Price: € 7.50 regular, € 4 reduced. Website: https://www.schwulesmuseum.de/ Contact: 030 69599050
Sun and wholesome food at The Bowl
The Bowl, self-proclaimed a “clean-eating restaurant”, is the perfect place for a cozy lunch with your friends or for a breakfast date with a book. They only use fresh, seasonal, healthy and gluten-free products. Everything is fully sustainable and vegan. They even use natural sugar! And, truthfully, the food is indeed full of flavour and it leaves you with a sense of freshness. They have a great variety of bowls: from rich breakfast bowls filled with sweet fruit, raw chocolate and creamy soy yoghurt to lavish plates with roasted vegetables, mashed avocado raw crackers, zucchini and smoked paprika.
The desserts are a treat, as well. The highlights are the lush vanilla almond cake, with coconut blossom sugar, raw chocolate and coconut strawberry and bananenbrot, with grilled banana, granola, warm strawberry sauce and raw chocolate.
While it is a bit pricey, 6,50 € for breakfast bowls and around 10 € for the lunch specials, the naturalness of the food, its filling base and vitamin-rich toppings make it all worth it.
The dishes are perfectly Instagrammable and the colourful variety of vegetables and legumes doesn’t even need a filter. While enjoying your wholesome food, you can bask in the sun in front of the large windows and observe the buzzing Warschauer Straße, with hazy, synth-pop music unfolding in the background.
What is more, on the ground floor of the same building where Bowl is, you can find Veganz, a plant-based supermarket with an impressively wide range of products, from cheese and ham slices to cashew cookies, ice cream and the finest chocolate cream.
Address: Warschauer Str. 33, 10243 Berlin Closest Stations: Warschauer Str. Opening hours: Monday: 10:30-23:00, Tuesday: 10:30–23:00, Wednesday: 10:30–23:00, Thursday: 10:30–23:00, Friday: 10:30–23:00, Saturday: 10:00–23:00, Sunday: 10:00-23:00. Price: €€ Website: http://www.the-bowl.de/ Contact: 030 29771447