May 30, 2011

Berlin: A honeymooner's guide

Berlin is a city that thrives on change and has managed to reinvent itself as one of Europe’s finest capitals. And while it may have a somewhat checkered past, Berlin has emerged as a unique and dynamic city since its reunification in 1989.

One of the best ways to see the city is by bicycle. Hire a two-wheeler from the Fat Tire Bike Rentals and start your tour pedalling along Unter den Linden ("under the linden trees"), the main boulevard in the Mitte district of Berlin.

“As long as the lime trees still blossom in Unter den Linden, Berlin will always be Berlin,” Marlene Dietrich once sang about this magnificent avenue.

Today, the trees still blossom and the old buildings along Unter den Linden have been extensively restored and modern architecture has created new highlights.

Historical standouts include the National Opera House and the Deutsches Historisches Museum, as well as Frederick the Great’s Statue, an ode to the king of Prussia from 1740 to 1786 who had a defining hand in shaping Berlin’s cultural, political and military might.

At the end of this decadent drive is the Brandenburg Gate – the divide between East and West during the Cold War, which is a popular photo stop for tourists.

From there, take in the Reichstag building; the 100-year-old sandstone shell that housed the first Parliament of the German Empire which has been rebuilt into a modern building and tourist attraction.

Inside, take a lift up to the sleek steel-and-glass cupola to a platform that offers 360-degree views of the Berlin cityscape, where a free audio guide will help you locate major landmarks from your vantage point.

Berlin is also renowned for its diverse nightlife – from its trendy and luxe bars to its thriving club scene.

One of the city’s stalwarts is the Rum Trader. This tiny bar specialises in impeccably crafted rum-based drinks and is overseen by Gregor Scholl, the dapper waist-coated and bow tie-sporting proprietor.

At the Rum Trader you don’t select a cocktail from the drinks menu – there isn’t one. Scholl prefers instead to conduct a preliminary consultation with each patron prior to suggesting a particular drink.

When to visit: For relatively warm weather and to avoid the tourist crowds visit from late spring to early autumn (May/June or September/October).

Stay at: Brandenburger Hof, Berlin.

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