Clockwise

After seeing the Baumhaus, a quick glance at Google Maps revealed that I was quite close to the station at Ostbahnhof, so I walked there.

Ostbahnhof is a station which I have visited multiple times, although I have never hung around for long, preferring to head straight for a train. I had some time to spare (I thought) so mooched around for a bit, thinking I could maybe grab some lunch from one of the many food outlets. I didn’t get anything to eat, but on the concourse, I discovered yet another coin-operated model railway. Naturally I had to put in a couple of coins to watch a train go round in circles for a few minutes.

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Baumhaus is a very very very fine house

Mid-afternoon is probably the worst time for a flight. Too late in the day to head straight to the airport from the hotel, but early enough that you can’t do anything too ambitious because you constantly have one eye on the time. My Monday morning in Berlin was an example, with my flight due to leave at 15:45. I would have to watch the clock carefully, and ensure that I was at the airport by 2pm.

As it turned out, I actually didn’t keep an eye on the time when I should have, but more of that later…

I decided to stick with the Berlin Wall theme, and headed to Nordbahnhof. This station is on the Berlin S-Bahn’s North-South line, and between 1961 and 1989 was one of the many “ghost stations” on the city’s transport network. The line started in West Berlin, ran through East Berlin for a few miles, then crossed back into West Berlin. All the stations in the East Berlin section were closed, and the entrances sealed. Armed border guards patrolled the dimly-lit platforms – anyone using the train tunnels to escape ran the risk of being shot.

Exhibit in Nordbahnhof "Border Stations and Ghost Stations in Divided Berlin"

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Brücke-side

On Sunday morning I arrived at Zoologischer Garten station with a Berlin ABC day ticket in hand, ready to travel west to Wannsee. I could have boarded an S-Bahn train, but instead opted for the faster DB Regio service. This had the bonus of travelling on one of DB’s brill double-decker trains, always a novelty for an Englishman constrained by a restrictive loading gauge.

Photo of DB Regio train at Zoologischer Garten

I had decided to continue with the Berlin Wall theme of my visit. Why did I get off at Wannsee? Because there was something nearby I wanna-see. Do you see?

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Another Prick at the Wall

Even teletext got in on the Berlin Wall celebrations. ARD Text broadcast a series of pages reporting the news from thirty years ago, emulating the look of their text service in 1989. Can it get any more 1980s than that?

The centerpiece of the Mauerfall 30 events was a huge free concert to be held at the Brandenburg Gate on the evening of Saturday 9th November. Since I was in Berlin for the 30th anniversary, it seemed logical to attend.

Security was extremely tight. I had been on the Unter den Linden boulevard earlier in the day, and the whole area of the concert was enclosed in a ring of steel. On the platforms of Brandenburger Tor S-Bahn station, DB security staff with loud hailers were directing passengers to a specific exit – all the others being locked. The Brandenburg Gate itself was behind a security cordon with stern Polizei blocking access. Necessary measures, no doubt, but slightly ironic, considering what the city was celebrating.

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The Bahn Association

Sign reading "zum Museum" with arrow pointing

Saturday 9th November 2019 was a momentous day in the history of Berlin. Yes, it was the one day a month that the Berlin U-Bahn Museum is open. By pure luck, its opening day coincided with my weekend in Berlin, so it was a natural choice to while away a few hours on Saturday afternoon.

I arrived at Olympia-Stadion station on the U2 line, to find stands of football scarves and fast food being set up in the ticket hall. Hertha Berlin were due to play at home later that day, and some fans were arriving early. While most made a beeline for the nearby stadium, I headed for the welcoming doorway to the museum, sandwiched between two replica train cabs.

Berlin U-Bahn Museum entrance between two train cabs

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Berlin sees the Light

Turns out the answer to the question “Where next?” was… Berlin.

I last visited Berlin in May 2018, and was starting to feel the itch again. When the cream failed to clear it up, it was obvious that I needed to visit.

I was initially reluctant to venture abroad again, so soon after #TågFärjetur, but the weekend of 8-11 November was the perfect time to go. The city was hosting a series of special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, under the heading Mauerfall 30.

Even at two weeks’ notice, EasyJet (sorry Greta) was offering reasonable prices, so off I went.

Easyjet flight on the tarmac at Liverpool Airport

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Berlin: The Long-Awaited Third Part

Yes, I know, it’s been a long time coming. Apologies for the delay. Also, despite this walking tour lasting almost four hours, I took precisely two photos, both of which are included here.

FRIDAY

Logo of Original Berlin Walks

I’m terrible at planning my holidays (and writing about them, it seems), and the trip to Berlin was no exception. One thing I did manage to organise, however, was booking myself onto a walking tour of Berlin. I never used to be a fan of these types of tours but on recent jaunts abroad I’ve found them to be an excellent way of seeing a lot of city in a short time. I found the BerlinWalks Queer Berlin tour, which promised a whistle-stop tour of the city’s LGBT history.

I turned up at the meeting point outside Hackescher Markt station in a slightly discombobulated state. I had walked from my hotel to the U-Bahn station before realising that I had forgotten to put on any sun cream, so I had to dash back to slap some on. I didn’t regret this decision – Berlin was in the grip of a heatwave, and even by 10.30am the sun was very hot. However it did mean I arrived only just in time, and in a sweaty, flustered state.

There were several tours setting off at the same time, and while most people were here for the generic city tour or a cheerful trip out to Sachsenhausen, I was the only person here for the queer tour. My guide was a cheerful American (whose name, unfortunately, I have forgotten). He said that if I needed the toilet, I could use the facilities in an adjacent restaurant. Unfortunately his directions were not too clear, so I wandered into the kitchen by mistake and got chased out by an angry chef.

When I returned to the meeting point, two other people had turned up to join our tour. I’m not actually sure which is worse – a tiny tour group, or just one person. If it were just me and the tour guide, it might have been a bit easier. But a small group requires smalltalk. The other two were a couple, and I felt a little bit like I was interrupting a date. I felt a bit awkward, but I did my best and didn’t embarrass myself too much.

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Bare-lin, Bear-lin

THURSDAY

Sightseeing time! Time to look at some of the key locations in central Berlin. Places such as Potsdamer Platz – for years a No Man’s Land bisected by the Berlin Wall, now a thriving centre of crass commercialism with skyscrapers all around. What would Walter Ulbricht have thought?

Potsdamer Platz in Berlin on a sunny day, with the DB tower in the foreground

A short walk away, the imposing Brandenburg Gate still stands as a symbol of Berlin, as well as a magnet for tourists.

Photo of the Brandenburg Gate

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Berlin, I Love You

I first visited Berlin in 2012. To say I fell in love with the place instantly would be an exaggeration – it took an hour, maybe two. I’ve been back several times, most recently in September 2016. It has to be my favourite place in the world to visit.

My last visit was nearly 18 months ago. Far too long to wait – I was itching to go back. Luckily Brexit hasn’t yet grounded every flight between the UK and Europe, so I was still able to hop on an easyJet plane (no long-distance trains this time, alas).

Photos of planes on the tarmac seen from inside Liverpool Airport

Fully embracing the gay experience this time, I checked into the wonderful ArtHotel Connection, a small boutique hotel located on Fuggerstraße in the heart of Berlin’s gay district. I was surrounded by gay bars, gay cafés, gay shops and gay people.

I think it’s fair to say that the hotel caters to a certain specific demographic. The paintings on the walls clued me in to this, and any lingering doubt was removed the next morning when I arrived for breakfast and found a man in full leather gear eating at a table in the opposite corner.

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Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin

Photo of Berlin Skyline, showing TV Tower, Reichstag and other buildings

This is another catch-up post from last year.

My third trip to Berlin, and I had three days to squeeze in as much as possible. What did I do? Read on…

IT’S THAT TOWER AGAIN – The Berliner Fernsehturm looms large over the city, a glorious relic of the 60s, erected by the old Communist regime to show off to its neighbours on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

Photo of the TV Tower in Berlin, looking upward from the base

I had visited before, in 2012, but that time I had only visited the viewing deck. This time, I ventured up to dine at the Sphere Restaurant (advance booking recommended).

I felt a certain amount of smugness as my friend Boris arrived late following flight delays (my train was right on time) but was slightly worried that we would lose our dinner reservation. No worries, as it turns out having a native German speaker with you helps smooth things over, and we were shown to our table 20 minutes late.

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