Don’t wait any longer to see Berlin (pop. 3.4 million). The city is nearing the end of a massive transitioned phase, developing from a reunited metropolis reeling in the aftermath of the Cold War to the epicenter of the EU and the Berlin of five or even two years from now will be radically different from the Berlin of today. Germany is the industrial leader of the continent, and when the Lehrter Stadtbahnhof (Europe’s largest train station) opens in 2004, this city will essentially become its capital too. However, in the wake of the Nazi regime, some Germans question their own ability and right to govern. The problem of “Mauer im Kopf” (“wall in the head”), the psychological division between East and West Germany, is felt here more than anywhere else. Still, Berliners have always been more progressive than the rest of their countrymen, a tendency that prompted Hitler’s famous proclamation: “Berliners are not fit to be German!”As a result, the atmosphere is the most diverse and tolerant in the country, with a famous gay and lesbian scene and an almost non-existent racial crime rate. But the real reason to visit is the almost palpable tension between past and future. No other city is currently poised to attain such geopolitical importance, and the air is taut with hope and foreboding.
Berlin is rapidly becoming the hub of the international rail network, with rail and air connections to most other European capitals. Almost all European airlines have service to one of Berlin’s three airports.
Flights: For info on all 3 airports, call (0180) 500 01 86. The city is transitioning from 3 airports to 1 (Flughafen Schonefeld), but for now Flughafen Tegel (TXL) remains Berlin’s main international airport. Express bus X9 from Bahnhof Zoo, bus #109 from Jakob-Kaiser-PI. on U7, bus #128 from Kurt-Schumacher-PI. on U6, or bus TXL from Potsdamer Platz. Flughafen Schonefeld (SXF), southeast of Berlin, has intercontinental flights. S9 or S45 to Flughafen Berlin ScAionefeld. Flughafen Tempelhof (THF), Berlin’s smallest airport, has intra-German and European flights. U6 to PI. der Luftbriicke. Train Stations: Trains to and from Berlin are serviced by Zoologischer Garten (almost always called Bahnhof Zoo) in the West and Ostbahnhof in the East. Most trains go to both stations, but some connections to cities in former East Germany only stop at Ostbahnhof. For info call (0180) 599 66 33 or visit www.bahn.de. Trains run every hour to: Cologne (4V4hr„ 98); Frankfurt (4hr„ 106); Hamburg (2V$hr. 45); Leipzig (2hr„ 34); Munich (6V2-7hr. 102). One per 2hr. to: Dresden (2V4hr. 22); Rostock (23Ahr. 34). International connections to: Amsterdam (6hr.); Brussels (7V2hr.); Budapest (12hr.); Copenhagen (7‘2hr.); Krakow (8V2-Ilhr.); Moscow (27-33hr.j; Paris (9hr.); Prague (5hr.); Rome (17Vi-21hr.); Stockholm (13-16hr.); Vienna (9$hr.); Warsaw (6hr.); Zurich (8V£hr.). Times and prices change frequently-check at the computers in the stations. Under Deutsche Bahn’s new pricing system, prices depend on when you book. If you book at the last minute, you’ll get the prices we list; for the cheapest tickets, book at least three weeks in advance. The Euraide counter has info in English, sells tickets, and often has the shortest lines.
Buses: ZOB, the central bus station (301 03 80), by the Funkturm near Kaiserdamm. U2 to Kaiserdamm or S4, 45, or 46 to Witzleben. Open M-F 6am-7:30pm, Sa-Su 6am-noon. Check Zitty and Tip for deals on long-distance buses. Gullivers, Hardenbergpl. 14 (0800 4855 4837; www.gullivers.de), by the bus parking lot in Bahnhof Zoo. To: Paris (14hr. 59) and Vienna (lO’ihr. 49). Open daily 9am-2:30pm and 3-7pm. Buses are slower and less comfortable than trains, but often cheaper.
Mitfahrzentraien: Berlin has many ride-sharing centers; check the magazines Zitty, Tip, and 030 for addresses and phone numbers. Larger ones include: Citynetz, Joachimstaler Str. 17 ( 194 44; www.mtz-citynetz.de). U9 or 15 to Kurfurstendamm. To: Hamburg or Hanover (17), Frankfurt (29). Open M-F 9am-8pm, Sa-Su 9am-7pm. Mitfahrzentrale Zoo, ( 194 40; www.mfzoo.de) on the U2 platform at Bahnhof Zoo. Open M-F 9am-8pm, Sa-Su 10am-6pm. Mitfahr2000, has branches at Joachimst-haler Str. 1, ( 19 20 00), Yorckstr. 52 ( 194 2000) and Oderberger Str. 45 ( 440 9392; www.mitfahr2000.de). Open daily 8am-8pm.
Berlin is an immense conglomeration of what were once two separate and unique cities. The former East contains most of Berlin’s landmarks and historic sites, as well as an unfortunate number of pre-fab concrete socialist architectural experiments. The former West functioned for decades as a small, isolated, Allied-occupied state and is still the commercial heart of united Berlin. The situation is rapidly changing, however, as businesses and embassies move their headquarters to Potsdamer PI. and Mitte in the East.
The vast Tiergarten, Berlin’s beloved park, lies in the center of the city; the grand, tree-lined StraBe des 17. iunl runs through it from west to east and becomes Unter den Linden at the Brandenburg Gate. North of the Gate is the Reichstag, while south of the Gate EbertstraBe winds to glitzy Potsdamer Platz. Unter den Linden continues east through Mitte, the location of countless historical sites. The street changes names once again, to Karl-Liebknecht-Strafie, before emptying into Alexanderplatz, home to Berlin’s most visible landmark, the Fernsehturm (TV tower). At the east end of Mitte is the Museumsinsel (Museum Island). Cafe- and shop-lined Oranienburgerstrafie cuts through the area of northeastern Mitte known as Scheunenviertel, historically Berlin’s center of Jewish life.
The commercial district of West Berlin lies at the southwest end of the Tiergarten, centered around Bahnhof Zoo and the Kurfurstendamm (Ku’damm for short). To the east is Breitscheldplatz, marked by the bombed-out Kalser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche, and Savignyplatz, one of many pleasant squares in Charlottenburg, which is home to cafes, restaurants, and Pensionen. Southeast of the Ku’damm, Schoneberg is a pleasant residential neighborhood and the traditional nexus of the city’s gay and lesbian community. At the southeast periphery of Berlin lies Kreuzberg, a district home to an exciting mix of radical leftists and punks as well as a large Turkish population. Northeast of the city is Prenzlauer Berg, a former working-class area, and east of Mitte is Friedrichshain, the center of Berlin’s counterculture and nightlife. Berlin is rightly called a collection of towns, not a homogeneous city, as each neighborhood maintains a strong sense of individual identity: Every year, for example, citizens of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain battle with vegetables for possession of the Oberbaumbrucke on the border between them.
Public Transportation: It is impossible to tour Berlin on foot fortunately, the extensive bus, Strafienbalin (streetcar), U-Bahn (subway), and S-Bahn (surface rail) systems will take you anywhere. Berlin is divided into 3 transit zones. Zone A encompasses central Berlin, including Tempelhof airport. Almost everything else falls into Zone B, while Zone C contains the outlying areas, including Potsdam and Oranienburg. An AB ticket is the best deal, as you can buy regional Bahn tickets for the outlying areas. A single ticket (Enzefahrscien) for the combined network is good for 2hr. after validation (Zones AB or BC 2.25, ABC 2.60). However, since single tickets are pricey, it almost always makes sense to buy a pass: a Tageskarte (AB 5.60, ABC 6) is good from validation until 3am the next day; the
WelcomeCard (AB 19) is valid for 72hr.; the 7-Tage-Karte (AB 23, ABC 29) is good for 7 days; and the Umweltkarte Standard (AB 58.50, ABC 72.50) is valid for one calendar month. Tickets may be used on any S-Bahn, U-Bahn, bus, or streetcar. Bikes require a supplemental ticket and are permitted on the U- and S-Bahn, but not on buses and streetcars. Purchasing and Validating Tickets: Buy tickets from Automaten (machines), bus drivers, or ticket windows in the U- and S-Bahn stations. When using an Automat, make your selection before inserting money; note that the machines will not give more than 10 change and that some machines do not take bills. All tickets must be validated in the box marked Merentwerfen before boarding, or you may be slapped with a 40 fine. Night Transport: U- and S-Bahn lines shut down from Mam on weeknights, but night buses (preceded by the letter N) run every 20-30min.; pick up the Nacitmennetz map at a Fairschene und Mehr office. Clubshuttle buses connect major clubs and hostels nightly 10pm-6am. A 16 ticket is good one week and includes discounts at 12 clubs. Taxis: 26 10 26, 21 02 02, or 690 22. Call at least 15min. in advance.
Car Rental: Most companies have counters atTegel and Schonefeld airports and around Bahnhof Zoo, Ostbainjof, Friedrichstr. and the Europa Center at Budapester Str. 39. The latter location has Hertz (261 10 53) open M-F 7am-8pm, Sa 8am-4pm, Su 9am-lpm; and Avis (230 93 70) open M-F 7am-7pm, Sa 9am-2pm.
Bike Rental: Fahrradstation, Friedrichstr. 141, is in the Friedrichstr. S-Bahn station. 15 per day. Open M-F 8am-8pm, Sa-Su 10am-4pm. Prenzleberger Orangebikes, 37 Kollwitz PI. U2 to Senefederpatz. 10 per day. Open M-F 2:30-7pm, Sa 10am-7pm. Deutsche Bahn Call-A-Bikes (0800 522 55 22) are all over the city. Only convenient for those with a cell phone, as you must call both to pick up and drop off.
TOURIST AND FINANCIAL SERVICES
The monthly magazine Berlin Programm (1.50) lists opera, theater, and classical music schedules. German-speakers should spring for Tip (2.50) or Zitty (2.30), which have the most comprehensive listings for film, theater, concerts, and clubs. For gays and lesbians, Siegressawte, Sergej, and Gay-yellowpages have entertainment listings. For info in English, check out www.berlin.de.
Tourist Offices: BEurAide (www.euraide.com), in Bawhof Zoo, has excellent travel advice, recommends hostels for free, and makes train and hotel reservations (4 fee for hotels). Open M-F 8:30am-noon and l-4pm, Sa 8:30am-noon. Europa-Center, on Budapester Str. has city maps (0.50) and free transit maps. From Bawhof Zoo, walk along Budapester Str. past the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche; the office is on the right after about 2 blocks (5min.). Open M-Sa 8:30am-8:30pm, Su 10am-6:30pm. Branches at Brandenburg Gate, the Alexanderplatz Television Tower, and KaDeWe.
City Tours: 11 Terry Brewer’s Best of Berlin (www.brewersberlin.com). Guides Terry and Boris are legendary for their vast knowledge and engaging personalities. 5hr. tours leave daily at 10:30am from the Neue Synagoge on Oranienburger Str. near the intersection with Tucholskystr. (SI, 2, or 25 to Oranienburger Str.). The tour picks up guests at hostels Odyssee (428) at 9:15am, Circus (426) at 9:40am and 2pm, and Clubhouse (427) at 10:15am. 10. An abridged version offered Apr.-Oct. at 12:30pm. Insider Tour (692 31 49) offers a variety of fun, erudite tours that hit the major sights. The 4hr. tour (9.50) picks up daily at 10am and (in summer) 2:30pm in front of the Zoo Station McDonald’s. Bike tours meet at Fahhradstation in the Friedrichstr. S-Bahn station at 10:30am and (in summer) 3pm; focus ranges from Communism to club crawls.
Embassies and Consulates: Berlin is building a new embassy complex. As of press time, the locations of the embassies remain in a state of flux. For the latest info, call the Auswartiges Amt Dienststelle Berlin (20 18 60) or visit its office on the Werder-scher Markt. U2: Hausvogteipl. Australia, Friedrichstr. 200 (880 08 80). U2 or 6 to Stadtmitte. Open M-Th 8:30am-lpm and 2-5pm, F 8:30am-lpm and 2-4:15pm. Also Uhlandstr. 181 (880 08 80). U15: Uhlandstr. Open M-F 8:30am-lpm. Canada, Friedrichstr. 95 (20 31 20), on the 12th fl. of the International Trade Center. U6: Friedrichstr. Open M-F 9-llam. Irish, Friedrichstr. 200 (22 07 20). Open M-F 9:30am-12:30pm and 2:30-4:45pm. New Zealand, Friedrichstr. 60 (20 62 10). Open M-Th 9am-lpm and 2-5:30pm; F at 9am-lpm and 2-4:30pm. South African, Friedrichstr. 60 (22 07 30). South African Consulate: Douglasstr. 9 (82 50 11). S7: Grunewald. Open M-F 9am-noon. UK, Wilhelmstr. 70 (20 18 40). U6: Friedrichstr. Open M-F 9am-4pm. US, Clayallee 170 (832 92 33). Ul: Oskar-Helene-Heim. Open M-F 8:30am-noon. Advice M-F 2-4pm; after hours emergencies, call 830 50.
Currency Exchange: The best rates are usually at offices that exclusively exchange currency and traveler’s checks-look for Wechselstube signs at major train stations and squares. ReiseBank, at Bahnhof Zoo (open daily 7:30am-10pm) and Ostbahnhof (open M-F 7am-10pm, Sa 8am-8pm, Su 8am-noon and 12:30-4pm), has worse rates.
American Express: Main Office, Bayreuther Str. 37 (21 47 62 92). Ul, 2, or 15 to Wittenbergpl. Holds mail and offers banking services. No commission on AmEx traveler’s checks. Open M-F 9am-7pm, Sa lOam-lpm. The branch office, Friedrichstr. 172 (20 45 57 21). U6: Franzosische Str. has the same hours.