By Time Out Guides
Ebury Publishing – £7.99
So far as travel guides go, the Time Out Shortlist selection really is among the very best. Compact, up-to-date, informative and free of (quite often) far too much dense jargon, they always give a refreshing insight to whatever city is being conveyed.
The 189 pages contained herein, present Berlin for all it’s alluring, historical attraction, plus a whole lot more besides. The ‘What’s Best’ opening gives a brief over-view of the city, which is immediately followed by Eating & Drinking, Shopping, Arts & Leisure, and finally a ‘What’s On’ Calendar.
The highlight of the latter is Berlin’s Art Forum and Karneval der Kulturen der Welt (Carnival of World Cultures) on page thirty-two, which takes place in May. That half a million non-Germans from more than 180 countries refer to Berlin as home, it’s no surprise to learn that the capital has the highest percentage of immigrants of any other German city. As such, this four-day festival, established in 1996, is a celebration of Berlin’s cultural and ethnic diversity. A turn of events, which when you think about it, is a far cry from what the city was a mere twenty years ago – let alone fifty!
To this end, it’s probably well worth investigating Itineraries, its eleven pages of which include a section on ‘Socialism Safari’ – a real eye-opener, as the local editors clarify: ‘’In the 20 years since German reunification in 1990, much of East Berlin, especially in its central areas, has received a westernising makeover. But four decades of communism, during which most of the city was raised from post-war rubble, has left its mark. Districts such as Lichtenberg and Hohenschonhausen don’t feature much in guidebooks, but it’s here that you get the feeling that the Wall might never have fallen, and you don’t have to travel far out of the city centre to get a taste of what life was like behind the Iron Curtain.’’
Having not long returned from a trip to Berlin, I couldn’t have put it better myself, as immediately east of Alexanderplatz (the focal point of east Berlin) the landscape is literally saturated with hundreds and hundreds of tower blocks: all very square, all very grey, all very Soviet. But as this concise and rather eclectic book makes clear, such infrastructure is continuing to change with remarkable alacrity and precision.
This is somewhat substantiated by the section on ‘Berlin by Area,’ all seven of which (not including Other Districts) are an abundance of colourful what’s on guides and maps, nightlife and hotels. While towards the back, one comes across helpful sections on ‘Getting Around,’ ‘Resources A-Z,’ a brief section Vocabulary and a three-page pull-out map of Central Berlin (on the reverse of which is a map of the Metro).
So in all, Time Out Berlinis a sexy and succinct little travel guide, that’ll start opening doors before you’ve even arrived.