I’ve always liked the freedom and flexibility you get from renting a house or apartment when you travel. And over the last couple of years AirBnB has taken over the self-catering world – there aren’t many destinations not covered on the site. It has its critics though, and like anything you need to be careful – make sure to check the reviews, always pay through the AirBnB site and never by bank transfer, and watch out for the cleaning and admin fees.
Between the Brandenburg Gate and Tiergarten in Berlin lies a solemn field of 2771 grey stone slabs. The Holocaust Memorial – or, to give it its full name, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – commemorates the Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust. It’s an almost impossible task to create something to symbolise that horror, and the design process was a long and controversial one that started back in 1988. Eleven years later, US architect Peter Eisenman’s design was finally approved and the memorial opened in May 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.
When it comes to city breaks, Berlin’s got a bit of something for everyone. There’s the fascinating history, both the recent stories of the Berlin Wall but also the wartime history and the museums with their artifacts dating back thousands of years. Then there’s the modern vibrant, multicultural culture of street art and music that mixes in influences from around the world. And there’s also the great nightlife, whether you’re looking for a lazy afternoon in a biergarten or a clubbing marathon to last past dawn.
Seat of the German Parliament, the Reichstag is one of the most famous and imposing buildings in Berlin. The original version, built in the 1880s, was topped with a stone dome. But that, along with the rest of the building, was damaged by fire and war. When it was restored in the 1960s they left out the dome, but 30 years later architect Sir Norman Foster designed a space-age glass version to top the building. Made of glass and mirrors, it looks like a location from a sci-fi film. Walkways spiral around the edge of the dome and in the centre is an upside-down pyramid which points down into the parliament hall below.
It’s hard to talk about Berlin without mentioning the wall. It’s shocking to think that just a quarter of a century ago one of Europe’s major cities was split in two and Berliners were separated from friends and neighbours for 28 years. The wall was the most visible symbol of the Cold War and the division between Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc. But today you can hardly tell where it was in some places – the pace of construction means the two sides have knit together perfectly. It still has a huge impact on the city though, not least as it’s so recent.