For those of us in Cambridgeshire, Stansted is a great gateway to the city of Berlin.
I usually stay in the suburb of Fichtenhain. This is in the former East and while it still looks a bit run down and is also full with students, it has does have three advantages.
- There are a number of small but good hotels. This September business trip I stayed at the "Hotel 26", on the Grünberger Strasse; clean rooms, free wifi and an excellent breakfast.
- It is a great place to eat out at a reasonable price. Many of the eateries are along or near the Simon-Dach Strasse, and provide a range of food from Italian, Thai to Indian and Portuguese.
- Oh yes, the nearby Warshauer Strasse S-Bahn Station gives you quick access to the rest of Berlin for your meetings!
Other hotels that I've stayed at in the past include the "Pension Bismark" in Charlottenburg and the "Riverside Hotel", only 400 yards from the Museums Insel.
Travelling around is easy using the S-Bahn (tramway) and U-Bahn (Underground). A good bet is to get a "Tageskarte" (day ticket) for only €6.10 that lets you travel the central AB tarif zone. This covers the wider Berlin area, though not as far as the airport.
There are ticket machines at most stations but note that they do not take €20 notes, the smallest banknote I get when buying Euros at the UK Post Office. It also took me a couple of trips to get used to the idea that you bought your ticket and then went to a pillar on the platform to have it stamped BEFORE getting on the tram, tube or bus.
Whenever I travel to Berlin on business, I always make sure that I have at least a couple of free hours on one day. There are museums, great buildings and many sights to see. A good place to start is the east of Berlin, where you can see the bust of Nefertiti, visit the Dom and view the city from the top of the Fersehturm within one square kilometer.
This time I used the time to visit the small palace of Charlottenburg with its French style gardens. Nearby I found another gem, the Museum Berggruen which has a fascinating collection of art by Matisse, Picasso and Klee. If you only have time in the evening and are near the Reichstag, go in and walk up the spiral, inside the lit Norman Foster dome. Last entry is at 22:00h you may still have to queue for a while!
The time will come to return to either Tegel or Schoenefeld Airport, depending on your airline. Both the train and the S-Bahn stop at the station several hunderd yards from the terminal of Schoenefeld Airport, which is reached by a covered curved walkway. If you take the tube to Rüdow then catch the bus that takes you directly to the terminal doors.
Schoenefeld Airport is still being expanded as the old buildings are far too small for the traffic going through. Warning - do not go through the security gates too early as once you are on the other side, it is cramped with little seating room and narrow corridors!
I always have the pleasure of knowing that at some point there will be another chance to visit Berlin in the future. I hope that you get a chance to visit it too!
What are your favourite cities?