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'The other Berlin': A travel guide with a fresh take

Karola Olbertz
July 9, 2024

Compact, comprehensive, multimedia: This travel guide, published in collaboration with DW, presents Berlin in a new way.

Picture of the Berlin cityscape
Picture of some of Berlin's landmarks at dawnImage: elxeneize/Zoonar/picture alliance

One of the challenges of writing any travel guide is that there's always the risk it will be outdated by the time it's published. Keeping a guide up to date is nearly impossible in a city as dynamic and rapidly changing as Berlin.

But writer Oliver Kiesow and Berlin-based video content creator Kai Steinecke were undaunted. They've struck a balance between traditional sightseeing and insights into a fast-paced urban culture. Their book "Das andere Berlin" — which translates to "The other Berlin" — covers the culturally and historically significant and iconic sites that are staples to any visit to the city, including the usual important attractions like the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the Museum Island.

The Berlin Wall Memorial: Understanding the city's division

Legendary nightlife

But Berlin has also gained a reputation for its nightlife, and the book's authors set that tone right from the first chapter.

The German capital's club scene is especially famous, with names like Berghain, Tresor and Bunker gaining legendary status worldwide.

Buchcover | Das andere Berlin
Image: BJV Verlag

Readers learn that shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, club tourism brought in some €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) to Berlin's hotel and restaurant sector.

But they can also learn where to go to party away from the tourist hordes, where there's live music, which pub crawls are on offer and where the best beer gardens are.

"The whole city is a party location," says DW host Kai Steinecke.

A city in transformation

The scene changes rapidly, but anyone who is introduced in such detail to the "Kieze," as Berliners call their neighborhoods, with their back ways and insider tips, is well equipped to make their own discoveries.

A man with short hair and green jacket on smiles into the camera.
Kai Steinecke offers insider tips on BerlinImage: Moritz Ortjohann

For Steinecke, Berlin is a "city in permanent transformation." Over the centuries, it has been a field of experimentation for architectural visions.

The book describes and illustrates the historical ruptures, the destruction following World War II, the post-war reconstruction of the divided city and the almost 35 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Best of the currywurst stands — with vegan options

This Berlin guide is full of tips and information about the quirky, the bizarre and the sensual.

Several chapters are dedicated to the best addresses for the city's characteristic culinary offerings: currywurst, a pork sausage drowned in ketchup and curry powder; döner kebab, said to have been invented in Berlin, which is meat (usually veal) sliced off a spit and packed with salad into a flatbread sandwich; the original Berlin hearty pork knuckle. Even a blood sausage maker in the Neukölln neighborhood is mentioned, and its address and the nearest subway stop are duly noted.

This is how currywurst was invented

But there are also plenty of listings for those looking for plant-based delights.

After London, Berlin is the second-largest vegan metropolis in the world. The travel guide offers dozens of addresses and short profiles, from street food to fine dining in Michelin-starred kitchens.

The dated criticism that Berlin is a culinary steppe — Prussian, Protestant and barren — has often been refuted in recent decades, and immigrants from almost every nation in the world have contributed to this. A chapter is also dedicated to their place in Berlin's culinary scene.

Berlin's queer history

But "Das andere Berlin" also shows what sets Berlin apart from other cities. Few cities have such a diverse and historical gay, lesbian and queer scene as the German capital. It's linked to the political struggle for equality and freedom that began over 150 years ago. Section 175 of the German Criminal Code was introduced in the former German Reich, making homosexual acts a punishable offense.

One chapter takes you to the sites in Berlin that commemorate persecution, for example, during the Nazi dictatorship.

Queer life around Berlin's Nollendorfplatz

Today, Berlin is not only a party city but also an LGBTQ+ metropolis. The almost 200-page travel guide ends with dozens of tips for going out in that scene.

The good thing is that even those who speak little German will quickly find their way around this travel guide. The photos and the addresses, all with the nearest public transportation options, are easy to spot.

And if you want to access a video of the highlights, you only need to scan the QR code with your smartphone and watch.  

Oliver Kiesow: Das andere Berlin - Life. Style. CityMit Insidertipps zu Kunst und Kultur, Architektur, Hotspots, Food, Nightlife, Queer Life.  Photographed by André Götzmann. 192 pages, 115 photos

This article was originally written in German.