January 29th-February 1st
For a romantic weekend away this February and for an assignment for Brides Magazine, I went to Berlin. Only a 6-hour drive from Amsterdam, this chilly German capital is filled with worthy sites and to my delight, some wonderful shops, great food and lovely hotels.
Although I prefer to walk around cities when the weather is less hostile (it was 5 degrees and 0 with the windchill), Berlin managed to capture my interest wholeheartedly. Mostly because they ensured touring the city is made for dummies with various city tour buses that wind around the center (the preferred brand is the yellow double-decker pictured below) stopping at all the necessary sites (12 in total). The buses also ensure you stay warm if you also intend to visit in the cold.
Equip yourself with a guidebook and hop on and for about 20 euro, you get a full city tour in less than 3 hours. Even better, the buses heavy rotation and multiple coaches allow you to hop on and hop off at each stop at your leisure if you purchase the all-day ticket. This means that you can decide which sites are of true interest to you and allot the time you feel necessary. Oh the freedom reigns in Berlin, now!
If you are a bit wiser and go when the weather is warmer, I highly recommend touring the city by bike. There are multiple tour companies, among them Fat Tire Bike Tours. that offer various levels and durations of tours. If organized tours aren’t your thing (they’re rarely mine) then I recommend at least picking up the special map for the Berlin Wall Bike Tour, which you can find at any Tourist office or online. The marked path leads you along the former wall’s length permitting glimpses into the quiet side streets of both the eastern and western sides of the city.
Furthermore, the parks in Berlin are among the best city parks in Europe. Tiergarten is a favorite, filled with museums making a bike- museum tour another fun option. Berlin is also known for its lakes (the Strandbad Wannsee in the south-west of Berlin and Strandbad Müggelsee in the east are the most popular), which are clean enough for a swim. People flock to the lakeside beaches in the summer.
Now, Getting back to my winter trip, one of the historical sites that I enjoyed most was the city’s Cathedral which, called out to me with its copper green roofs and its antiqued (soot-covered) facade. The Berliner Dom was originally constructed from 1893 to 1905 Julius Carl and Otto Raschdorff as the high parish church and the state’s most important Protestant church and to serve as the sepulcher of the Hohenzollern dynasty.
Once inside, we toured through the many naves, levels and crypts and marveled at the fine details, particularly the massive organ. The plentiful crypts below are those from thee Hohenzollern dynasty and occupy the entire basement of the church. In fact, it is the crypt, with its ninety sarcophagi and tombs of members of the house of Hohenzollern from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, which is of outstanding significance. Several of the most important sarcophagi, have been on exhibit in the main hall of the cathedral since 1993, among them the two opulent coffins of Friedrich I and his wife Sophie Charlotte, cast in gold-plated lead and tin (pictured below).
For me though, the highlight was the church’s beautiful dome, which was destroyed in the bombings of 1944 and later rebuilt. Climbing to the top of the Cathedral and viewing the dome from up close is akin to St. Peters (okay, not as exceptional but still very impressive). Visitors are also permitted to walk the perimeter of the Cathedral’s dome and peer out the windows at the sweeping city views.
If you have limited time in Berlin, I highly recommend you spend some time visiting this marvelous relic. It is located right on museum island in the Mitte neighborhood.