THINGS TO DO IN BERLIN, GERMANY | EXPLORING BERLIN, GERMANY
During the summer of 2019, me and my two sons decided to take a European vacation. We ended up traveling for 26 days to a total of seven countries and over 17,000 miles. Day six through eight were spent in Berlin, Germany. Berlin has two airports and we made use of both of them. The TXL airport baggage claim area was very confusing. Passengers are not allowed to return to the baggage area once they leave, and we were not able to find our bags. There are no screens to tell you where your bags will be unloaded. Eventually, after waiting for an hour, another passenger told us that our bags were unloaded to a small, hard to find room with a baggage carousel. I felt bad because our driver who was there to pick us up on time also had to wait. To top it all off, there are no airport employees in the baggage area to help if something doesn’t go as planned. We flew out of the SXF airport, which seemed a little better organized but it was hot and very crowded.
Where we stayed
The SANA Berlin Hotel was called home for the duration of our stay in Berlin. This place absolutely hit the mark and was a fantastic place to stay. We had a top floor, two-bedroom apartment. It was spacious, had a washer/dryer (though a bit complicated to operate), a full kitchen, motorized window shades and a very helpful staff. We were able to walk to just about everywhere (except the airports) and felt safe. I can’t even think of one complaint about this hotel.
What we did
The day after we got settled, we went on Greyline’s Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour of Berlin. The bus tour provided headphones and guided narration in English (as well as many other languages). We did a full loop and enjoyed it. We made the mistake of not bringing a snack, so we got hangry by the time to tour was done. We chose not to hop-off the bus anywhere because we had a private tour scheduled and it seemed better to just stay on the bus and see the city. For lunch, we ate at amazing Burger Now and discovered the awesome brand of soda Fritz-Kola. Sadly, we have not found a place in California to buy Fritz. Later we found the restaurant Back 17 where we ate dinner (and returned another day as well because we liked the food). We set aside the following day for our private half-day tour with tour guide/photographer Valeri Vasilev. Before the tour, we walked to Berlin Burrito Company where we had great food and amazing service. The tour with Valeri had to have been the best tour we took during our entire European excursion. He brilliantly knows the history of Berlin and takes amazing pictures. He was very patient with my teenage kids. The tour definitely is not cheap, but certainly worth the money. He drove us around in a luxurious van and we stopped at all kinds of places including Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, and parts of the Berlin Wall.
Mobile phone service
Since there were three of us, I rented at MiFi device through cellhire.com so we could all have data service. I know that from a technical perspective when a phone is connected to WiFi, most apps think the data is fair-game and will use an unlimited amount of data, so I installed an app called NetGuard. This app installs a firewall and will only allow certain app access to the internet when connected to the MiFi device. Then, once we were on unlimited WiFi at the hotel, the other apps could download and do whatever updates they wanted. With the NetGuard app, we all stayed under the 10GBs of data I purchased. For telephone service, I used my Google Voice account to place calls – calls to the US are free and calls to most of the places we traveled were under five-cents per minute. The calls worked flawlessly while on most hotel wifis and worked reasonably well when connected to the MiFi box.
How did we feel about Berlin?
At first, Berlin seemed just like another city with a bunch of old buildings. But once we did our tour with Valeri, the city came to life. We were better able to understand the history and significance of much of the city. He brought us to parts of the city that cannot be explored by bus, but played a role in the development and importance of Berlin. As we explored in the van and on foot, I could feel a lot of what I was seeing. Berlin is very clean and I felt safe during all of the time we spent in the city and at the hotel.