These are my recommendations if you are visiting Berlin, especially for the first time.
Don’t worry about being unable to speak the language – in common with many European countries, most of the locals will speak English to a greater or lesser extent. The younger ones are, not surprisingly, not only good at it but are better at doing so than many native English speakers, IMO. If you want to try speaking German, the locals will appreciate your efforts.
Here are the basic expressions you will need to enjoy your stay in Berlin:
- “Ein Bier, bitte.” ( Phonetically : Ine beer bitter). This means “I’d like a beer please.” If you really want to show off or if you are a chronic drunkard you may want to learn the first ten numbers in German. Google them.
- “Noch ein Bier!” (Ph. Nock ine beer!). “Another beer please!” If you look up the word for “another” in an English/German dictionary you will find ‘andere’ amongst other synonyms. If you use this word you will make a fool of yourself as I did on my first trip to Heidelberg. It means “Another (different kind of) beer”. The waiter will eventually tell you they have run out (of different types of beer) and everyone will laugh uproariously once you have left. Use “Noch ein Bier” unless you particularly want to try all the beers in the house (not recommended).
- “Wo ist die toilette?” (Ph. Vo ist dee toilet?) “Where’s the toilet?”
Well, that’s pretty much it.
If you need directions, the key words are:
- “Links” (pronounced as it looks) means ‘left’.
- “Rechts” (pronounced like the Australian beer Reschs only with a ‘t’ on the end instead of the ‘s’) means ‘right’.
- “Gerade aus” (there are no soft ‘g’s in German so it’s pronounced “ge-rar-der”. “Aus” is pronounced like a Cockney would pronounce “house” and means ‘straight ahead’.
- “Zuruck” (there’s supposed to be an umlaut in there but I can’t do them on a keyboard and Lemmy’s dead so I have no-one to ask). This one is a real bugger to pronounce. Try ‘zoo’ followed by ‘ruck’ pronounced to rhyme with ‘fluke’ – means ‘back’.
How to get there ...
I am assuming you are already in Europe. If you are the two best ways to get to Berlin are to fly or go by train. If you drive into Berlin, skip the following advice. I am assuming also that you intend to stay in central Berlin – or Berlin Mitte as we Berliners like to call it. I recommend the Apartments am Brandenburger Tor, although I shouldn’t because as soon as word gets out what a good deal they are every man, woman and Hund will be hoovering in and I won’t be able to get a reservation anymore. You will need one. Here is the website: http://www.apartments-mitte.de/ and here is how to get there:
If you fly into Berlin, get a taxi -they are fairly cheap and offer excellent service: the driver will chat amiably and at great length (even after you tell him you don’t speak German) to Potsdamer Platz. Have a beer while you are waiting for the next set of instructions.
If you go by train, get off at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Be impressed by the station – it is impressive. Then walk over to one of the glass walls and see if you can see the Reichstag. When you can see the Reichstag, that is the side of the station to leave from. Walk to the Reichstag. You will have to walk across the park. The distance is about 500 metres and you will be harassed by Serial Harassers who infest Europe. They are often kids of school age and they often carry clipboards and pretend to be conducting a survey or whatever. They will ask for money. Politely but firmly decline and they will leave you alone. Don’t be conned by someone amazingly ‘finding’ a gold ring on the ground and then offering to sell it to you (the ring, not the ground).
Now while I’m trying to work out how to cut and paste my Google map of Berlin Mitte, let’s do a virtual walk from the Hbf (Main Station) to the Brandenburg Gate.
While we are doing the virtual walk, those who flew in are probably wondering which beer to start with. These two are very good:
Now for the virtual walkers. My advice : you will see a pissy little bridge in front of you over which everybody else will be walking. Do not go there. To your right you will see a lovely old stone bridge . Walk towards it – for two reasons: one, you will avoid the serial pests and two, you will be walking on a great piece of history.
Observe the following photo. The orange arrow indicates the impressive Hauptbahnhof whence you have just walked. The red arrow indicates the pissy little pest-infested pedestrian bridge. The green arrow indicates a decorative griffin (more of him/her later) and the blue arrow indicates your destination, i.e. the Reichstag.
The next post will address the history of the Moltke Bridge and we will then attempt to meet up with those who flew in before they get too tired and emotional on Berliner Kindl or Radeberger.