Updated: Dec 8, 2020
In light of Remembrance Day coming up, I want to acknowledge and pay remembrance to the millions of soldiers and people who lost their lives during World War 2 and the Holocaust. Berlin was one of my favourite cities that I visited during my Exchange, and lot of people’s favourite, I think perhaps because of the modern and minimalistic architecture and design. Many people are well aware of the attractions that one should visit in Berlin, but what if you only have 2 days?
Before, I show my top picks to explore in Berlin in two days, let's look at a brief history of Berlin.
Berlin as a city has a history of over 800 years and was a centre of royalty before it was a centre of counterculture, of Nazi rule and the war, and later a symbol of reconstruction. In 1700, Berlin became a capital of the Prussian Empire, and in 1791 Frederick William the Second commissioned Brandenburg Gate to represent peace. Later the gate symbolized the victory of Napolean’s army, Nazi dominance and peace after World War 2. During World War 2 many buildings were destroyed and therefore Berlin had to rebuild itself and structured itself with a minimalistic design. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell after about 2 decades of division between East and West Berlin. In the 2000s, Berlin and Germany as a whole recognized the mistake of the war and many memorials such as the Jewish Memorial and national monuments have sprang up.
People often forget that Germany and it's culture had to significantly change after World War 2. One of the legacies from World War 2 I found is the respect for punctuality.I found it strikingly similar to Japan in that people respected punctuality.For example, I remember that the train would come at the exact time and especially that I checked out of my hostel late by 10 minutes. In Amsterdam, this would be no problem, but yes it was a problem in Berlin as punctuality is respected.When I was visiting Germany, I noticed that German people were very respectful. Maybe this attitude is something that came out of the horrible atrocities that the Nazis committed; the average german person feels the need to make up for one’s history in a sense and the government feels like they need to compensate and rebuild society entirely for everything that was lost during the war.
Top Places to Visit in 48 Hours
The Berlin Wall and the surrounding relics and murals surrounding it today on the East Side Gallery are one of the most enduring dedications to the plight of a divided Berlin in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s a must see for jaw-dropping murals and pictures symbolizing a great political movement and the lives people people lived.While touring the Berlin Wall, I noticed a graffiti quote on the Berlin Wall writing “ Please don’t be angry when I’m not there for you, love me always and forever." I’ve always believed this quote to resemble a relationship torn apart by the Cold War. When I meet a Berliner in England, he told me that his parents where separated by the wall, which just goes to show that history will always be recent history to someone.
The Berlin U-Bahn system is one of the most convenient and reliable transportation systems that I have ever been on in Europe. It comes exactly on time and operates 24 hours on weekends and from 4am to 1am on weekdays and began in 1902. There are many lines and over 172 stations and was designed initially to alleviate traffic coming in and out of central Berlin. The metro is a popular form of transportation that can take you to all the major attractions in a relatively short period of time.I would definitely recommend taking the metro to explore the various regions in Berlin.
Minimalist Cafes, Restaurants and Shops
Don’t miss out on must- see cafes that offer minimalistic design, international favour, and a local feel. The style and feel in Berlin is very modern,clean and sleek and many cafes,restaurants and shops alike embody this persona in their presentation.Even the small shops such as cafe bars, sushi restaurants and others all have a minimalistic approach to their food.
4. Holocaust Memorial
I found it fascinating and interesting the design of the Holocaust Memorial would be located in an open area in Central Berlin and be designed in the form of minimalistic rocks. New York architect Peter Eisenman won the bid for the design and placed 2711 concrete slabs of different heights over a site overing 19,000 share meters. The blocks make you feel like your in a maze, but I realize they are meant for you to feel the weight of the deaths of those people who lost their lives in the Holocaust towering beneath you, putting in question the setup of a traditional memorial. It’s a creative design essentially that makes the average person emphasize with those lives lost through a very creative engineering and design approach. Located near Brandenburg Tor, it is at an easy walking distance from Central Berlin and is open day and night.
Brandenburg Tor is a symbol of peace in Berlin today and is a must-see destination for anyone wanting to visit Berlin for the first time. It is not only a testament of peace, but of Berlin’s struggle and power to survive and reclaim itself against the reins of history. Conveniently located next to the subway station, you can walk right out and check it out.
Statues of Berlin’s History
The streets of Berlin are lined with history and statues laying tribute to the soldiers and to the millions of people who have dedicated their lives to the war. Walk along some popular and not-so- popular streets and you will be sure to find some.
The Reichstag Building is a historic edifice in Berlin and is the Parliament building built in a Renaissance architecture style. As a international recognizable symbol of democracy, millions of people flock to this structure very year.
3. Berlin’s Underground Club Scene
Berlin’s subway system is open 24 hours, so there is plenty of nightlife to explore, some harnessing a unique techno feel known around the world.
4. Berlin's Hostels
Having stayed in hostels mostly while traveling through Europe, I found that the hostels in Berlin were exceptionally clean and well maintained compared to the hostels in other areas of Europe. They are also amazingly designed and creative.
Berlin is a very friendly and orderly city in that the food, culture, and attractions are all very clean and minimalistic with a modern approach. A large part of this was that Germany and Berlin, similarly to Japan, had to rebuild their cities after World War 2, so lot of the architecture is very modern. But Berlin also pays tribute to it’s history of reconciliation by recognizing and fostering a sense of solidarity after years of neglect. If you only have 2 days or a brief time in Berlin, be sure to check out the recommendations above and enjoy experiencing a modern and vibrant city that seeks to re-invent itself each time it falls.