Thursday, June 29, 2017

Travel Germany and Berlin between Christmas Markets and Castles

We decide to travel to Germany almost by chance. We were intrigued by this place that we had never visited. Germany seemed so different from the others. After browsing a few pages of our guide we realize we've made the right choice. We spend a month here visiting the tourist attractions and the most interesting places. It was the destination of my first trip alone and the trip after reaching maturity and perhaps that's why Berlin will always have a special place in my heart.

If I think it's been longer than a decade from the first time I embarked on an adventure by myself, without the dictates of mom and dad, I cannot believe it. And yet it was the first in a long series of trips to discover the world in which I was the one who planned my routes and things to do.

What to do in Berlin in 3 days

We start early in the morning and this allows us to arrive at the hotel in time for lunch. We leave our bags and we dive immediately into the chaotic way of Checkpoint Charlie. We were a bit disappointed at this tourist attraction. So we decide to go to the elegant Gendarmenmarkt, where stands the imposing two twin domes together with an auditorium and the statue of Schiller. Then we take the metro to Potsdamer Platz. We decide to visit the Cinema Museum and it was really worth it. The museum was very interesting and was structured to capture the attention and wonder.

Finally, we head to Pariser Platz and admire the majestic Brandenburg Gate. We continue up to Holocaust Memorial, where we get lost walking among the stalks. For dinner, we choose the pretty Nikolaiviertel quarter. We reach it through Alexanderplatz, with its high television tower, the Fountain of Neptune, the Marienkirche and the Red Town Hall.

Day 2

For the morning of the second day, we booked a visit to the dome of the Parliament through the internet. So we head there and within seconds we are on top of the dome. We admire the view of the city from the audio guide that explains everything. I advise everyone to book a visit because it's really worth it.

After our visit, we go to see the Cathedral. We walk along the Spree up to Hackesche Hofe, where eight beautiful courtyards link together home to apartments, restaurants, and boutiques. In the afternoon we decided to go see what's left of the wall to the East Side Gallery, an open-air exhibition of colorful and beautiful murals. We have dinner at a cute restaurant in the district of Kreuzberg. And to end the day we decide to go back to the Potsdamer Platz. We admire the illuminated Sony Center, which was a wonderful show.

Day 3

On the third day, we wake up calmly. After a refreshing breakfast, we travel to the New Synagogue, which was rebuilt and transformed into a center of Jewish culture. Then we wait for the last of the museums on our list, the Jewish Museum. This museum is worth a visit for its Axis. Three underground corridors with three works of modern art retrace the tragedy of the Holocaust.

These lead to another building which houses a permanent exhibition on the history of Jewish civilization. Now that the fatigue began to be felt, in the afternoon we decided to take one of the comfortable sightseeing buses. The bus shows us Berlin from another point of view. It takes us to the Berlin points of interest that we had not visited such as the Tiergarten with the famous Victory Column, Charlottenburg with its castle, the Memorial Church and Bebelplatz.

On the last day, we dedicate to shopping and so we head to Kurfürstendamm in search of souvenirs. Then we go to Franzosische Str. to stock up on chocolate at the colorful stores. In the evening, we return to Pariser Platz and admire the lit Brandenburg Gate that much remains the thing I liked most on this trip. For the last supper, we go back to Kreuzberg. Here we try Vietnamese cuisine for the first time and we remain very satisfied. Back at the hotel, we set the alarm clock for 4 am.

In conclusion, I would say that I was pleasantly surprised by this city. My expectations were greatly exceeded. Berlin is a young, dynamic and ever-changing city that is full of history, art, and culture. Berlin is full of opportunities, where the spaces are constantly changing and tastes are different.

Berlin Nightlife, Bars, Clubs and Concert Halls

There is a lot to do in Berlin hypothetically for a long weekend.

Berlin Shopping

Go to Mitte to be safe. Getting lost in the courtyards of Hackeschen Höfe means not only to discover shops of all kinds but also a dip at the beginning of the twentieth century with art decorations and art nouveau everywhere joining shops of leading-edge products.

Where to eat in restaurants in Berlin?

Do not pretend to ignore the importance of finding a place to eat that is able to satisfy your palate. Berlin has it all from decadent rooms and other times with an atmosphere where you can not only eat but also hear and dance to classical music, gypsy or klezmer in dedicated evenings. A dish to try is the currywurst, and the best of the city is in Eberswalderstraße. Another great place is the one that serves the best kebabs in history. Kebabs are roasted meat with spices and vegetables to which are also added, cheese and other ingredients that make it the best ever tried.

Berlin Hotels

Again, Berlin has a lot with an assortment of different hotels. There are not too expensive ones with bold architectural solutions, aimed at redefining the Berlin skyline and create yet another new center inside.

If you plan to go often to local and cafes, the ones located near Oberbaumbrücke between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are perfect.

What are the monuments and places to see in Berlin?

In Berlin, you will be spoiled for choice. There are many detailed articles on the elusive things to see so I will not spend a lot. We recommend Reichstag, Tiergarten, Museum Island, the new Chipperfield dedicated to the Egyptians, the Holocaust museum Libeskind or Eisenmann memorial behind the Brandenburg Gate, one of the most evocative topoi of the capital and the delicious contemporary art museum Hamburger Bahnhof, where the permanent collections are well supplemented by temporary ones.

Surely those who visit Berlin for the first time cannot refrain from seeing the Brandenburg Gate, the East Side Gallery, the TV tower at Alexanderplatz and Checkpoint Charlie. An hour visit can be concluded in the bistro with a quick meal or a cup of tea.

Museum lovers can indulge themselves among the more than 200 museums in the capital. The most important and visited are located on the Museum Island, in the Mitte district. Given its immense artistic and cultural importance, it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A walk in the Kreuzberg district is a must.

What are the events and the most beautiful festivals in Berlin?

For music lovers, there is the Berlin Festival in September that takes place in Tempelhof, an abandoned airport. Yes, you read right. In October there is the Festival of Lights, where historic buildings are illuminated by artistic lighting creating a truly magical atmosphere.

When to visit Berlin?

I'll be honest. I was in Berlin in December, and I think it's the best time of the year to visit. The city is alive, radiant, vibrant and beautiful. The climate is ideal because there is that wonderful coolness. In any case, you'll love the city and you'll probably be tempted to come back in summer.

Berlin Ice-skating rinks

Wearing a pair of shoes and taking a ride on one of the many Eisenbahnen, the skating rinks is a custom for children and adults, who fearlessly perform in pirouettes. Among the most famous is the one that surrounds the fountain of Neptune near Alexanderplatz. The track of Potsdamer Platz is impossible to miss or the one in Charlottenburg close at Olympiastadion. There's even a roof at Bikini Mall, where skating is done overlooking Breitscheidplatz and the ruin of the Memorial Church.

Rhineland Palatinate

Are you looking for a place where the weather conditions are particularly favorable for cycling? Maybe you also want to ride on a beautiful cycle through Roman artifacts and magnificent castles and of course, eat at a good restaurant. If you think you are insatiable, you are wrong! To all this, there is an answer because we're talking about the beautiful Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany.

Rhineland-Palatinate is one of 16 states that make up Germany and is located in the southwest area of the Federal Republic, on the border with France, Luxembourg, and Belgium. And like all the border areas it has many influences from the neighbors, although it maintains its Teutonic identity. Our ride of about 30 km was from Speyer in Ladenburg via Schwetzingen and its castle. It is a simple trip, suitable for families.

In spring the almond trees get covered with pink flowers, kiwi in summer, figs, and lemons ripen in the hot sun, and of course, in the fall, fragrant bunches become wine colored. Before leaving, a visit to Speyer is a must. Please take the time to visit the Cathedral, which since 1981 has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The building, built in red sandstone, is the best-known symbol of the city. It is visible from kilometers around it. With its 134 m length and 71 m height, it is the largest basilica in a long time. But it still remains the largest Romanesque church in the world to have survived to the present day.

The Cathedral can boast the title of Kaiserdom or Imperial Cathedral with the biggest existing colonnade in Europe even today. Because in the crypt, eight German kings and emperors are buried in the Romanesque room. Speyer Cathedral has a rather troubled history, culminating in 1689 when it was set on fire by the soldiers of Louis XIV, the Sun King. It has since been restored and destroyed several times, to arrive until today. It is imposing and beautiful.

The front of the main portal is worth stopping to observe the huge source that has a capacity of 1,560 liters. Each new bishop was required to fill with wine, for the happiness of the people of Spira. A short walk from the Duomo is the mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath that is the oldest in Europe. It is dated back to 1128 and is perfectly preserved.

We continue along the Maximilianstrasse, the main street along which arise eighteenth-century buildings. We get to Alportel or old port, 55 meters high. What remains are the walls that surrounded the city. Going up you can have a beautiful view of the city.

We were almost dreaming as one of the best attractions here was the Speyer Technik Museum. It was worth a visit, where we find every type of motor means, starting from the bicycle that carried the coal for the Russian space shuttle BURAN, the counterpart of the US Space Shuttle, passing ships and submarines.

Crossing the bridge over the Rhine leads us to Baden-Württemberg. It is famous for its forests. After 30 km we arrive in Ladenburg. After the bridge, we get to the German countryside, cultivated with vegetables. And here is produced most of the vegetables that you will find in German stores. So pedaling through endless fields of carrots and leeks, we watch herons and hawks fly. Suddenly we find ourselves admiring the beautiful Schwetzingen Castle, the little Versailles of the Palatinate.

The castle with its beautiful garden is in the heart of the city on an area of over 72 hectares. The garden had its water bodies, fountains, and the magnificent mosque. Everything we see was built at the behest of the last prince of the Palatine. The architectural element that distinguishes the castle is the circle. It is unique in Europe. There are a number of buildings in a plane arranged in a semicircle on both sides of the castle.

After visiting the park, continuing our bike ride, we find ourselves in the midst of white asparagus fields, salad, and ribs. They were highly ordered, and could not be otherwise. Pedaling quietly between lettuce and asparagus, we arrive on the banks of the Neckar, a tributary of the Rhine. We cross it on a barge. After landing on the opposite shore, after a few minutes by bike and here we are in Ladenburg.

The town is small. There are very few cars around. People all walk on foot or move in cycles. The old town is pretty with half-timbered houses. They are lovingly restored and decorated down to the last detail. The pretty gardens and green meadows make the walk very nice.

Just outside the walls, we arrive at a square called Karl-Benz-Platz. And it turns out that the most famous son of Ladenburg is Carl Benz, who in 1886 invented the automobile. And later, founded the Daimler-Benz AG, today better known as Mercedes-Benz. Benz was born not far from here, but he lived for 25 years in a house that still remembers him with a plaque.

Benz invented the motor car while Karl Drais invented the dandy horse. The dandy horse is the ancestor of the bicycle, and its invention dates back to 1817 and took place just a few kilometers from here in Mannheim. And the first journey was from Mannheim to Schwetzingen Castle. This little part of Germany surprises at every glance and it is little known to most people.

Christmas in Germany

Which one to choose among the most beautiful Christkindlmarkt in Germany? Here is a useful guide to choosing the right market for you.

The tradition of Christmas markets in Germany and Alsace was born around 1400 and possibly earlier. At the time people waited for the fairs to shop. In these areas, the Christmas fairs in Europe took a very special meaning. There are thousands of Christmas markets in Germany, virtually in all the cities. They are usually open between 1 and 24 December. They represent one of the most deeply rooted and popular traditions in the pre-Christmas period.

In some cities, these markets are called Weihnachtsmarkt, while in others as Christkindlmarkt. These markets are not only opportunities to buy Christmas decorations or local handicrafts, but also to watch, stroll or to enjoy the Christmas culinary specialties, typical of the city or region. Often there are local folklore performances. An indispensable ingredient not to be missed is the Glühwein or mulled wine that is offered almost everywhere. It is the right way to keep warm in the cold days of December.

The Christmas atmosphere gives the best of itself with Christmas cookies, Christmas carols, and items related to Christmas. The tradition has spread and has reached entire Europe, but that's another story. We do a tour of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany and importantly, bearing in mind that every village has its Christmas market and that in all you must drink the mulled wine.


The Christmas market in Nuremberg is the largest in Germany. According to many, it is also the oldest in Europe. It starts from 28 November to 24 December.


According to some, this is the oldest Christmas market in Europe. It is famous for the Striezel or Stollen, a typical dessert of Dresden made with flour, lard, candied and dried fruit. Another feature of the Dresden Market stalls is the medieval style. It starts from 28 November to 24 December.


At Stuttgart is the largest market in Europe with 250 stalls. It is famous for its gastronomy, especially for gingerbread. It starts from 26 November to 23 December.


The market of Cologne is a medieval market with a unique atmosphere. Among the German Christmas market, it is famous because of the Christmas atmosphere, the tracks, and medieval stalls. It starts from 21 November to 25 December.


The biggest Christmas market of Munich is at Marienplatz, but there are others. There is the medieval one, the one with the world of crafts and artistic one.


The Christmas market in Frankfurt takes place in the historical center in Römerberg, Paulsplatz, and Mainkai. The market is particularly interesting because it combines different areas of the center into one big market.


The Weihnachtsmarkt in Hannover spread throughout the historic center of Hanover for over 150 years. The lodges are located between 120 square Am Markt, on Ballhofplatz and Ernst-August-Platz, opposite Central Station.


The Christmas market in Mainz takes place from November 27 to December 23. Besides the classical atmosphere of the markets, gastronomy and irresistible crafts are the typical hand-carved nativity scene and the 11 meters high Christmas pyramid.


Hamburg also has many Christmas markets. But here the sexy Christmas market is in the red light district of the city.


In Berlin, there are numerous Christmas markets, one for every need. What unites them all is the lively atmosphere with shows and performance matched to the markets. Berlin attracts millions of tourists every year, but at Christmas it becomes even more special. In Germany, preparations for Christmas begin as early as November, although the true holiday falls on December 6, the day of St. Nicholas, which they call here Nikolaustag.

On the night of 5, the children put their shoes outside the door, a tradition practiced in many other European countries. According to a German legend, the spirit of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, on this night, go from house to house with the book of sins, in which are transcribed all the actions of children.

It is said that St. Nicholas fills the shoes of all the good children with sweets and delicious twigs. Who wants to experience the incomparable charm of a magical winter must choose Berlin. Perhaps few people know that the real tradition of Christmas markets, fanned out in various capitals of Europe is in Germany and Berlin, the capital of Germany offers the best of this tradition.

If you prefer a Christmas market that is contemplative and magical or lively and hectic, the city offers a choice of about sixty markets with the scent of cinnamon and cloves, the handmade decorations, Christmas carols, traditional cookies and hot drinks frame the major Christmas events.

The echo of the celebrations for the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has not yet turned off. The city continues to vibrate with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Be captivated by the magic of the German Christmas, the Nordic charm, living along the grand boulevards and famous squares of the city, but also for the back roads and small picturesque villages.

The Christmas markets have a long tradition in Germany and Berlin really becomes a city dedicated to the Christmas spirit. The small outdoor kiosks (Weihnachtsmärkte) open their doors between the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals. There is music, food, drinks and shopping and, like all markets, mainly handicrafts and local mold decorations, such as the popular wood pendants from the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge).

Then there are also huge fruit cakes (Stollen) and Nutcrackers (Nussknacker), scarves, hats, gloves and colored felt. Covered with snow, around the stalls, after shopping, all that remains is to drink a hot red wine Glühwein, sold in all markets in souvenir cups.

The market in front of the Charlottenburg Palace to the memorial along the nineteenth-century church Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, remain in our opinion the most striking. It will be for the carriage rides that occasionally glimpsed between the paths of the castle and the special lighting, which refers to the fascinating era of the early nineteenth century. Along the remains of the church, there is also the big Christmas tree, stuffed with gifts, Christmas decorations, toys, accessories, punch and mulled wine and again, candied fruit, grilled sausages and classic spicy scents of Christmas.

The market of Weihnachtszauber is another classic that deserves a mention. We find the square of Gendarmenmarkt is one of Europe's most beautiful with perfect scenery from Christmas atmosphere. Surrounded by old buildings lit festively, this market has become one of the best known of the city. We find all the traditional Christmas sweets like gingerbread, but also sausages and mulled wine and a section dedicated to food and wine, in a heated tent.

A heated tent also allows visitors to see craftsmen carve wood, creating toys and other local products. Musicians, jugglers, and acrobats from the road, entertain adults and children. We find it open from November 24 to December 31 (to enter it is expected to pay a symbolic fee of 1 euro). Venue: Gendarmenmarkt (Mitte).

The market of Chanukkah is festively lit at the new glass courtyard of the Jewish Museum. Inside you can find various local handicrafts, books, decorations and products of a gastronomic tradition of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which commemorates the consecration of a new altar in the Temple of Jerusalem. We find it open on weekends, throughout the month of December (except 31).

The heart of Berlin's Christmas button pounding along the Potsdamer Platz and at 4000 square meters of the Sony Centre, which takes place another Christmas market. Small wooden chalets with local crafts, gifts, food, and sweets. Open from November 29 to January 1. Venue: Sony Center am Potsdamer Platz, Mitte. Nearby are also the areas covered with Ice and Legoland Discovery Centre.

The Nostalgischer Weihnachtsmarkt am Opernpalais, right on Unter den Linden and Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt is at the center of Kulturbrauerei. Do not miss the Christmas markets of Alexanderplatz, Weihnachtsmeile in Rathausstraße and in particular that of Berliner Umwelt und Weihnachtsmarkt and Kollwitzplatz with its ecological and natural products from around the world.

The Spandau Christmas Market, with its 200 stalls on weekdays and 400 on weekends, offers drinks and tasty food, crafts, Christmas decorations and other products. In addition, a special attraction is the great Nativity scene with real animals, in front of the Nikolai Church. Every day visitors can enjoy a cultural program with Santa Claus, a choir of angels, fairy tales, and brass bands.

The Germans love to make Christmas shopping a lot less festive than other nationalities and their frenzy is unlike that seen in tourists. In fact, people focus on cultural events that the city has to offer during the whole period, such as the classical music concerts. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden presents the classic Christmas ballet, the Nutcracker (Nussknacker Der) with music by Tchaikovsky on various dates in December.

It just has to leave you with a classic of Berlin's Christmas menu, including traditional roast pork, white sausages, the Reisbrei (with sweet cinnamon) and many other regional dishes. Christmas Eve is here called Dickbauch, which means fat belly. The myth has it that those who do not eat well on Christmas Eve will be haunted by demons during the night. There remains, therefore, that will fill you to the fullest.

Christmas in Berlin is a particularly beautiful time to enjoy the city. Starting in November, the capital starts to prepare for the event, dresses up, turns on the lights and comes alive with events, markets and installations with that sense of magic that adults have forgotten about marzipan, artisan booths, the smell of cinnamon, chocolate shapes, wooden toys, carousels and all the rest.