First let me say that I am not a Berliner. I only attended the 2005 Turnfest in Berlin and stayed there a few days in 2002 with the Turners. My main source for this article is Google Earth which is very good if you know enough about where to look. So, I will gladly accept any updates, suggestions or information from people with more Berlin experience than I have.
I am not a shill for the BVG, but the city rail system is a great way to get from place to place in Berlin.
BVG ( Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe ) is in charge of the rail system in the Berlin area. They divide the area into 3 zones, A, B & C. A is the center of Berlin where almost all of our Turnfest travels will be. B is a ring around the A zone and includes places like Tegel Airport. C is even further outside of B and includes places like Potsdam. Visit their website in the USA, it is in English, and there is lots of information plus the ability to purchase a 7 day AB zone pass for € 30.00. The 7 day pass for ABC is € 37.20. It is good on any S-Bahn or U-Bahn trains in Berlin. You must validate the pass before you travel with it, but that can be done at any train station.
In the past, Turner group leaders obtained these passes for us and handed them out at the hotel. Keep this pass with you at all times in Berlin regardless of how you obtain it. I understand the penalty for traveling on a subway or train without that pass is significant. In 2005 it was 40 Euros and from personal experience I can tell you that they do check.
Signs on station platforms will display what the next train is and how long you are going to wait for it. Signs inside the cars will display the next stop and maybe several more. If you are traveling alone, make sure you know the end of the line station for the way you want to go. A downloadable map of the system is available at the BVG website. So is information about any train station, timetables and local maps. They will even plan a route for you which includes train, bus, tram and footpath distances. Really nice stuff and here in the USA it's in English.
If you are an active Turner, by all means you should attend as many Turner sites and activities as you can. They really are something you should not miss. I assume that the Turners will take care of things involving Turner events and will mostly travel in groups to get there and back. Make sure you attend group meetings at the hotel and are on time for the events. If the Berlin Turners use the same venues for the Turnfest as they did in 2005, all are easily reached by the U1 or U-2 subway system and there is a station a little more than a half mile walk at the south end of Ernst Reuter Platz. There is also the S Tiergarten station directly across the street from the hotel for the S-5, S-7 and S-75. You can transfer to those U lines one station south at Zoologischer Garten.
The TV tower at Alexanderplatz which is visible from almost anywhere in Berlin, is a place where you can get a spectacular 360º view of the city. I'm not sure there is a restaurant in the tower, but there are restaurants nearby at ground level. The tower is open in the evening according to some photos. Better check with the folks at the hotel about this before you go. The S-5, S-7 and S-75 all stop there. In 2005 Alexanderplatz was the site of the Jedermann event. An event for everyone featuring about 10 tests of skill none of which are difficult and all are a lot of fun. Upon completion they award you a special pin to remember it by. There is usually a small fee of about € 5 involved.
Northbound from our S-Bahn station is the main train station, Hauptbahnhof, a short walk south to the river Spree and west is the governmental section of Berlin. Sites there include the Reichstag with its large glass dome open to visitors. Some of the buildings nearby are quite striking. Remember to take your camera or smart-phone. Here also are docks for excursion riverboats. A one hour boat tour is about $13 and a four hour tour is about $22. Refreshments are available on the boat as you will find when you sign up online before you leave the USA. Moving further west you can visit Museum Island. The attraction here is the Pergamom Museum, home to some world famous galleries including the spectacular Ishtar Gate and a huge Grecian Altar. There are more museums for items of antiquity also nearby. And that is just the tip of the island. If you just want to visit the Museum Island, stay on the S-Bahn one stop passed the Hauptbahnhof to the Friedrichstrasse station and continue west on the footpath near the S-Bahn tracks.
Of special interest to me is a technical museum south of Potsdamer Platz where a full size Raisin Bomber is suspended over the main building. I don't know what besides aircraft is in that main building, Google Earth photos are few. They do have some old railroad equipment with 2 roundhouses and turntables in the yard. Though not as extensive as the Deutsches Museum in Munich, there still should be a lot of interesting things there. The area very near here is the site of one of the earliest subway/elevated train crashes with fatalities. The museum is about ¼ mile west from the Gleisdreieck station on the U-1 or U-2 line. Potsdamer Platz station is 2 stops north on the U-2 line. There were Turner events at the Potsdamer Platz station entrance in 2005 and Turner group dancing competition inside the unique round Sony Building nearby.
Tiergarten Main Street
The hotel faces Strasse des 17 Juni which runs west into the Tiergarten. The road in the park is flanked by walking paths. It passes the Winged Victory column and ends at the Brandenburg Gate about 1¾ miles from the hotel. If you go through the Brandenburg Gate the road turns into the noted Unter den Linden all the way to Alexanderplatz and further. In 2005, the Opening Day Parade was held between the Winged Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate. It was not at all very long compared with other Turnfest Parades.
If you need anything from a supermarket, a REWE is not too far away. From the hotel, go under the elevated S-Bahn tracks and into the Tiergarten. Turn left on Klopstockstrasse and pass the Giraffe restaurant and 3/8 mile further passed Altonaer Strasse the road changes to Bartning Allee. There is a REWE supermarket among several smaller stores on the left. Just a quarter mile further along is the Bellevue S-Bahn station where you can get an S-Bahn directly back to the hotel. Don't forget to bring your own shopping bag, Berlin is a modern city. If it is raining or you are just too tired to walk, take the U-9 one stop north to Hansaplatz and look around there are shops here along with the REWE. The U-9 is available from the Zoologischer Garten Station. It's longer with a transfer involved, but with much less walking involved.
From the hotel, the Zoologischer Garten Station is one S-Bahn stop south. There is an entrance gate to the Zoo nearby. An Adult day ticket will cost € 14.50 for the Zoo only and € 20.00 for the Zoo + Aquarium. You can purchase the ticket online. Group tickets are available, but they really don't save you much. The Zoo website has some goodies for those with smart-phones or tablets. E-tickets, maps and other apps to add to your enjoyment.
Exit the Zoologischer Garten Station to the west and a short walk south and then west is where you find the famous KaDeWe department store with all those gourmet foods on the top floor. Expensive? You bet. They employ something like 200 chefs. There are many other places to eat in this area and not all of them are strictly German. The U-1 or U-2 will get you even closer to the KaDeWe at the Wittenbergplatz station one stop to the west. KaDeWe is short for Kaufhaus des Westerns and it is just across the street southwest of the U-Bahn station.
Kurfurstendam and Story of Berlin Museum
About 2 blocks south of that Zoologischer Garten S-Bahn station is Kurfurstendam, a tree lined street, similar to Unter den Linden. It features restaurants, cafes, coffee-houses and many upscale shops and hotels. Four blocks west on the south side is a museum called the Story of Berlin. It can be recognized by part of a B-17 wing on the sidewalk outside. Adults admission is € 12, € 9 for seniors. It has a first rate website and even an app you can download for your tablet or phone. After I downloaded and installed the app, it got as far as an activation code. I didn't find a mention of that code or how to get it in their website. They may fix that or you may have better luck, it's worth a try. The museum is very popular and requires a reservation date and time for groups. Single visitors need no reservation. The museum features a genuine atomic bomb shelter among many other exhibits of Berlin's 800 year history. German and English are used primarily in the exhibits which are mainly pictures and photos. Allergic to walking? From the Zoologischer Garten S-Bahn station the U-1 line to Uhlandstrasse gets you within a half block of the museum. Keep left walking west on Kurfurstendam. A reviewer says that the entrance is to a mall, so keep a sharp eye out for signs inside.
Very close to the Zoologischer Garten S-Bahn station is a place where you can take a walking tour of the area. Here is what Booking.com's Discover Berlin website has to say about it:
In front of McDonalds, opposite main entrance to S+U Zoologischer Garten Train Station. Hardenbergplatz 2-4, 10623 Berlin.
Open Monday-Sunday 1:30 pm – 5:30 pm. Changes seasonally. Check website for details.
Jewish Museum and Checkpoint Charlie
In 2005 our group visited the Jewish Museum. It was not always pleasant but definitely highly educational and unforgettable. This is not to be confused with the open air memorial near Potsdamer Platz which is also unforgettable. There have been a few additions to the museum since our visit and it may be worth another visit in June. The nearest U-Bahn station is U Hallesches Tor just 2 stops beyond U Gleisdreieck station where the Tech Museum is located. There is a 0.6 mile walk to the museum. Continue east on Gitchiner Strasse and turn left (north) at Lindenstrasse. The museum is 3 blocks away on the right. If you have any energy left to walk another half mile, Checkpoint Charlie and its museum is in the area to the north. Cross Lindenstrasse and continue north to and then on Margrafenstrasse. Turn left (west) on Rudi Dutschke Strasse for 2 blocks. Checkpoint Charlie is here. The U-6 will take you back to the U Hallesches Tor where you transfer to the U-1. If you can still do a 0.7 mile walk from Checkpoint Charlie to the U-1, Friedrichstrasse going south is above ground and pleasant.
If you are familiar with Google Earth and their method for street viewing, you will be happy to learn that Berlin is one of the cities in Germany that have this feature. Drag that little man from his perch in the upper right hand corner of the screen to the spot you want to view. If blue lines appear on the streets, just set that little man right there and wait a few moments. You can see 360 degrees around you and then you can move along the white line to the next view. Not every street in Berlin has this feature yet, but enough of them do. The maps at Discover Berlin at Booking.com also have the 360 degree view. A slightly different way of getting around, but easily accomplished.
While in Google Earth, clicking on the knife and fork icon can often bring up a website for the cafe or restaurant and that website can contain their menu. Great for checking opening times, menu items and prices. You can even make reservations on some sites.
If you have not yet learned how to use the GPS service on a phone or tablet, learn ASAP or go with someone who has one and knows how to use it. I use a tablet with GPS installed and an app called Here which has a map that can be viewed offline. You need to download a map for your area. There are maps for each state in Germany and they are free of charge, as is the app itself. You may be able to upload more information about nearby facilities, like restaurants and gas stations at the hotel in Berlin. These GPS things are very handy and can save you lots of steps when you think you are lost.
I expect you will be receiving information from the Turners about when and where their events are. I have covered most of the things I might like to see. If you know about anything else, write it up and send it here. If you can update or correct anything here, please let me know. There is a lot to see and do even if you stay with the Turnfest activities. There are all sorts of Turner activities all throughout Berlin that you might like to see and take part in.
Airfares are Reasonable Right Now
It is worth repeating: Airfares are quite reasonable right now. I was able to book a flight with Singapore Airlines from JFK (New York)to FRA (Frankfurt) for about $ 630 in Mid-September. This was for the huge Airbus 380. I flew the same flight earlier this year and it was about $ 200 more. Some Turners who booked that flight a few days after I did made out even better. Now if they would only have a reasonable time for the return flight home so I could have breakfast in the Mainz hotel, it would be perfect.
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Last Update 4/15/2019
Photos from the Berlin Turnfest are under the Events tab.
Steuben Day 2016 photos also under Events tab.
There are new sections of the Mannheim Turnfest under the Events tab.