Berlin is a gritty and vibrant urban oasis with a powerful history. With graffiti smeared on buildings, tributes and memorials paying homage to those who endured horrific tortures of the war, this city is culturally rich and made for a memorable visit.

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The city at first, can feel overwhelmingly huge and relatively cold, however, with friendly people everywhere, fabulous restaurants offering affordable dining, a fantastic music scene, plenty of museums (though this trip didn’t include any), and beautiful memorials, the city is downright welcoming and truly has something for everyone.

Upon arrival, our first stop was brunch with an old high school friend and a bike ride to see old remnants of the Berlin wall in the town of Glienicke. The history behind the wall is vast and no, I won’t be diving into that here, but to see the sheer scale of a wall that divided a country is mind-blowing and what makes this all the more hard to process is the simple fact that the wall did not fall until 1989.

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To get an idea of what one can see in a short period of time, consider some of the following ideas listed below. I was grateful to Stef and Sonja for kindly showing me around this incredible city, for without their knowledge the trip would not have been so memorable.

It might appear as all we did while in Berlin was eat, and yes, we did take advantage of the vast food selection at what seemed to be very cheap prices coming from Switzerland, but we elected not to pay for breakfast at our hotel, so our morning meals were enjoyed at local cafés, plus we made several stops at small/local coffee shops to break away from the cold temperatures. Though public transportation is fabulous in Berlin, we spent much of our time walking, which is my preferred way to truly take in any city.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews – Is a somber place to visit, but certainly worth your time. Created by architect Peter Eisenmann, there are 2,711 concrete pillars that to most resemble coffins. Beneath the “steles” is an information center where individuals can learn more about the details of the horrible plight of the victims of the holocaust. To visit such a place is to recall how grave our history is, but sheds light for a brighter, and more humane future.

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Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted Under the National Socialist Regime Located in the Tiergarten, just opposite the Memorial to Murdered Jews, this nondescript cement structure shows a brief video of homosexuals engaging in sincere and loving moments that all couples share. This is a lovely tribute to those who lost their lives and partners during the Holocaust.

Brandenburg Gate – An impressive city gate and the only remaining gate by which people entered Berlin.  The gate was originally constructed as a symbol of peace in the 18th century. Of course, the history is much richer than a few sentences, but again, I won’t be diving into the history, and politics of Berlin in this post.

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Mauerpark or Wall Park – What a fun, eclectic location for hearing incredible street performers.  While there, listen to random individuals try their hand at Karaoke, enjoy some delicious food and take in the weekly flea market each Sunday from 10:00 – 18:00. Unfortunately, Mauerpark’s weekly flea market was closed during our visit, but we were grateful for hearing the gorgeous sounds of Alice Phoebe Lou.

Alice Phoebe Lou – Oh my, what a young talent! Alice (a South African street musician) was playing when we visited Mauerpark and her voice was electric and instantly drew us all in. I honestly felt myself being pulled to this incredibly sultry, magnetic voice and once I located her at the edge of the park, I wanted to stay, take in her music and absorb her deep lyrics. If you are not familiar with her music, please visit the YouTube link below.

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Butler Coffee – Was a great little restaurant not far from Mauerpark that offered a divine warm –up and lively conversations after spending loads of time in the frosty outdoor air.

Alpenstueck Bäckerai – Located in Mitte, this cozy café serves up incredibly hearty breakfasts inspired by the Alps. With homemade muesli, fresh breads and spreads, delicious coffee, and service with a smile, this remarkable little find will fill you up and keep you coming back for more. I also loved some of the photos on the walls!

Oslo Kaffebar – What a total gem of a café. With friendly and chatty barista’s (is that what they are called these days?) and some of the best coffee I have ever tasted, this is a haven for a meet – up with friends, to catch – up on some work, chilling with a remarkable cup of drip coffee or simply listening to their awesome record collection. Do yourself a favor and take – in this café. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

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Café Fleury – Looking for a deliciously French café for a quick, yet remarkably hearty, breakfast? Consider eating at the quaint café, either indoors or out with superb French bread and a charming French flair.

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Calma Berlin Mitte (Hotel) – Perfectly located on a quiet street, Calma offers newly decorated (though quite sparse) accommodations with the bare basics. The location is ideal for easily accessing the heart of Berlin. Public transportation is a short walk away; the city is truly at your fingertips. If you are looking for convenience at affordable rates, this is a decent option for calling home while visiting Berlin.

easyJet – Our short flight to Berlin was provided by easyJet. Departing from Basel-Mulhouse, we arrived in Berlin roughly two hours later.

The Details:
Mauerpark – www.mauerparkmarkt.de/?lang=en
Alpenstueck Bäckerai – http://cgi.alpenstueck.de/user-cgi-bin/?file=kop1.php
Oslo Kaffebar – http://www.oslokaffebar.com/
Café Fleury – http://unlike.net/berlin/food/cafe-fleury
Calma Berlin Mitte – http://www.hotel-calma-berlin.de/
easyJet – http://www.easyjet.com/en/
Alice Phoebe Lou – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgwM3f-w3b0

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