Jewish Museum Berlin Exhibitions

Jewish Museum Berlin

(Foto: IM Thayer)

One of the most detailed and interesting museums off the beaten path in Berlin is the Jewish Museum. Built in 2001 by famed Polish-Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind, the Jewish Museum Berlin has been home to many different exhibitions since it’s opening. These varying exhibitions have covered topics such as Jewish art, cultural relations, and different aspects of Jewish history. The museum itself encourages exploration and understanding of Jewish history and identity throughout Germany and in Berlin.

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Gruene Woche: A taste of the world in Berlin

I know we’ve blogged about Berlin not too long ago. But this topic is right on time. The Gruene Woche is going on through this week and it’s a great event to see. There was a protest staged against it last weekend, and it gets huge press here in Germany.

What is the Gruene Woche?

Gruene Woche translates to Green Week. It’s  an opportunity for the world’s food, farming and gardening industries to show off. The green doesn’t mean eco-friendly, here, just having to do with food, agriculture, or gardening. And it takes place for a week (longer, actually!) A ticket to the Gruene Woche gets you access to hundreds of informative stalls and displays. You can hear local music, taste regional food, buy flower seeds, test an in-home sauna, see organic cooking demonstrations, and go eye-to-eye with prizewinning livestock. And, there’s a whole hall devoted to beer.

Gruene Woche Overlook

The photo’s a bit old, but it still looks much the same. Photo by: _raina_

What happens at the Gruene Woche?

It’s part convention, part massive international market. (Here at germany-travel, we go for the market part!) On the grounds of Berlin’s convention center, exhibitors from literally all around the world flock to the Gruene Woche to show sides of the countries you’ve never seen. Last year I discovered cheese from Romania and reindeer from Norway, while this year I sampled tagine from Morocco and pickles from the next state over in Germany!

Gruene Woche 2013 - Norway

Norway’s setup in 2013. Photo by: Landbruks- og matdepartementet

When’s the best time to visit the Gruene Woche?

In general, weekdays will be less busy than weekends. But I went on a Saturday and survived. If you go on a weekend, the key is to get there as early as you can – the later you go, the more crowded it will be.

Gruene Woche 2013 - Plants

An oasis in the convention center: the plant showcase. Photo by: Anagoria

 

Top Tips for Gruene Woche 2014

  • There’s folk dancing at Greece’s area, and don’t miss the creatively-named olive oil company nearby.
  • Take a tour of Germany without leaving the city. Each state has its own snazzy setup. It’s a great way to discover regional foods and traditional costumes. I recommend Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, try the turkey salami products and the Störtebeker beer!
  • For a natural break, make your way to the plant showcase. The air is fresh, the plants are lovely, and they have water dispensers.
  • Avoid the Austria exhibition if you can. I’m only saying this because one end of the hall narrows and causes a horrible bottleneck. It took us 15 minutes to herd our way out of that 50-f0ot-long human traffic jam.
  • Buy eggs from a vending machine in the organic hall.
  • Or, for the pescatarians, chow down on a fish-based currywurst!

All in all, the Gruene Woche is a fun experience for the whole family and a really interesting way to see a snapshot into other countries you might not have known about before.

Berlin Christmas Markets: ‘Tis the Season!

Berlin Christmas Markets at Potsdamer Platz

Photo by: onnola

Yesterday was the first of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Here in Germany the start of Advent is a big deal. It means the festive season can really start – and the doors of more than 60 Berlin Christmas markets open in earnest. Whether you’re shopping for unique holiday gifts or just want to enjoy a glass of mulled wine, you can find it at one of the dozens of Berlin Christmas markets. As the days get shorter, tourists and locals alike flock to Berlin Christmas markets to enjoy a warming glass of mulled wine and special winter treats: candied nuts, gingerbread, and lots of Wurst! No two Berlin Christmas markets are alike. Read on for some ideas on how to make the most of the Berlin Christmas markets, whether you’re here for a weekend or the whole season.

Berlin Christmas markets are something special.

From arcades and thrill rides to Scandinavian charm to outdoor skating rinks, Berlin Christmas markets are incredibly diverse. And if one of them doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’s bound to be another one within just a few subway stops. The nights are long and many Berlin Christmas markets are open from early afternoon until 10 PM. When the sun sets early, the best cure for darkness-induced blues is the sparkle of Berlin Christmas markets, the sugar rush of sweet treats, and the buzz of the festive atmosphere.

Surviving Berlin Christmas markets – Tips for your wallet and your waistline

The biggest shock for many visitors to Berlin Christmas markets (or Christmas markets anywhere in Germany) is the concept of Pfand. It’s a deposit for the charming mugs they serve mulled wine in – anything from 50 cents to a few euros. It’s not included in the price of the wine, but it’s always written somewhere. If you give your mug back, you get your money back – but for the price of the Pfand, you can also bring the mug home as a keepsake. It makes a lovely gift, too, if you don’t have room for German beer steins in your suitcase! You can scout out the Berlin Christmas markets to find your favorites. Some Berlin Christmas markets have mugs with pictures of nearby landmarks (like the TV tower at Alexanderplatz), or write out the location and sometimes the year (which you can find on the mugs at Gendarmenmarkt).

Like in any market situation, I suggest making your way around the market square first and having a look at all the options. There’s a huge selection of food and drinks at all of the Berlin Christmas markets, and with so many standard Christmas market offerings there are always a few repeats. It’s all too easy to be caught up by the first stalls, then see a tastier-looking option just a few meters away.

Berlin Christmas markets are a hotspot for pickpockets. Keep your valuables close and safe! Stay alert and follow the precautions you’d take in any bustling urban space. Zip your bags and pockets, keep camera straps around your wrist or neck, and so on.

This is wintertime, and the food is rich. You won’t find many healthy options at Berlin Christmas markets. Carnivores can feast on dozens of sausages, while dairy lovers will have their fill of cheese from vendor stalls or raclette to go, smeared on slices of dark bread. The classic meat-free option is a crispy potato pancake slathered with applesauce, but a big bowl of sauteed mushrooms with garlic sauce is also delicious and easy to find at any of the Berlin Christmas markets. Keep your hands warm with a hot drink: apart from mulled wine, the more adventurous can try mulled beer or mulled apple wine with cinnamon. Cookies, waffles, candied almonds and roasted chestnuts are par for the course, and there are always plenty of samples to taste. Load up on your healthy foods during the day, then eat your heart out at the Christmas market!

The best Berlin Christmas markets

So, now you’re ready to experience Berlin Christmas markets for yourself. But with so many to choose from, where do you start? Here are a few special Berlin Christmas markets to get you inspired.

The Lucia market in Prenzlauer Berg’s Kulturbrauerei specializes in Scandinavian and Nordic specialties. Stroll around the candlelit square for a charming atmosphere with Scandinavian music playing and vendors offering Finnish honey, Swedish elk bratwurst, and a dozen variations on mulled wine, glogg, apple cider, mulled beer, or hot chocolate. Of all the Berlin Christmas markets around, it’s particularly intimate and special.

The WeihnachtsZauber market at Gendarmenmarkt is a perfect example of how Berlin Christmas markets should be – offering dozens of vendor stalls, a stage hosting neverending performances, classic Christmas music on the speakers… and with such a perfect atmosphere, it’s packed elbow-to-elbow with other eager visitors. Sandwiched between the French and German Cathedrals and charging a 1-euro entrance fee, the Gendarmenmarkt market also stands out for its upscale offerings: sit-down restaurants, a heated tent of artisan vendors, and costumed performers interacting with the crowd. Be sure to visit the Fassbender & Rausch chocolate shop-cum-cafe nearby to see some of Berlin’s most famous landmarks erected in solid chocolate.

Berlin Christmas Markets at Gendarmenmarkt Weihnachtszauber

Photo by: Gertrud K.

Finally, the be-all and end-all of Berlin Christmas markets – well, it’s a tie between Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz. Alexanderplatz’s market is larger. Along with every sort of vendor you could imagine, it’s home to a carousel, thrill rides and arcade games, an outdoor skating rink, a snow-producing Christmas pyramid, and the huge Alexa shopping mall nearby. Get in a bit of sightseeing by checking out the TV tower while you’re there. Meanwhile the Potsdamer Platz market opens its gates in late November and boasts a massive onsite snow-tubing hill. After a mug of mulled wine, you could catch a movie in English or German at the Cinestar theater nearby.

Berlin Christmas markets at Alexanderplatz

Photo by: Charlott_L

That’s all you need to know to get started in the Berlin Christmas markets. Which are your favorites?

Holi Open Air Berlin

Berlin Holi Open Air

Photo by: James Dennes

Out of the many things to do in Berlin, no one would ever think to find a piece of Indian culture in a German Olympic stadium. But this year, on April 27 and 28, one will find exactly that.  The organizers of Holi Open Air Berlin are bringing the installation of the Indian festival from Friedrichshain to Charlottenburg, to the Reit Stadium in Berlin’s historic Olympic Park. With more space and a more diverse topography (those small hills can come strategic), party goers can relive last year’s crazy celebration.

Holi Open Air Berlin admittedly loses the tradition and religion behind the Indian festival, as it instead transforms it into a colorful party. But for those who can’t experience the real thing,  it is quite a worthy substitute. Premiered last year and surrounded by much hype, Holi Open Air Berlin proved to be a success: tickets were sold out in Berlin, as hundreds of merrymakers headed to Ostbanhof to throw paint bombs in the air, at friend’s faces, themselves – anything goes. Given this reception, it’s not surprising that it’s back, bigger than before, and a tiny bit more expensive. This year, the cheapest pass is 17€ (without fees) and you can find more information about tickets here.

Surely, there are lots of things to do in Berlin, but if you happen to be in the city on April 27 and 28, I highly recommend that you buy a ticket. White clothes are required, so buy a shirt while you’re at it!

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