Berlin Travel Guide
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Last December we did a post about Berlin's Brandenburg Airport, headlined "Berlin's giant new airport will open (maybe possibly hopefully)." In that post we outlined the history of woes that the airport has suffered, going back to the October 2011 date when its doors were originally supposed to open. Then, last July we gave you another update, expressing our hope that "someday, somehow" the airport would debut.
Fast forward to yesterday, when Germany's English-language The Local published details of a report describingand this is not a typomore than 66,000 problems still requiring attention. The story began with the line, "Berlin's new international airport took another step towards never being finished on Tuesday..." and then kind of went downhill from there. Oof.
Sure, we love all the speed and comfort of modern travel, but it didn't that way overnight. Every Thursday, we're going to take a look back at travel the way it used to be, whether that's decades or centuries ago. This is Throwback Thursday, travel edition.
Someday, somehow, Berlin's Brandenburg Airport will open. Until then, the city relies on the current major international airports, Tegel and Schönefeld, which are woefully stretched to capacity. Even before these two however, Berlin made a name for itself in aviation history with Tempelhof.
Tempelhof wasn't always the name of the airport, but of forest and field in a neighborhood of Berlin named Tempelhof-Schöneberg. We recently came across a map of Berlin from 1913, which shows the original layout of the area.
David Hasselhoff not only feels partially responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall, but now feels like he has to save what's left of it, too.
In 1989, the Baywatch star (who is probably better known as the old drunk guy eating a burger to anyone under 25) performed "Looking for Freedom" on top of the Berlin Wall and the song became an instant hit in Germany.
In the midst of the bustle of travel, it's all too easy to overlook the details. We're talking about special touches others have stressed over just so you can enjoy a unique experience, whether you know it or not. Every so often we'll highlight The Little Things like this, so now you will know.
The Little Thing: Air Berlin's flight attendants in red calfskin leather gloves.
Air Berlin has traditionally been recognized as a low-cost carrier, but recent years have proven they're more full service than one would expect. For example, they offer Business Class on their A330s and free snacks and drinks on all flights, plus complimentary hot meals on long-hauls. Also, fun fact: the airline was founded by a former pilot of the famously full-service airline, Pan Am. For now, however, let's take a moment to focus on the very classy touch to their flight attendants uniform: leather driving-style gloves.
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Ach! Was ist denn los?
Not great news this month as Berlin-Brandenburg Airport is rumored to throw out yet another delay on top of the many they've already delivered. As it stands, BER is scheduled to debut in late October 2013, but some news of late may throw that date into the trash pile with the other four opening dates they've previously teased.
The fresh estimate isGott im Himmelsometime in 2014 after fire safety experts recently reported more problems with the facility’s security system. On top of this bad news, already the airport finds itself on the receiving end of legal action from Air Berlin, who claim damages to their business on account of the massive delays. It's beyond a waiting game now; the situation has gotten ugly.
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Berlin has four airports. There's Tempelhofthe Reich-built property that closed in 2008 after 85 yearsnow only used for special events. There's Tegelstill functioning, though way over capacity. There's Schönefeld, also functioning but also over capacity. And finally there's Brandenburg, an extension of Schönefeld which will eventually open to become a mega-airport with the appealing code of BER.
Believe it or not, two out of those four airports are effectively ghost airports, halls empty of travelers and baggage claims dusty, though the dust at Brandenburg is from construction. While Tempelhof has closed the book on its life, Brandenburg is only just writing its own preface, and trying again and again to open for the first time. Let's review the saga of what's become a German national embarrassment:
October 30, 2011. That was the date Berlin was supposed to debut the state-of-the-art airport. Its full name is Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt (BER). Learning that name is about as far as the public got with it, since a delay pushed everything back until...
June 3, 2012. This was it. June 3rd would be the big debut and the four carriers looking to use BER as a hubGermanwings, Germania, Air Berlin and Lufthansahad scheduled their summer around it. It was also the date Berlin's current airport, Tegel (TXL), was supposed to close and shift operations to BER. Then something very un-Germanic occurred: a second massive delay.
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What would your life be like if you hadn't yet traveled to Europe? If you'd spent years reading travel novels and fantasizing over guidebooks, but hadn't made the big leap? This is the case for Andy Miles, who in his late twenties just embarked on a trip to hit most of the cities for the first time. He's walking us through the emotions and observations of a true Newbie Traveler.
I like to think that I'm pretty well versed in Berlin's history, but this first visit to the city still hit me a little harder than I thought it would. If you let it, the Berlin Wall, Holocaust memorials and museums and seemingly unending grey weather can really weigh heavily.
After taking the train in from Prague, I exited Berlin's Hauptbahnhof (main train station), which feels like a multi-level shopping mall, and got right into a cab. This particular cabbie spoke very little English, which I always love (no, but really, I do), so instead of trying to TALK LOUDER at him until we miraculously understood each other (does that ever work?), I just pulled up a map on my phone to show him where I needed to go.
He grabbed my phone, put it so close to his eyes that I thought his cornea may have rubbed against the screen and proceeded to say, “forgot my glasses.” Not exactly what you want to hear a cab driver say before peeling out and taking you to what you hope is your hotel.
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It’s one drama after another for the new Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (aka Willy Brandt/BER). Originally scheduled to open last year, then pushed to June 3rd, the airport’s operating company issued a stunning statement Tuesday that fire-protection problems will now delay the opening until August.
The news has caused an uproar from government officials like Brandenburg’s minister-president, who’s said he’s “really angry”. Now Germany’s largest airlines Air Berlin and Lufthansa are scrambling to redirect flights back to Berlin-Tegel and Schönefeld airports until further notice. This presents huge problem as both are pre-Cold War airports that were scheduled to shut down on June 2nd.
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For a recent trip to Germany, we flew from New York-JFK to Berlin-Tegel on Air Berlin. We were intrigued by the underdog airline from the jump. In the past we’ve seen some good fares from the carrier, and now, with AB joining the oneworld Alliance in March 2012, we were curious to see if it indeed belonged with the Big Boys. But after this experience we’re now wondering, is Air Berlin really still just a budget long-haul airline?
The Company Line: Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline, is trying to compete with Lufthansa for business with its 7.9 million customers. Their official literature states the airline is “clearly” number one in Berlin. We’re still blinking back the shock on that ditty. And wonder if Lufthansa is really worried.
Most Likeable: The Crew. Not to be pervy, but on our flights from JFK to Berlin and back, we were dazzled by the young, handsome male flight attendants’ spiky-shiny hair and buff bods. They’re sexy and maybe they know it? We liked their willingness to OD on official Air Berlin gear, from wings down to the apparently unisex thin red-belt for their sleek trousers. The women were sharp too, rocking black and red complete with vampy lipstick. Nonetheless, we didn’t see anyone pre- or post-flight wearing the chic red leather gloves shown as part of AB’s official flight crew uniform. Dangit.
When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
Look! It's a hot dog, no! It's a coney dog, no! It's a Wienerlino! What the heck is a "wienerlino," you ask? Well, the simplest way to describe this German snack is just to say that it's another form of easy-to-eat meat.
Long, thing hot dog-style sausages are a typical lunch in Germany, either hot and served over a plate of beans or with Knödeln (boiled potato balls), or eaten cold and right out of the package, dipped in mustard or ketchup. Wienerlinos are made of pork, with some added lemon and salt for taste.
The taste: There's definitely a slightly more robust taste to a Wienerlino than there is a to a hot dog; we prefer them cold because they just seem snackier that way. As with other sausages, it's always a brilliant idea to add some German mustard into the mix.
Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart both enjoyed a day off in Berlin on Saturday after a busy week of promoting Twilight: Eclipse throughout Europe.
Taylor chose to spend his afternoon having some fun go-karting, where he left his helmet on long after he was done, trying perhaps to disguise himself from waiting fans? Later, he was spotted sans helmet at the restaurant Zillemarkt which serves traditional Berlin-style dishes like Zwei Bratwürste, two fried sausages with sauerkraut, boiled potatoes and ham sauce. After dinner, Taylor stopped outside the restaurant to pose with waiting fans.
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MMmm...new airport. Do you know that Berlin has three airports? You're most likely to fly into Tegel, or Schoenefeld if you're on a low-cost European airline, and their modernist Tempelhof one is now just an event space. But come October 2011, a fourth airport will be added into the mix: Berlin-Brandenburg International (BER).
BER is currently under construction, but helping it to move along quickly is the fact that it'll use some of Schoenefeld's infrastructure (it's basically a new airport next to Schoenefeld). Additionally, Tegel Airport wants to close by 2012. Although BER will serve as the main airport in Berlin from its opening, it will only end up with two runways at its completion (one of the runways will be an existing one of Schoenefeld's). It'll only have ten boarding gates, but at least one will be equipped to handle the hot new airplane in town: the Airbus A380. BER seeks to battle it out with Munich airport for the title of Germany's second-best airport, after the behemoth that is Frankfurt am Main International.
A video, after the jump