Hidden Berlin: 10 fun facts about the German capital
Berlin has become a tourist magnet since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Here are 10 facts about the German capital you may not know.
Culture overload at the opera
Berlin is one of the few cities in the world that has a total of three opera houses! Thankfully, there's no phantom — or else he'd be rather busy. The reason for this unique situation is that for decades, Berlin, like the whole of Germany, was divided between East and West. Today, you can hear performances at the Berlin State Opera, the Deutsche Oper or Komische Oper.
An engineer's dream
Getting from A to B in Berlin is easy, as the city has a total of around 2,100 bridges, more than 600 of which cross actual bodies of water. This easily beats the number of bridges in Venice. After all, there are nearly 200 kilometers (125 miles) of rivers and canals that can carry boats, including the River Spree, the River Havel and the Teltow Canal.
Plenty of space to shop
Paris has Galeries Lafayette, Madrid has El Corte Ingles, but Berlin actually boasts the largest department store in continental Europe. Founded in 1907, the Kaufhaus des Westens (Department Store of the West), known locally as KaDeWe, is the size of eight soccer fields and features 64 escalators and 26 elevators. More than 50,000 people come here to shop each day, with 40% of them tourists.
This jelly donut, the Berliner, is a delicacy is known all over Germany. However, in Berlin itself, people call it "Pfannkuchen," which means pancake. Meanwhile, actual pancakes are known in Berlin as egg-cakes (Eierkuchen). Keeping up with the culinary lingo in Berlin can be quite challenging.
The city at your feet
One of best locations in Berlin to enjoy such delicious baked goods and other typically German specialties is actually on top of the Reichstag building! This is the only restaurant in any parliamentary building in the world that is open to the public. However, you do have to register in advance, give personal details and show ID when you enter the building.
Speaking of food, Berlin's large Turkish community has a huge influence on local cuisine. You can find Turkish couscous in most bakeries. Furthermore, with 1,600 outlets, there are more Döner Kebab shops in Berlin than there are in Istanbul! The reason for this is that the Kebab as a fast food item, with its destinctive mixture of sandwich with salad and sauces, was actually invented in Berlin.
No meat, please!
For those who don't eat meat, there are plenty of options in Berlin as well. The city has more than 100 vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants, serving animal-free food and products. Most supermarkets, cafes and ice cream parlors also offer vegan products. There is even a vegan sex shop in Berlin!
Let's talk about sex!
Sex does play a special role in Berlin. For many people, expression of their sexuality is part of the city's overall culture. There's a gay museum (Schwules Museum) as well as a lipstick museum (Lippenstift-Museum) highlighting the more intimate dimensions of the capital.
Let's talk about sex!
Sex does play a special role in Berlin. Even the city's unofficial motto "arm aber sexy" (poor but sexy) reflects this aspect of Berlin's modern identity. For many people, expression of their sexuality is part of the city's overall culture. There's even a gay museum (Schwules Museum) as well as a lipstick museum (Lippenstift-Museum) highlighting the more intimate dimensions of the capital.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
With 300 galleries, Berlin is Europe's largest destination for contemporary art. If you're in the market for some edgy art, Berlin is certainly your safest bet. There are world-class museums, too, most of which are dotted around the Museum Island. Berlin also hosts the world's biggest open-air museum: The East Side Gallery is the single longest strip of the Berlin Wall that is still intact today.
No need for a rain-check
Berlin's climate is far from being tropical, but did you know that there are more museums in the capital city than there are rainy days each year? So don't let rumors about bad weather stand in the way of booking your next trip! Pro travelers will plan their journeys around this fact, seeking the cozy indoors of a major gallery on gray winter days when it just doesn't seem to stop raining.