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I was in Munich for CadenceLIVE Europe and took that opportunity to write Breakfast Bytes Guide to Munich. The next day, my wife and I took the train to Berlin. Somehow, I'd never been to Berlin before. There is clearly a lot of history here.
Obviously, you can fly into Berlin. But if you are coming here from somewhere else in Germany, it is probably easiest to take the train. Download the DB Navigator App and you can book tickets, explore the availability of trains, and reserve seats, all without needing to go near a train station (well, until you depart, obviously). Your ticket, a barcode, will get scanned on the train by the train conductor. You can book for more than one person on the same ticket.
Then, once you get to Berlin, there is an app for the subway (U-Bahn and S-Bahn) called BVG, which lets you book trips (or an all-day ticket and other options). You end up with a barcode on your phone that you will need to show to the ticket inspector in the unlikely event you get inspected. Otherwise, you don't need to do anything with the ticket. Each person needs their own ticket on their own phone.
Just the very recent history. In 1871, Berlin became the capital of a newly unified Germany. Then the Second World War happened, and in the aftermath, Berlin ended up as an island of West Germany surrounded by East Germany, and with a hundred-mile wall encircling the city. The capital of West Germany was moved to Bonn. In 1989, the wall came down, and in 1990 East and West Germany were reunified to give us the situation today with just Germany, or technically the Federal Republic of Germany. Berlin became the capital again.
This turned out to be good for Munich, too. Siemens had been headquartered in Berlin, but when Berlin was relatively isolated it moved its headquarters to Munich, at the time considered a sleepy backward agricultural town (although BMW and more were already there). But that decision made Munich the electronic capital of Germany and a very wealthy city in the nation.
After reunification, the most popular place to build semiconductor manufacturing fabs was Dresden (in former East Germany). AMD built "fab 1" there (now GlobalFoundries), Qimonda (the memory spinout from Siemens that failed) had a fab. Bosch has built a fab there. XFAB is there. And more. However, Intel plans its new fabs in Magdeburg, also in former East Germany but further North.
Everyone will have their own list of what they want to see. One challenge, both to get a clear view and to take good photos, is that everywhere in Berlin seems to be a construction site. Anyway, here are some obvious choices of what to see:
The Brandenburg Gate. This is an iconic symbol not just for Germany, but for Europe. I can't think of any similar triumphant structure in Brussels (and Mannekin Pis is hardly going to fill the gap!).
The Reichstag. You can visit the Reichstag for free, but you must book at least three days in advance and get a timeslot. I couldn't get a slot, so I can't tell you what you will see inside, except I know you get to go inside the Norman Foster glass dome on the top (see my photo).
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. There is also a free museum underneath with more details, photos, and more.
The Berlin Wall Memorial. This a preserved section of the Berlin Wall that separated Berlin from East Germany until 1989.
Like Munich, Berlin has literally dozens of museums. Here are a couple I visited.
Munich has the Deutschesmuseum. Berlin has Deutsches Technikmuseum or German Technical Museum in English. I will cover this in a separate post. Arguably, it contains the first programmable computer, dating to the mid-1930s.
There is a fashion for repurposing obsolete buildings to be art galleries. The most famous must be the Musée d'Orsay in Paris (a repurposed train station, the Gare d'Orsay) or perhaps Tate Modern in London (a repurposed power station). Berlin has one, too, the Hamburger Banhof, which sounds like something off a McDonald's menu but is, in fact, a repurposed train station, too, the old station for the Berlin-Hamburg line. There was nothing in the main hall when we were there. The art wasn't great that day either, so like some other galleries (the Tate in St Ives, Cornwall, for example), the building was the most interesting thing there.
Munich has the Englishergarten in the heart of the city. Berlin has the Tiergarten, stretching a long way from the Brandenburg Gate away from the center of the city. It is a semi-wild forest in the center of the city. It is no longer the largest park in the city since the old Tempelhof Airport, which closed in 2008, is now a park.
In Munich, I said you had to try weisswurst, the most iconic Bavarian sausage. Well, in Berlin, you have to try currywurst. Not only is this the most iconic Berlin sausage, it is the most iconic Berlin dish. Sometimes it is served whole with fries, as in the photo I took of my Thanksgiving lunch. Sometimes the sausages are cut up into chunks and served in the curry sauce.
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