FOCUS: 3 life lessons from trip to Berlin

Fanning in Berlin.

By Ben Fanning, contributing columnist  |  I recently returned from a trip to Berlin, Germany, and learned several life lessons you can apply to your next trip.

ONE:  You can do a lot in the freezing rain

We visited Berlin during the off-season to take advantage of the low rates for airfare and hotels.  Also, many of the sites were less crowded than usual.  Of course, this meant we faced freezing rain and wind every day, but we came prepared with heavy jackets and multiple layers.

I had an old band director who repeatedly said, “never wait on rain;” While freezing rain in Berlin might be a deterrent to some, it didn’t slow us down one bit.  We even attended a soccer game at the Olympiastadion in below-freezing temperatures. This is the historic Olympic stadium where Jesse Owens won four gold medals, sending a shock wave to the Third Reich.

TWO:  There’s power in airing your dirty laundry

Berlin has been through a lot. It’s been shelled, invaded, leveled to the ground, split apart, then reunified.  There are some incredible museums that openly share the facts, particularly of some of its most sinister history.  The most powerful was of the country’s darkest moments that were honestly shared so we could all learn from them.

There was a simple quote listed at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin that sums up their entire approach: “It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say”. Primo Levi

We had an incredible experience with these: Private Tour Berlin, Topography of Terror, and Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

THREE:  Add fun by getting off the beaten path

It is tempting to spend most of your time in Berlin in the well-known tourist areas.  But like in most cities, you can increase the fun factors and learning by adding activities in less explored areas of the city.

We had a small tour with a local street artist who took us through Berlin’s thriving street art scene.  We discovered interesting neighborhoods most tourists never visit and gained a deeper appreciation for the historical and unique city.

This applies to food, too.  Although we had plenty of schnitzel, we also had Turkish food every day. Most people don’t know that Berlin has the largest Turkish population of any city outside of Turkey.

Also, I had the best hamburger I’ve ever had at Burgermeister in Berlin.  After reading the stellar TripAdvisor reviews, I had to try it for myself.  As a side note, the hamburger originated in Germany as the “Hamburg Steak”.

BONUS:  You don’t need as much time as you think

I was a little hesitant to make this trip since we were only there three full days.  If you schedule your time and keep moving, you can deal with the jet lag and still experience a very gratifying trip.

What have been your favorite cities to visit and what recommendations to you have?   You can simply tweet them to me here.

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