So, I finally made the trip to Berlin this summer in late August and it was amazing. It was all i had thought it would be and then some.
In the end i decided on packing the Nikon DF and 3 lenses. The lenses i brought was my 24 f1,4 , the 58,f1,4 and my 135 DC f2,0. So for me that was going to cover most of my needs. In my mind what i looked forward to the most was making either spectacular wide angled architectural shots or some good street portraits with my 58. The 135 i thought would be good for those candids in crowded places to make some good shots of people like on the subways or plazas in Berlin. As an afterthought i think those lenses was a pretty good choice actually.
The smaller Lowpro flipped sport 10 L was just enough to take the body and the lenses and room for some cleaning gear and batteries. Of course a small bag like that will always leave you wanting more space and the need to put extra stuff in pockets or let your fellow travelers carry something. But nothing beats having a small bag when you have to cover a lot of distance on foot!
I traveled with my Wife and my oldest son , none of them had ever been to Berlin and neither had i. I had been to Germany before though and always thought i wanted to go back to Germany and especially Berlin because of my photography.
I had booked a hotel near the ”Hauptbahnhof” which i know was a decent hotel but more important a very central hotel that made it easy to reach the sites we wanted quickly and without hassle.
The flight went well and we arrived in the burning sun in the early afternoon. The bus left us actually just beside the hotel, but after my huge misstake of reading the map i brought i thought us to be further away, so we walked several kilometers( with bags!) in the wrong direction and ended up having to ask our way back to the original destination to the dismay of my fellow travelers 😉
The Hauptbahnhof was an amazing place for photography, and especially street and candids. I made a mental note to go back there at another point of the trip, at a time when the bags where in the hotel and my wife was not tired and hungry!
The hotel ( Meininger Hotel) was exactly as advertised , decent but with a good location. It was literarily next to the station. I remember thinking that it was lucky i was not a light sleeper, and that proved to be right the following nights when trains and people constantly moving in the area made it very noisy.
So something to think about if you ever go there.
Otherwise it was perfect for our needs. We decided on leaving the bags and trying to go to at least to a few places that first day so to not miss any opportunities of sightseeing the first day
We went directly to the Brandenburger Tor and the subway near Zoogarten just to get a grasp of what the Subway was like and to buy some tickets for traveling around the rest of the trip. We always try to sort that the first day when we travel, to not have to worry about buying extra tickets etc when we travel around later. The Berlin Subway was a joy to travel with in my opinion. Very well organized and a lot easier i feel than the Paris one.
So that first day we just traveled by ourselves and did not take any tours etc.
For Tuesday i had booked a pretty big tour that was called ”Famous Walks and hidden Berlin” which promised to take us into all known and secret places that would teach us the history around the ww2 and also the Berlin wall.
That proved to be the best Tour of my life. The day after we hurried to make it to the point of meeting for the Berlin tour. We came like 1 hour earlier near Zoogarten again and waited at a Mcdonalds there to spot the tour leader in time.
It was not hard to spot Brian as he was called, a tall and very charismatic man with a broad american accent and a fun looking hat that looked to small for his big frame. He told us already in the beginning that the tour was supposed to be around 3 hours but that he had some special guests joining us, some people that had seen his tours in the past and wanted to go with him again. So this time he would take as long as he felt like and needed to make the tour extra special for us and them. I had some second thoughts then regarding the heat that day( around 36 degrees celsius) and realized it would most likely become a problem for my wife and my son. Then again we could always leave, and i know Brian was going to try and take breaks a long the way and keep to the shadow as much as possible when choosing his spots for the walk.
The tour with Brian as the guide was as i said earlier the best tour i have ever taken. He spoke of Berlin and its history with such passion and love and humor sometimes that we all got pulled into his universe and his Berlin the way he viewed it. At some points when he almost broke down telling us about the horrific crimes against the jews during the war, or the times afterwards and the struggles the people that were alive had to go through to rebuild Berlin, or about the desperate last years of trying to tear down the wall and the stubborn politics around it, it made us all tear up as he masterfully told the stories of people and their different tales and destinies. It was fascinating.
The 3 hours actually went on for 6 hours in the burning Berlin heat, and that was pretty difficult for many in the group, but even so they ALL stayed until the end when Brian held his last great speech near Branderburger tour telling us about how Kowalski made the political error at the last press conference that made the final nail in the coffin for the Berlin wall. A small amount of time after that error people started to cross checkpoint charlie and get to the other side and West Berlin. Then we all remember the things from News that TV stations all over the world showed us of happy Berliners crossing the wall and tearing it down. So i won’t bore you with those stories but rather focus on what the tour gave me as a photographer. well to be honest not much! As a person it gave me everything. I loved it just as i said. But the pace of the walk and also the heat made it very difficult to try and snap some pictures along the way. It did however give me a lot of inspiration and insights into where i would go by myself after the tour the coming days to take those shots i so wanted.
I will continue in the next blogpost and cover the rest of my trip to exciting Berlin….