Berlin: vibrant and always changing
Berlin is a city that has to been seen. Berlin has been at the centre of some pretty key historical moments and as a result has transformed and changed throughout time and today is still changing and evolving.
Accommodation: I stayed at the Genrator Hostel Berlin-Mitte right in the ultra trendy part of Berlin. The hostel was fully accessible, however there are multiple lifts which can make it a bit confusing. The dorm rooms are quite squishy which means it was hard to find somewhere to put my wheelchair that was out the way. The best thing about this hostel was that there was a fully accessible bathroom just down the hall that only I had access to. This meant I didn’t have to use the very small inaccessible bathrooms in the dorm room.
Transport: Again like most major cities the local trains are a bit of a hit and miss with lift access down to the platform. However again like the other major cities the bus system is great and pretty much every bus has a ramp. You buy your bust ticket from the driver and it is pretty inexpensive. Again I used the City Mapper app to tell me which bus to get on, and where the bus stop was etc. This site – Berlin Public Transport Barrier Free http://www.visitberlin.de/en/article/public-transport-barrier-free, Has a good summary and you can download a map that shows which train station are accessible if you are game to try the train.
Overall Accessibility: Overall Berlin is really flat with limited cobblestones which makes it really easy to get around. All attractions run with German like precision and as a result almost everything is accessible and you skip to the front of almost every line. Unfortunately I was only here for 3 full days and there was a bout a hundred more things I wanted to see so my experiences below are only a small part of all you can see and do in Berlin.
Day 1: Checkpoint Charlie, Part of the Wall, Topography of Terror Museum
Got off the train and caught a taxi to my hostel – which seems to be the easiest way to get to my hostel with my heavy pack. I checked into my hostel started some much needed washing and met Cate the girl I spent time with in Munich.
We had a lunch of vegan currywurst (which is a vegan sausage with curry powder and is much more delicious than it sounds). We then caught a train down to Checkpoint Charlie. At this stage I didn’t know much about the Berlin public transport system, however luckily this station had a lift and so did the one I was getting out of but as I said above not all train stations have lifts so it’s best to have a look before hand or catch the bus.
Checkpoint Charlie is the site of the infamous border crossing between East and West Germany. Just near here there is an open air display detailing some of the most incredible stories of people trying to cross the wall. It is mostly accessible however in parts there are some deep stones making it difficult to get across.
We then went to the Topography of a Terror Museum which is the former site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters which documents their history. It is really good however there is a lot of information and can get a bit overwhelming. Again it is totally accessible with a ramp to get in. There is also a section of the old Berlin Wall which you can walk around.
On getting back to our hostel we found that the washing machine we were using had flooded the whole laundry and so spent the rest of the night trying to dry our very soaked clothes – oh the joys of using hostel laundry’s
Day 2: The Walking Tour that covered all of Berlin
As I have mentioned before walking tours became my all time favourite ways to see and learn about the city and I will cover them from an accessible viewpoint in another blog post. From the hostel you can register your interest for the walking tour and they take you to the start which is at the infamous Bradenburg Gate. The walking tour took about 3.5 hours and covered most of Berlin. Our guide was super informative and again very helpful with gutter ramps, avoiding cobblestones etc. The company I used was New Berlin Tours http://www.neweuropetours.eu/berlin/en/home. This company also does other tours (which you have to pay for) such as the alternative walking tour, Third Reich tour, Red Berlin tour and a Potsdam tour.
On the tour we covered; The Bradenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Hitler‘s Bunker (which now a carpark), Gendarmenmarkt, The Berlin Wall, Site of the old GDR Head office,Humboldt University and the site of the infamous book burning which is now a memorial and many many more. I’m sure I’ve missed out a couple of places.
That evening I sampled a couple of Berlin clubs/pubs in the area. I stayed away from the large Berlin nightclubs as it didn’t really interest me. Most of the smaller pubs where a bit inaccessible however I had people to help me in and out.
Day 3: Holocaust Memorial, The Reichstag, The East Side Gallery
I started the day by going down to the the train station to try and sort out the next leg of my journey to Poland. As i was disorganised there was no room left on the night train the next day which meant I had to catch the day train and therefore miss out on a whole extra day in Berlin.
Therefore I was in a mad rush to fit everything else in that I wanted to see in one day.
I started at the Reichstag the historic home of the German Parliament. A very important thing to note which I did not know is that you must pre book entry into the Reichstag if you want to go inside. This can be done online. I turned up and feined ignorance so they let me in anyway. The main entry is not wheelchair accessible so they assign you an escort who takes you through the lift system and up to the glass dome (which was rebuilt after being set alight in 1933). Being a wheelchair user you also skip the very long line. Once up the top they give you a audio guide and you then make your way up the ramp to the top of the dome. This can be a bit tricking as the audio guide keeps telling you to stop and listen to a certain piece of information. It is not easy trying to stop a wheelchair in the middle of a ramp while holding a audio guide in one hand and trying not to go backwards. Going down was a lot easier and the view from the top of the whole of Berlin as pretty incredible.
After getting back down through the lifts I then walked through the Tiergarten Park and back to the Holocaust memorial that I visited yesterday. Underneath the memorial is museum and information centre. The main access is by a set of stairs however there is a lift. If you have someone with you you can get them to go underneath to get help for the lift access. If you are by yourself you just have to try and track down a staff member circling above. Overall a very moving and emotional exhibition on the holocaust. Highly recommended.
For some reason I decided to walk/push all the way to the East side Gallery, while trying different food along the way and doing some window shopping. It was really cold and I would recommend catching a bus as it is quite a long way. The East Side Gallery is part of the old Berlin wall covered with international artists. Some of the artwork was absolutely amazing.
And that is sadly it for Berlin. Unfortunately I did not have long enough in this city and could have definitely done with another 2-3 days. However I now have to spend the whole of my next day on a train to Poland. This will serve me right for not being more organised.