Jan 1, 2008

Keep in touch with all the latest news from Berlin and Germany by clicking on Germany: un update! – bringing you up-to date on culture, latest politics, urban transport…. On the right hand side of the page you can see various tags; just click on whichever one interests you to see all the articles related to that theme in particular. These are some of the last ones published:

Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, Germany
dOKUMENTA (13): contemporary Kassel
LGBT: Germany in six colors
Strolling under the Elbe
The crazy king had a castle built

Jun 16, 2015

Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, Germany

Berlin, June 2015

It is the fourth city in Germany, in terms of population, after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, a big city crossed by a hundreds of kilometers long river with centuries of history on its banks. Cologne, Köln, has many churches, like these 12 Romanesque, which are just a sample of the many jewels hoarded on its streets and squares. A bit about each of them can be read here, in German: http://www.romanische-kirchen-koeln.de/kirchen.html

The origin of Köln goes back to the first decades of the christian era, when the Roman Emperor Claudius elevated the then village to Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (Colony of Claudius and Altar of the Agrippiner). This gave Colonia the status of ‘city’ under Roman law, being granted more rights than before. This was in the year 50 a.D. In the past almost 2,000 years of history, Cologne has evolved into a financial center and also… the most “carnival city” in Germany! Indeed, it is the seat of some important automotive companies such as Ford Europe, with about 20,000 employeees, and also of the German headquarters of Citroën and Renault. Firms like Lufthansa, Galeria Kaufhof (a big chain of malls), Rewe and RTL, the main private television corporation in Germany, are based in Cologne as well. Of course, the eau of Cologne was born here!

But not only work is important, and proof of it is the tradition that starts every 11th day of the 11th month (November), at 11.11AM: the craziest carnival in Germany. Its culmination, on Ash Wednesday, is the burning of Nubbel, leaning on an old tradition that at the end of carnival, the carnival itself must die. The Nubbel is impersonated by a straw puppet that represents “somewhere” and “someone”, i.e. someone whose identity and placing isn’t clear, but he is known and sure to exist. The parades of Rose Monday (Rosenmontag, vídeo), and of the spirits (Geisterzug, vídeo) will be left behind. Also, needless to say, liters and liters of Kölsch!

Cologne is well known abroad for its espectacular cathedral. It’s construction, initiated back in 1248, did not finish until 1880, more than 600 years later (the Sagrada Família in Barcelona was begun “only” 130 years ago, so no complaints!). The cathedral, for some years in the 19th century the tallest building in the world, takes in the shrine of the Three Kings, a reliquary said to contain the bones of the Three Kings; it is a large gilded and decorated triple sarcophagus placed above and behind the high altar of cathedral. In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites.

Now Cologne can be explored in Catalan and in Spanish with itineri.de! You that you can taste a bit of it, we suggest you watch the following two videos: the first one is a presentation of the city, the second one shows some images previous to the destruction of the city during WWII. Enjoy them, and see you in Cologne!

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Jun 1, 2015

20 activities to do in Berlin (2/2)

Berlin, June 2015

We presented last week the first part of a series of activities to do in Berlin. A leisure magazine published an article, some time ago, where this list was included. Some of the proposals there are interesting, while some others… not really. We at itineri.de want to make things easy, for you, and for this reason assess each and every one of the proposals. On with the second part of the listing!

11. Shopping Spree – North Mitte has recently risen as a key shopping district, counting scores of boutiques and independent retailers around Torstraße and Mulackstraße. Those in search of vintage clothing should venture further north to Prenzlauer Berg. Alternatively you can pay for the contents of your basket according to weight in a number of outlets: head westwards to Garage (U-Bahn Nollendorfplatz) or to Colours (U-Bahn Gneisenaustraße), amongst others. Many will for sure be interested in this proposal, but others… 😉

12. Dance until sunrise – When it comes to partying, Berlin is more of a 48-hour than a 24-hour city, with weekends stretching well into weekdays. Head to Berghain/Panorama Bar, on the border between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain: this former factory is the bedrock of European techno. Alternatively, the ramshackle place that is Salon Zur Wilden Renate nods at more of an underground house party vibe. Although many classicals are shutting down, one after the other, Berlin has yet a lot to offer; check here and here! Start early in the evening and make it last until early… in the morning!

13. Art, art, art! – The Kulturforum is a low-rise museum complex south of Tiergarten housing world-class galleries. The biggest draw is the Gemäldegalerie, whose collection of early European painting contains English, Spanish and Italian Renaissance works. A short stroll along from the Old Masters is the bold glass cube of the Neue Nationalgalerie. Designed in the 1960s by Mies van der Rohe, it houses 20th-century paintings. It’s particularly strong on German Expressionism. A great time to visit is during the Long Night of the Museums (next edition, Sat. 28th Jan.!) The great Berlin museums are an absolute must!

14. Hear the Berlin Philharmonic – The Berlin Philharmoniker is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost symphony orchestras. Classical music enthusiasts are advised to check that their visit to Berlin coincides with the Orchestra playing at home. The concert hall itself, designed by Hans Scharoun, is an iconic yellow building: on the inside, a sleek 1960s aesthetic meets with superb acoustics. Are you into classical? if yes, an absolutely not to miss!

15. Relax by the Spree – Berlin enjoys glorious sunshine come summer, and after the notoriously snowy winters, Berliners certainly make the most of it. Although hundreds of miles from any coastline, you’ll find sun-seeking improvisation on every corner. Bars such as Yaam and Chez Jacki line the banks of the Spree to the north while Club der Visionäre sits on stilts on an inlet to the river on the border of the districts of Kreuzberg and Treptow. If you are in Berlin in spring or summer, do not forget to visit one of its “beaches”!

16. Sprint around the Olympic Stadium – The Olympiastadion exemplifies fascist taste in architecture. Its greatest claim to fame however came during the 1936 Olympics, which had been intended by the National Socialist government to be a showcase for Aryan triumph. Instead the stadium was the spot where black American athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals, emphatically disproving Hitler’s ideas about racial superiority in front of the world’s media. The original design survived World War II bombs and demolition threats, before undergoing a major refit for the 2006 World Cup. No must, actually, but worth a visit if you have some extra time (U2, Olympia Stadion)

17. Can you eat it fast enough? Currywurst is the idiosyncratic combination of pork sausage, cut into slices, smothered with a mixture of ketchup and curry powder and then served with a bread roll or fries. This might sound like a confusing mouthful, but in Berlin it’s a culinary institutio. Konnopke’s Imbiss on Schönhauser Allee has been serving Currywurst since 1930… Curry36 is, quite probably, the most famous place in town to order a Currywurst!

18. Go wild at the zoo – For a family outing or a date to the sound of exotic bird cries, visit the Zoologischer Garten and the Aquarium in the Tiergarten. This is the oldest zoo in Germany, having opened in 1841. Situated in beautifully landscaped gardens with plenty of spots for a picnicking, the zoo is an important scientific resource as well as being rich in entertainment value, containing almost 14,000 creatures, among them rare and endangered species. If interested in the world of animals, this specific zoo will undoubtfully catch your eye.

19. Enjoy a film at dusk – There are Freiluftkinos (open air cinemas) in Friedrichshain or Kreuzberg, among others, although for obvious reasons you will have to wait until May to go to one of them 😉 A great experience for the Berliner evenings…

20. Stroll around the Charlottenburg gardens – At the west end of the city, the charming palace and garden complex of Schloss Charlottenburg (picture below) has the look of a mini-Versailles. Built as a summer retreat for Queen Sophie-Charlotte by her husband Friedrich I, the first king of Prussian, it was named after Charlotte following her early death in 1705. Following damage in the World War II, the residence has been restored to glory as the last surviving palace belonging to the powerful Hohenzollern family and the only royal residency in the city. Very beautiful, worth a visit especially in December, when the Christmas market brings lights to the gardens.

These are 20 recommendations for Berlin. Needless to say, the city offers much more than this, so you will probably want to travel to Berlin more than once!

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May 16, 2015

20 activities to do in Berlin (1/2)

Berlin, May 2015

A well-known international magazine published, some time ago, an article devoted to “20 great things to do in Berlin”. All sort of possibilities, with some of which we at itineri.de agree more than with others. In any case, they are all interesting or, at least, fun 😉 Here you have the first 10 options, next week we will publish the following 10. Next to each of them, you can read the assessment of itineri.de:

1. Visit Grunewald – Grunewald is Berlin’s largest forested area, to the south-west of Charlottenburg and easily accessible via S-bahn. Pack a picnic and head down here for a day of tranquil respite from the bustle of the city. If weather permits, take a dip in the clean waters of Schlachtensee or Wannsee. The S-Bahn will take you there. For nature lovers, who have not enough with the lush Tiergarten.

2. Get stranded on Museum Island – At the eastern end of Unter den Linden is Museum Island, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site lying in the middle of the Spree. It’s home to five of Berlin’s most important museums: two not to be missed are the Neues Museum, home to the Egyptian bust of Nefertiti and the spectacular Pergamonmuseum, one of the world’s major archaeological museums. More than a recommendation, a must!

3. Mooch, sing and shop in Mauer Park – Berliners embrace their green spaces and the long strip of grass along the middle of Prenzlauer Berg’s Mauerpark (open daily from 8am–sunset) is best known not as a relaxing spot but a mecca for energetic market-lovers. The park hosts a massive flea market on Sundays, with vendors selling bargain bicycles, clothes, food, souvenirs, records, pianos and furniture. At 3pm, the hillside becomes the setting for karaoke on a giant scale. For youngsters and/or people with a certain “alternative” spirit.

4. Take in an aerial view – A visit to the Reichstag, the home of the German Parliament, provides the perfect overview of the city. The roof is an entirely glass structure, allowing for a panoramic view of Berlin right from the centre of government. Entrance to the roof is free but you must register in advance. Alternative views can be found by taking Europe’s fastest elevator to the Panoramapunkt, in Potsdamer Platz. Over in the east of the city is Fernsehturm, rising over 200 metres above Alexanderplatz. The Reichstag is another must, not just for the views but also to understand the concept of ‘democracy’ in nowadays Germany.

5. Hark back to the DDR – Soviet occupation of East Berlin ended in 1990, and today the DDR Museum offers a snapshot of life in the old days. The interactive museum allows visitors a truly hands on experience for both children and adults alike: root through drawers of East German memorabilia, mimic a Stasi officer and listen in on a bugged flat (we talked about it in this article, last moth). It is interesting, and highly recommendable if travelling with children.

6. Explore Berlin’s Jewish history – The Jüdisches Museum presents the story of Berlin’s Jewish population through the Museum’s own architecture. Across Oranienburger Straße is the Neue Synagogue, and for more of an emotional way into history, walk night or day through the Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas. This memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe takes the form of 2,711 blocks of varying heights arranged across the area of a housing block. The museum and the Synagoge are recommended for those who are very interested in this part of the history of Berlin. The Memorial, though, is a not to miss!

7. Find the Berlin Wall – Take a walk along the Wall by the Spree, where it runs between the Freidrichshain-Kreuzberg districts. Whereas graffiti has been removed from the northern section of the Wall, the one-mile stretch known as the East Side Gallery is dedicated to art and preserves the paintings made on the eastern side when the Wall was brought down. To be seen!

8. Smile for the camera! – Posing for four shots in Berlin’s Photoautomaten is an almost obligatory activity. These black and white photo booths are open all hours and scattered across the city. Honestly, not necessary 😉

9. Visit Bauhaus Museum – You’ll find out that everyone can be a designer at the Bauhaus Archiv, which offers a total insight into the development of the utilitarian art school that came out of Weimar Germany. The school’s founder, architect Walter Gropius, drew up plans for the elegant white building that now houses the museum. Its permanent exhibition displays furniture, ceramics, prints, sculptures, photographs and sketches, all created in the workshop. Interested in design? Put it in your list!

10. On yer bike – Central Berlin is well supplied with bike-rental outlets, and the city has a welcoming cycle culture, complete with cycle lanes and cyclist signs at the traffic lights. Start at the Reichstag and its adjacent complex of nineties Parliamentary buildings, then head across to the leafy paths of Tiergarten, up to Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie and end with the Topography of Terror – an outdoor museum on the site of the wartime SS and Gestapo offices. A very pleasant experience. Although Berliners are used to living together with cyclists, be careful!

You now know the first 10 options by Time Out, with our own assessments; 10 more options to come soon!

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May 1, 2015

Tatort: the crime scene

Berlin, May 2015

Once a week since 1970, the Germans gather in front of their tv sets to watch a mythical series: Tatort (“The crime scene”). 8.15PM on Sundays is the time to switch on the public station ARD, and enjoy with the performances of police inspectors and murderers, police(wo)men and suspects. To know the meaning of words like Leiche and Obduktion is essential to understand the plot!

Usually very good, sometimes not really, if it is 8.15PM on Sunday… it is Tatort time!

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Apr 16, 2015

Sachsenhausen: from KZ to No. 1

Berlin, April 2015

A stroll along Unter den Linden or the East Side Gallery, a visit to the Jewish Museum, the Holocaust Memorial or the lonely tower of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church… it all helps grasp some of the European history of the 20th century, which in big part took place on German soil. Nonetheless, a stay in Berlin will definitely not be a complete one without visiting one of the hundreds of concentration and extermination camps, where millions of human beings were tortured and killed with incredible coldness. Sachsenhausen is located in Oranienburg, some 35 kilometers (21 miles) from downtown Berlin, and itineri.de accompanies you, and informs you, on your visit.

Memorial and museum

The present Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen has gone through different phases during its existence. In 1933, the nazis used an old factory as a prison where their political opponents where confined. In 1936, the KZ Sachsenhausen starts its deplorable activity (KZ standing for concentration camp, in German): jews, gypsies and homosexuals, amongst other “undesirable”, will be tortured and killed until the last days of the war. Thousands of people starved to death, or died due to illness and forced labour, or were victims of the systematic operations of extermination carried out by the SS.

Freed by the soviet and polish troops in April 1945, Sachsenhausen would then become “Special Camp No. 7”, in August of that year. The authorities of the Soviet Union kept there above all former nazi military men, who would now occupy the same barracks where their victims had been humiliated and tortured until short before. In 1948, the camp was renamed “No. 1”.

(c) photo: Olga R. Trujillo

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