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Berlin Bearings

Arrived in Berlin and not sure where to go?
cover_curso_reisejournalismusDon’t worry, our Iconic Berlin section guides you around the many unmissable sights the German capital has to offer. Even if you’re restricted to a few days here, pick a couple of our suggestions and jump on the Ubahn. To make you feel like you’ve really arrived in Berlin, head to Brandenburg Tor, Checkpoint Charlie or Potsdamer Platz for the typical tourist experience. History buffs will enjoy the Victory Column and Soviet Memorial and if heights are your thing, see the best views of the city from the Reichstag or the Fernsehturm/TV tower. For fun photo opportunities, go to the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining stretch of the former Berlin Wall. Team Curso/CTR

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Flavours of Berlin

curso_reisejournalismus_erfahrungsbericht_kulinarischBerlin’s culinary scene is one of the most variegated in Europe. Not only do German, Korean, Lebanese, Thai, French and Indian eateries sit alongside one another as Technicolor beacons of multiculturalism, but they are all exceptionally good too. You couldn’t be more spoilt for choice. In fact, sometimes choice becomes simply impossible. Here’s a low-down, therefore, of some of the more particular elements of the average Berliner eatable experiences.
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Fast-food is fundamental to a Berliner’s culinary life, but not in the way any Anglophone visitor might understand it. The most common options divide roughly into German and Middle-Eastern classics. Sausage-based snacks such as Bratwurst (grilled sausage, often wedged in a bread-roll) or Currywurst (its sliced curry-speckled cousin) are mainstays of the more Germanic on-the-hoof diet. From Turkey has come the doner kebab, re-thought to fit German tastes and referred to simply as a Döner.

Distinguished from its eastern forebear by a swapping of meat from lamb to veal and chicken and a higher concentration of salad, this take is a lighter, crisper, more wholesome affair compared to its Britannic imitation. The best are by Mustafa’s in Mehringdamm and All In One in Hackescher Markt. Just follow the queues.

Sticking to the fast-food theme, Berlin enjoys a thriving Imbiß culture. Meaning simply ‘snack’, Imbiß refers to a smallish food outlet of any gastronomic denomination that dishes out deliciously simple dishes at pocket-friendly prices. Imbiße can vary from Schnitzel-serving German haunts or pokey Lebanese falafel cafes, to express street-side sushi bars or speedy Korean fried-chicken joints. It is possible therefore to sample from almost any culinary corner of the world at any time of day (most remain open well beyond midnight) spending very little indeed.
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Any run-down of Germanic culinary customs would be regrettably incomplete without mention of Kaffee und Kuchen. Keep a careful eye on any coffee bar and you will observe that at around 4 in the afternoon, regular as clockwork, it fills with locals eager for a healthy slice of coffee-accompanied cake. With delectable cheesecakes, Sacher tortes, and crumbly streusel-topped cherry slices ubiquitously on offer, you’ll find that this favourite restorative past-time features regularly in your Berliner diet.

Coffee may be popular in Berlin, but certainly not more so than beer. And where better to sample the variations on offer – and they do get wacky with gooseberry-spiked green versions – than in a traditional biergarten (weather permitting!)? Warming centres of that most particular of German characteristics, Gemütlichkeit, or cosy conviviality, a good beer garden is the perfect setting for an afternoon or evening wiled away in the company of good friends and even better beer. Try out Prater in Prenzlauer Berg or Schleusenkrug in Tiergarten.

Team Curso/CTR, Ben Kendall

Berlin Berghain

curso_reisejournalismus_berlin_berghainÜber raw, dirty, hardcore techno pumps menacingly from the speakers, bounc­ing off black walls over a pulsating pit of party animals. Daylight has no place here. Instead, techno-worship­pers swing on huge beds suspended by ominously creaking chains; rows of black-clad clubbers knock back shots served by bartenders sporting dog col­lars, leather pants and little else.

Having hosted almost every big name in the genre, Berghain is a true tech­no Mecca. In Berlin’s nightlife hall of fame, Carl Craig’s legendary 3pm closing-time set sits alongside the fre­quent spins of resident DJs Nick Höp­pner and Norman Nodge. The techno is dark and twisted, reflecting the in­dustrial atmosphere in its purest form. Regardless of performance, once you pass through the formidable doors of this towering former power-station, get ready for the night – or usually day-and-a-half – of your life.

Hedonism knows no bounds in Berghain. Partiers openly indulge in sexual acts and invite the participation of total strangers. The infamous dark rooms are crawling with adventurous first-timers and promiscuous regulars alike. Inhibitions have no place here. If, however, you’re more on the reserved side and don’t fancy tripping over a ca­vorting couple in pitch darkness, fear not: there is no pressure to do any­thing you are not comfortable with and no shame if you simply want to dance for hours on end.

The door policy is famously tough; best advice is to look like you couldn’t care less about getting in. Don’t be intimi­dated by the tattooed, bearded, grizzly bears of bouncers policing the doors: they can smell fear. Go in by yourself. Don’t be wasted before you get inside. Don’t overdo it on the outfit front. And go early; queuing for at least an hour is all part of the experience.

The drinks prices are surprisingly rea­sonable (Jaeger shots are a mere €2.50, Berliner Pilsner only €3), so the biggest shock might perhaps come when, final­ly returned home, you glimpse your­self in a mirror. Cameras are forbidden and the club is completely mirrorless, which reflects how much Berghain is not about the right look but all about the right attitude.

curso_reisejournalismus_berlin_edinburgh_berghainCertainly not for the faint hearted it is little wonder that this club is so exclusive. It requires serious stamina and total commitment to partake in Berghain’s weekends of partying. For more chilled house and the occasional glimpse of sunlight, venture upstairs to the sister venue Panorama Bar. Be warned, however, it is only slightly more chilled.
Team Curso/CTR Berlin, Louise Gill
Wriezener Karree, 10243, Friedrichshain, berghain.de
Saturday 12am – as long as you can last on Monday!, €12, S-Bahn Ostbahnhof

 

Berlin Mitte

curso_reisejournalismus_sprachreise_edinburgh_berlinRight at the heart of the city, here is where you can find some of Berlin’s most cherished attractions in a modernised setting. One of the most war-damaged dis­tricts, Mitte is brimming with histo­rical sites such as the Brandenburger Tor and The Altes Museum. It also contains Alexanderplatz, where alongside the legendary Museum Island tourists can enjoy a selection of leafy parks and jazz clubs. Re­siding nearby are Nikolavier­tel, a quarter of some of Berlin’s oldest buildings, the famous Tier­garten and the River Spree. Mitte is also at the centre of the city’s politics and media. Walks down Unter den Linden and Friedrichs­trasse are necessary to experience the best of Berlin’s landmarks.

Kreuzberg
The proud home of the döner kebab, Kreuzberg is known for its sizeable Turkish population and working-class community. Yet its energy and ability to entertain is undisputed, the main streets per­manently awash with both locals, hipsters and students. Take a walk down busy Oraniens­trasse for a seemingly endless stream of bars, cafés and restau­rants of varied cuisine, serving up tasty grub at delightfully low prices.

Prenzlauer Berg
An area popcurso_eg_reisejournalismus_sprachreise_edinburgh_berlinular with students, this part of North-East Berlin is gentrified yet affordable, and full of trendy hangouts. Hip young mothers with prams roam the many boutiques, quaint cafés and second-hand shops on Kollwitz-platz, and artists mingle in the chic nightspots. Don’t miss the fleamarket at Mauerpark on Sundays!

Charlottenburg
Rebuilt in the 1950s after extensive war damage, Char­lottenburg in the present day is one of Berlin’s most affluent, thriving areas. Located to the west of the Tiergarten, it’s not the most accessible area but it is overflowing with tourist hotspots. Located within it is shopping mecca Kurfursten­damm, the boulevard is known to locals as ‘Ku-Damm’ but more widely as the ‘Champs-Elysees’ of Berlin.

Friedrichshain
curso_reisejournalismus_sprachreise_edinburgh_berlin_graffitiClosely connected with its neighbouring borough of Kreuz­berg, this former part of East Berlin has a complicated history and, consequently, has a range of interesting spots for tourists to visit. Famous for the East Side Gallery, it has a reputation for its young, vibrant population, and its less opulent atmosphere in comparison with the more central districts. It also accommodates many of the city’s squatters.

Schöneberg
Located in former West Ber­lin, today this area is celebrated for its history of early 20th cen­tury cabacurso24_reisejournalismus_sprachreise_edinburgh_berlinret culture and influence. upon the city’s art scene. One of the districts to be affected the least by wartime bombing, many of the old Berlin buildings still stand to be admired. Take a walk around to enjoy the greenery and drop into one of Schöneberg’s many elegant boutiques.

Tiergarten
Not only the name of Berlin’s most famous park, Tiergarten is a district in itself. Another part of the city to suffer extensively during the war, the huge park is home to seve­ral lakes, beer gardens, monuments and even clubs. A walk through the Tiergarten is a welcome escape from the constant hustle and bustle of the rest of the city.
Team Curso/CTR Berlin

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Collective Houses

curso_ctr_travel_writing_ZIELONA GÒRAShortly after the wall came down, Berlin was dotted with squat houses. Anarchists, hippies and artists saw the abando­ned buildings in the east as an opportunity for free living and for art studios. Unfortunately due to gentrification, there are no longer any left. One of the last squats, Leibig 14, was closed down by police in a three-day battle in late 2011. Tacheles, arguably the most famous Berlin squat, is currently under­going a tense legal pro­cess to kick the artists out and now bares only a shadow of the vibrant activity that used to hap­pen there. Wanting to continue this communal lifestyle, many houses now pay minimal rent to keep up with gentrifica­tion and are referred to as collective or project houses. On every night of the week, they open up their bars and kitchens to the public.

Volkskü­chen (people’s kitchen) or simply vokü, is a great way to get a cheap, healthy, home cooked meal. More often than not the meals are vegan, different every week and will only set you back about 2€. Most collec­tives are located in the east district of Friedrichs­hain, with a few in Kreuz­berg and Mitte. The most popular, Zielona Gora serves 60-100 hungry hippies and punks every Sunday night and is worth the wait in line. Vetomat offers a small but satisfying three-course meal every Wednesday night. Many collectives have free wifi, books and clothes swaps and a cheap bar open to eve­r yone. While one night of the week may be devoted to vokü, the others are filled with a variety of anarchist discussions, film clubs and silk screening ses­sions. Most houses have their own website too. The volunteer staff and leather-clad patrons may seem intimidating at first, but it’s worth perse­vering. However, the faint hearted should avoid the pretentious punks at Kopi.

Curso/CTR Travel Writing Team Berlin
Sian Sugars

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Kostproben einiger Magazine aus den Vorjahren finden Sie bei Auslandspraktikum Reisejournalismus. Redaktion Curso/CTR

 

Impression Spanisch und Reisejournalismus in Madrid

curso_eg_travel_writing_spanisch_madridMadrid scheint im April nur ein bisschen loco. Zur Zeit des Curso/CTR Live Projektes in Madrid im Sommer sieht es etwas anders aus: hoher loco Faktor. Wir freuen uns auf das Reisejournalismus Projekt! Redaktion Curso/CTR

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Ramones Museum

curso_travel_writing_ramones_berlinOn a quiet street just off Oranienburger-strasse, lies a small café bar that doubles as a great tribute to one of the most prolific bands of the punk rock era. Founder Flo Hayling’s magnificent collection of memorabilia started in 1990 with a ticket stub, a poster and a t-shirt. Today, this friendly café bar is home to the only known exhibition dedicated exclusively to the Ramones and is the product of two decades of devotion.

But you don’t have to be a die-hard fan to receive a welcome here. The homely and relaxed atmosphere makes this place an oasis where anyone with an interest in music can chill out. The hand scribbled Wall of Fame serves as a guestbook where rockers such as The Spinnerettes and Billy Talent have left their signatures. The museum also plays host to live music events and has seen, among many others, cult artists such as Frank Turner and The Subways play intimate events. Further details can be found on their excellent website.

Entrance to the museum is 3,50 €, but there’s no charge if you just want to hang out in the café.

Curso/CTR Travel Writing Team Berlin, Cate Hopkins

A City Recycled

Berlin was once considered Europe’s largest industrial city, however, dur­ing the Cold War industry and con­struction declined. With this changing economy many buildings lay vacant but instead of tearing down the industrial constructions the city chose instead to give its buildings a trendy, new make-over.

curso_travel_writing_the_best_the _wurst_journalistikMany of Berlin’s famous clubs have been made out of converted factories with their open spaces and industrial appeal being ideal for all night (and day) raves. For example, Berghain was converted out of an old power station. Also, come out on War­schauer Strasse and turn right to see an old train depot turned into an urban playground for young, hip partygoers. Casseopeia, which once lived as a train repair shop, has now been transformed into a trendy, techno club complete with a climbing wall formed on the outside of an old bunker.

If you’re feeling hungry on a day out a toilet might not be your first port of call for a quick bite to eat. How­ever, Burgermeister,  a former public toilet located under Schlesishes Tor station has gained renown for its quality fast food. Also, more appetis­ingly, the corner of Tortrasse Strasse and Friedrichstrasse is home to a big, yellow American school bus which has been converted into an ice-cream café. Here you can purchase a milkshake or frozen yoghurt for a reasonable €2.90, sit on the comfy garden chairs on the sand and pretend you’re on the beach in the middle of a junction.

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Abandoned buildings, such as Ehema­lige Jüdische Mädchenschule, are also sought after by contemporary artists to provide large spaces and interesting contexts to their work. During the Na­tionalist Socialist plan to exterminate the Jews this school, located on August Strasse 11, was closed following years of pupils and staff mysteriously dis­appearing. The school was reopened as a space for art and dining in early 2012. However the original spirit of the school remains as its history is written on the walls of the halls while restaurants, such as ‘The Kosher Class­room’, which serves traditional Jewish meals with a Shabbat dinner on Friday evenings, preserve the memory of the teachers and pupils.

Heckmann-Hofe, a small courtyard, lo­cated between Oranienburger Strasse 32 and Augustrasse 9, also celebrates its former usage through the use of food. In honour of its former life as a sweet factory it contains Bonbonmach­erei; an old fashioned sweet kitchen as well as a restaurant, clothe shops and benches to relax around a stylish fountain. Walking into this courtyard feels as if you have travelled to a quaint town far away from the city rather than just stepped a few paces off of bustling Oranienburger Strasse.

Converting rather than bulldozing means that history is infused into the present buildings of the city. Not only do converted buildings and vehicles create colourful business opportunities but they memorialise a past that should rightly not be forgotten. With Germany being one of the only European countries to ever vote in the Green Party it comes as no surprise that Berliners are pretty keen on their recycling.
Team Curso/CTR Berlin Travel Writing
Anna Paul