This chapter was taken from my recent guidebook Daytrips Berlin and Northern Germany, and modified somewhat for inclusion in my new book Daytrips Germany, Seventh Edition, now available. As the title suggests, this guidebook covers all of Germany. See links for both books below.
After you've seen Berlin's major attractions, you might want to wander a bit off the beaten path for some unusual experiences. This trip, using both subways and buses as well as foot power, begins at the fabulous German Technical Museum with its enormous collection of cars, trains, airplanes, and other fun toys.
A stroll through the Kreuzberg neighborhood lets you witness the profound changes happening in the lives of ordinary Berliners, after which a short subway ride whisks you to the recently-closed Flughafen Templehof, one of the oldest airports to remain in use largely unchanged since the 1930s. Nearby Viktoria Park offers unusual views, while the same neighborhood features a rather odd museum that might appeal to you. Or not.
To finish the trip, a bus will quickly take you to the Schöneberg Rathaus, the scene of President Kennedy's famous speech, and the delightful neighborhood surrounding it.
The start of this trip, the Deutsches Technikmuseum, is best reached by taking the subway, routes U-1 or U-2 to the Gleisdreieck stop, or routes U-1 or U-7 to the Möckernbrücke stop. From there follow the instructions in the text.
This trip can be made at any time, but note that the German Technical Museum is closed on Mondays and a few holidays. The other minor museums are closed on either Mondays or Tuesdays. Since you'll be using public transportation along this rather lengthy route, you should purchase a one-day transit pass (Tageskarte) — or a longer pass — valid for at least Zone A. You might also consider the Welcome Card. For transit options see page 229. For Berlin tourist information see page 230.
FOOD AND DRINK:
You'll pass plenty of eateries along this route, mostly ethnic and inexpensive. Here are a few suggestions:
Weltrestaurant Markthalle (Pöcklerstr. 3, 4 blocks northeast of Görlitzer U-Bahn station, by the marketplace before the Oberbaum Bridge). A pub with great German food and fresh beer. T: (030) 617-5502. €€
Chandra Kumari (Gneisenaustr. 4, 3 blocks northeast of Viktoria Park, near the Schwules Museum) Organic Indonesian and Sri Lankan fare; very tasty. T: (030) 694-1203. €€
Restaurant in Deutsches Technikmuseum (Trebbiner Str. 9, in the museum) Traditional German fare, with atmosphere. T: (030) 272-6871. X: Mon. €
Habibi (Oranienstr. 30, at Adalbertstr., north of Kottbusser Tor U-Bahn stop) Healthy light meals of falafel and schwarma. T: (030) 6165-8346. €
Kuchen Kaiser (Oranienplatz 11, a block northwest of Kottbusser Tor U-Bahn stop) A longtime favorite for pastries, now with light meals as well. T: (030) 6140-2697). €
Café V (Lausitzerplatz 12, at Görlitzer U-Bahn stop) An old vegetarian restaurant for healthy living. T: (030) 612-4505. €
Seerose (Mehringdamm 47, 2 blocks northeast of Viktoria Park, near the Schwules Museum) A full range of vegetarian dishes, served with classical music. T: (030) 6981-5927. €
CLICK on Map for Full Screen Image.
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
Begin at the:
*DEUTSCHES TECHNIKMUSEUM (German Technical Museum) (1), T: (030) 902-540, W: dtmb.de. Open Tues.-Fri. 9-5:30 and Sat.-Sun. 10-6. €.
Housed in several structures scattered around a large site, the museum features automobiles from the earliest times to the modern age, airplanes, boats, and lots and lots of locomotives, rolling stock, ans other railroading artifacts. There's also an old brewery, old cameras, old computers, old TV sets, interactive displays, and a park with all kinds of strange goodies (photo, below left). This place is a paradise for the technically inclined.
Stroll over to the nearby Gleisdreieck U-Bahn Station (2) and board a number U-1 train in the direction of Warschauer Strasse. This elevated line takes you through the heart of Kreuzberg, a colorful neighborhood regarded as the true home of Berlin's emerging "alternative" scene. Located close to the infamous Wall, the area was shunned by prosperous Berliners during the Cold War era. It soon became a refuge for Berlin's outcasts, populated by an assortment of students, hippies, punks, creative types, and of course the Turkish "guest workers" who replaced cheap Eastern labor after the Wall was erected. Today, it is slowly yielding to gentrification, but remains a very ethnically diverse place full of creative vitality. Get off at the Kottbusser Tor stop (3) and follow the map north along Adalbertstrasse, possibly stopping at the new Kreuzberg Museum at number 95a. Local history is the focus here, especially that of the 19th century. T: (030) 5058-5233, W: kreuzbergmuseum.de. Open Wed.-Sun., noon-6. Free.
Turn right on Oranienstrasse. A left at Heinrichplatz soon leads to the broad Mariannenplatz, a favorite gathering place for local festivities. Then turn right on Muskauer Strasse, possibly making a little detour through the old and colorful indoor market hall that runs between Pücklerstrasse and Eisenbahnstrasse to sample various ethnic delights. Continue through Lausitzer Platz and follow Skalitzer Strasse and the elevated tracks past the Schlesisches Tor U-Bahn station to the Spree River.
The reconstructed Oberbaum Bridge (Oberbaumbrücke)(photo, above) (4), looking exactly as it did in years past, was known during the Cold War as the "pensioner's bridge" as it was the place where economically useless elderly folk were allowed to cross into the West. You may have seen it before — this is where the master spy Karla made his escape in the movie version of John LeCarré's espionage novel "Smiley's People."
Cross the bridge into the former East Berlin, then immediately board the U-Bahn at Warschauer Strasse, taking the U-1 train back to the Hallesches Tor stop. Here transfer to the U-6 line in the direction of Alt Mariendorf and take it two stops south to Platz der Luftbrücke, the subway stop for Berlin's downtown airport. Built in the 1930s on a site used for aviation since 1908, Templehof Airport (Flughafen Templehof) (5) remains remarkably unchaged since the days when it was to be the center of a Nazi air empire stretching across Europe. In fact, it strangely resembles a rather large train station of that era. On October 30, 2008, all flight operations ceased permanently. The future of this historic structure is still unresolved, although it will most likely be preserved as a museum.
Templehof played a vital role in Berlin's very survival during the darkest days of the Cold War, that summer of 1948 when the Soviet military blocked all land and water access to the city in an attempt to force it into submission by starvation. The Allies responed with the Berlin Airlift, a continuous stream of over 300 aircraft operating around the clock for 11 months, making some 280,000 flights to bring in enough food and fuel to keep the city's population of over two million alive. That heroic act is remembered by the Luftbrückendenkmal, a striking memorial to the 78 airmen killed during the airlift. It stands in an open area in front of the airport terminal.
So far, nearly all of the day's wanderings have been in the Kreuzberg district, whose name implies the presense of a mountain (Berg). Following the map for a few blocks to the northwest soon brings you to the Kreuzberg itself. a 217-foot hill in lovely Viktoria Park (6). It's worth the rather easy climb for the panoramic *view, and to amble down alongside the delightful waterfalls that run through a rocky ravine all the way to the bottom.
There you will find an unexpected attraction, the Schwules Museum (7) at Mehringdamm 61. Berlin's Gay Museum is mainly concerned with homosexual life in Berlin over the past few centuries, but there are also exhibits on other aspects of gay culture. T: (030) 693-1172, W: schwulesmuseum.de. Open Wed.-Mon. 2-6, remaining open on Sat. until 7. €.
At the northwest corner of Mehringdamm and Dudenstrasse you can board bus number 104, riding it as far as the Rathaus Schöneberg (8), the City Hall of West Berlin during the Cold War and a place with a special meaning for Americans. It was here, one June 26, 1963, that President John F. Kennedy made his famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech from the balcony to a vast crowd of cheering Berliners. Never mind that his German grammar was less than perfect; the populace took the message to heart and continued in their struggle to keep the city free. From the tall tower, at noon each day, a replica of the Liberty Bell is rung, and the square in front of the building is now known as John F. Kennedy Platz. From here it is only a block to the nearest subway stop, Rathaus Schöneberg on the U-4 line.
Text, map and photos copyright © 2009 by Earl Steinbicker. Text modified slightly to include recent airport closure and relocation of the Ramones Museum to another part of town.