tourist

the long distance runner’s guide to (west) Berlin

Now, I’ve got a pretty big head, but I’m not delusional enough to think that I run Berlin (and I don’t think I’d want to). I know that this is the Social Democrat Party’s job, helmed by mayor Michael Müller. However, whenever I do a city run, it makes me think “I run this city.”

I’ve most likely mentioned this before, but as a runner I’ve always appreciated how easily navigable Berlin is and the ability to cross more than half the city in a 2 hour run, seeing a lot of the major monuments and landmarks in the process. As a point of reference, I ran 18 miles through London back in July and still only saw about 1/5 of the city’s major landmarks (albeit, I also got lost a bit and repeated some stretches).

Despite being in Berlin for two years now, and many times many summers before 2016, I finally managed to take my camera on the run. Below, you can see my last run through Berlin before heading back to Florida for the rest of the semester break and I’ve numbered the locations of the photos I’ve taken and included in this post. It’s important to note that, seeing as I turned south and then west again at the Brandenburg Gate, this post only covers interesting points in former west Berlin. There are a lot of equally interesting and important monuments and landmarks in the former east as well! I also didn’t include the Grunewald or Wannsee, which easily make up a long run in themselves. But here goes: a guide to running this part of Berlin.

Map of running (west) Berlin

  1. Schloss Charlottenburg
  2. Schlosspark Charlottenburg
  3. Siegessäule  or the Victory Column
  4. Statue of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
  5. Großer Tiergarten
  6. Soviet War Memorial
  7. Brandenburg Gate
  8. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
  9. Entrance to the Zoologischer Garten
  10. Breitscheidplatz, ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, and remains of the European Track and Field Championships

Start at Theodor-Heuss Platz, which is the western end of the Kaiserdamm that begins in Berlin Mitte as Unter den Linden and extends straight for about 4 miles. This little green-covered plaza is marked by a nice blue monument that turns clear to allow the late sunlight to come through in the evenings.

Heading east, you can run by with the Convention grounds and central bus station mere houses away to the south. Head east until you get to aptly named Schloßstraße, which will get you to Berlin’s largest castle with grounds that have a circumference of more than a mile.

After running through the Schlosspark, which features mausoleums, flowers galore and even some sheep (royal properties are expensive to maintain, need to save somewhere), one can head out east again, this time on the Spree River that runs through Berlin. Factories often got placed on rivers in the 19th and 20th centuries, so one can find Nivea, BMW, and other well-known names running back towards the Kaiserdamm, which has now changed to Strasse des 17. Juni. One can continue to head east here until one reaches the golden angel which stands on top of the Victory Column.

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This is easily one of the most well-known monuments of Berlin. It features a 270 step climb to a viewing platform that I wouldn’t advise to visit on the run, but could deserve a separate visit. Instead of visiting the column, one could continue along the round about, featuring other famous monuments to pre World War generals and, of course, Bismark.

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These sculptures and the Tiergarten in general add to the feeling of a Berlin before the destruction of the World Wars. The park initially served as hunting grounds for the king before being transformed into a green space in the middle of the city where one could see and be seen (or not, it was also a hiding spot for some illicit activity as well) on weekends and in evenings.

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Continuing through the Tiergarten, one eventually comes back onto the Strasse des 17. Juni, where one eventually happens upon a monument to the Soviet’s role in World War II. The history of Berlin during the war deserves it’s own post, but it may suffice to say that Berlin was one of the last battlegrounds of the war, and the allies had agreed to the Soviets advancing on the city first, trusting they would split control of the city after the war. The war memorial just south of the Reichstag reminds of this role and of the many Soviet soldier’s lives WWII took.

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Like most post-war Soviet memorials, the display features impressive life-size tanks and a larger than life model of a soldier.

Now, while I didn’t do this on this run, one can easily skip a little north of this memorial and see the home of the German government (Bundestag) in the Reichstag. Instead, one can also just continue heading east to find THE German monument par excellence: the Brandenburger Tor.

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Now, unfortunately, there’s some construction going on the right side, but at least there are not a lot of people. This is only because it is 7 AM. Come anytime after 8 AM and you won’t get a people-free shot. This is why it’s recommended to be an early-rising runner.

It’s also recommended because then one can beat the crowds in this part of Berlin, which is Berlin Mitte and very popular with the tourists, politicians, and business people. It’s also near a lot of important embassies such as the French, USA, UK, and others.

To continue, one can head down the east or west side of the Brandenburg gate to come back around to the front of the US embassy. From here, one can see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

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Placed on about 4 acres of land, this memorial is one of a few memorials in Berlin to victims of the Holocaust, though this memorial is specifically to the Jewish victims and some people like the author of this opinion piece explain some of the controversy of the design and the name. I personally can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the meaning of the columns and the feeling of angst incited walking among these tomb-like structures, but there is some question about the effectiveness of the reminder it represents. As a runner, I run by it, but it also deserves a separate visit. There is a documentation center in the center that takes some time to go through as well.

The west side of this memorial faces the Tiergarten again, and it is this space, the southern part this time, that one can continue along, passing even more embassies. The architecture of these buildings is always unique and decorated by the flags of countries all over the world with some cultural note that could be a tour in itself.

This last part of the run, other than bringing one through more of Berlin, is pretty uneventful until one gets back to the Kurfürstenstraße that leads to the Berlin Zoological Gardens and, of course, eventually the U- and S-Bahn station of the same name. I visited the Zoo with my mom and bro last year, so one can read about that here.

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The entrance way is iconic and there’s just a little bit of cultural appropriation here, but it is an interesting visit as well.

Just a little further down the road one finds the Breitscheidplatz and the ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This summer some of the European Championships were held in Berlin, so the stands for spectating were just being taken down as I ran by. Those are obviously not always there.

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What is there and not photographed is the small memorial to the victims of the 2016 Christmas Market Attack (this is just behind those stands).

Unfortunately, as apparent from the run, the occupants of the city cannot escape its history, as the reminders are always all around. At least there’s a lot to also keep from dwelling too much on this as well (i.e. live music at an Irish Pub advertised in this photo). Berlin is a sobering, ugly, and yet beautiful and lively history-conscious city, all at once.

Speaking of not dwelling on things, the run doesn’t end here (though it easily could). For me, it lead on the Hardenbergstrasse past the station, the Technical University, and to Ernst-Reuter Platz. From there, one can head west again on the Bismarkstrasse (aka Strasse des 17. Juni aka Unter den Linden aka Kaiserdamm) until one gets back to where one started.

Given the right conditions and the right training, this tour is manageable in under two hours. There are enough quick shops and stations along the way (even a Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts by the Brandenburg Gate) to get one through the run if one has some spare change. I wouldn’t encourage using the Tiergarten as a toilet, though it is possible in emergencies. However, there are some public restrooms at the Victory Column, the Gate, and near the Zoo Bahnhof.

Obviously, this tour is just one of multiple options of runs to complete in Berlin. However, for the tourist who is also a long-distance runner, this does the job of seeing a lot in a little time and having a lot to write home about.

tschüß,
Dorothea

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Tourist for a Day- Hamburg

Since being stuck in my thesis cave for days at a time, I craved my first free day to explore the city like I did when I first arrived in October.

Packing my U-bahn ticket, wallet, and camera, I went out around 11 AM with no appointments or reasons to return back to the dorm before I had seen my fill.

What I discovered is that Hamburg is even more beautiful than my first impression of the city, zero expectations always mean exceeded expectations, and tourists have to be fairly fit.

I started by getting out at Landungsbruecken. 2015-04-02 12.02.13

This used to be the old docking site (as one hears in the name) and now it’s the site where all the ferries pick up the tourists and citizens to bring them up and down the Elbe, or across. The neat thing about the public ferries is that one can use them using the standard HVV Hamburg city transportation pass. Basically, it’s a free site-seeing tour.

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I didn’t realize how much water means to my feeling at home until I came to Hamburg. Even if I am partial to ocean water, seeing ships, cranes, and water comforts me.

It helps that it was such a sunny day (absolutely gorgeous weather… anyone who says Hamburg is cold and wet must be here on only those few days in the year), but I was struck by the beauty of all the architecture along the river. Even basic office buildings and cruise docking sites (that interesting side-pyramid thing) saturated my aural senses.

Back on land (back at the Landungbruecken), I went over to the entrance to the “Alte Elbtunnel”

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The reliefs on the sides of the walls to the staircases that took one down into the tunnel belied the age of the tunnel. I was also excited when I stepped into the old vehicle elevators. They were huge and open as the top, reminding me of the elevators at Universal Studios or Disney, but without the authentic atmosphere of 1920s automobiles.

2015-04-02 13.20.09I was the fastest person to walk from one of the tunnel, look out across the river to Landungsbruecken and the nice view of the Elbphilharmonie (still not finished), before walking across again. It was super cool and something I had on my list of things I had wanted to do while in Hamburg, so that experience alone made me happy. Add the thrill of a boat ride on a sunny, crisp day, and you can begin to imagine the high I was moving off.

The high carried me to St. Michel:

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I figured out after sitting in the church for about 45 minutes that it was Lutheran, after I saw his statue outside on my way back to central Hamburg.

One of the best experiences while in the Church was that there was a symphony practicing for an Easter performance that was to occur the following day. They played their music, the singers sang their arias, and I could only sit there and let the sounds and beauty of the interior of the church wash over me. I took as long as I wanted to let go of the stress I had carried with me for months, release the worries, and sit and be thankful for everything I was helped with and had been gifted to experience over the past year. Sitting in the pews, I was transported in a way I find difficult to describe.

It was weird to walk through down-town Hamburg, since all the stores were closed because of Good Friday- another reason to like Germany better than the US is that they have days where capitalism really shuts down and allows people to spend time outside of stores with their friends, family, or introspection.

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I came across the ruins of the St. Nikolas Church that the city had long decided to leave as a monument to World War II. The entire skeleton of the church was left, with the altar at the front ready for service, and I had the spooky feeling that congregations of the past were gathered there, listening to the spirit of a priest as I walked by. The bell power is being renovated, so maybe I’ll take a trip up before I leave the city.

2015-04-02 14.34.03By the time I made it to the Ratshaus, I was ready to go home. To draw it out a little more, however, I made the decision to visit one random place on the U-Bahn map. I picked Hagenbeck Tierpark, because depending on the cost, I would visit it to complete my tourist experience for the day.

However, when I got there and saw the 20 Euro price tag, I figured I would save it for a day where I had the whole day.2015-04-02 15.14.46

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So I went home, but not before remembering my promise to show an example of the signs available at each U-Bahn or S-Bahn stop to help orient oneself. Looking at this sign one can tell that one is at Osterstrasse (interesting coincidence to be on this street so shortly before Easter) on the side of the track where trains come in going towards Meummelmannsberg, and that it will take 11 minutes to get to the main train station.

All in all, it was a great day. I was tired at the end of it, as one can expect following at least five miles of walking around the city, but it was well worth it. Especially since the trek was filled with surprises like the symphony concert, or the image below, reminding one of Hamburg’s bid to host the Olympics

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Part of the movement to get the 2022 Olympics to Hamburg