Saturday, July 12, 2014

Berlin on a Budget

The German capital is one of the most interesting and affordable cities in Northern Europe. Prices for hotels seem to be rising, but there are still many bargains available. Check out the blog at for some good suggestions on how to eat cheaply at stands selling filling fare such as curry wurst or doner kebab.

These stands and hole-in-the-wall restaurants are also known as Schnell Imbiss, and they are great choices for the budget traveller. Curry wurst is usually just a sausage with curry sauce, but doner kebab can include a variety of vegetables added to grilled meat, all served on pita bread. Add a good German beer and you have a complete meal for less than $10 usually. Stands selling these items can be found all over town, but are especially numerous in the central districts such as Kreuzberg and Mitte, which also happen to be popular with tourists.

Another blog post by the same author, who specializes in really low-cost or no-cost travel, features a walking tour of Friedrichshain, an up and coming part of what used to be East Berlin. It and adjacent Lichtenberg are not espeically picturesque, being filled with modernist apartment buildings of the type found all across the former Soviet Bloc. However, they offer a glimpse of what life used to be like before the Wall came down and are now blossoming with art galleries and sidewalk cafes.

If you are interested in the former East Germany and especially if you have seen the film "The Lives of Others," a visit to the Stasi headquarters ( in Lichtenberg is a must. Admission costs just 5 euros or less, and you can marvel at the antiquated technology that formed
 the backbone of a feared police state.

I'm a big fan of Cold War hsitory and spy novels, and especially like those set in Berlin. I have an edition of three books by Len Deighton (Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match) that includes a map showing locations mentioned in the books, so you can plot out your own Berlin walking tour. One time I happened to pass the Anhalter Bahnhof ruins near a hotel where I was staying, and remembered it was the setting of an important scene in one of the Deighton books. To me, incidents like this are part of the fun of travelling.

Things change rapidly in Berlin, though, so soon it may not be possible to see much of the former East Berlin. Much of  the downtown area where the Wall used to be has been rebuilt as the new government centre, and while the new architecture is striking I kind of miss the way this area was when I first saw it in 1991, still bombed-out from World War II and desolate..


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