Berlin, Germany's largest city and capital, has a population of 3.4 million. Located in the north-east, it is the centre of the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan area.
First documented in the 13th century, Berlin was successively the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. Post-World War II saw the city divided East Berlin became the capital of East Germany and West Berlin became a Western enclave. They were divided by the Berlin Wall from 1961 to 1989. After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the city regained its status as the capital of all Germany.
Berlin is a major centre of European politics, culture, media and science. It serves as a hub for air and rail transport and is highly successful in a wide range of other industries.
The metropolis is home to world-renowned universities, research institutes, museums, festivals, avant-garde arts, cutting-edge architecture and an active nightlife.
Most visitors want to see what is left of the Berlin Wall. After its fall on November 9, 1989, artists from around the world were invited to celebrate the freedom by painting on the crumbling wall. Most of it represents freedom in various forms.
The Mitte district is Berlin's hot spot. Take a stroll through it at any time, night or day, and there is always something going on.
There are restaurants, cafes, bars, and theatres providing a great range of entertainment. Shopping for designer clothing and shoes is always rewarding.
Oranienburger Strasse does attract a lot of tourist buses, but it has long-established pubs and party locations such as Tacheles, Cafe Silberstein and Obst & Gemuese. Kalkscheune offers cabaret, concerts and standard dance evenings as well as special events.
Cafe Orange is quite beautiful. Its high ceilings have opulent chandeliers and floors and doors are painted ox-blood colour. That is the traditional colour of old wooden floors in Berlin.
Because of its flatness, Mitte is perfect for hopping on a rented bicycle and cruising around to take in the sights. Fat Tire Bike Tours run a variety of tours around Berlin, tailored for English-speaking cyclists. It would take some days to take in what you see on their four-and-a-half-hour hour city tours.
Many choose to do the city tour first and then back up for Third Reich, Nazi Germany, Cold War and Berlin Wall tours.
After a good cycling workout, you may like to try a traditional German dish currywurst. It is made up of sliced pork sausage, seasoned with curry (or a spicy tomato) sauce and served with chips or a bread roll. They are available everywhere.
The Kunsthaus Tacheles, once a department store in the old Jewish quarter, now houses collections of artists. Tacheles is Yiddish for plain, honest and straightforward. Freedom of speech, music and expression of art was once forbidden, and when censorship was lifted, creativity was openly embraced.
It's quite ramshackle, but that seems to suite the objects on display and you can wander around the works while enjoying a cold German beer.
There are ping-pong tables everywhere you look. Public parks, bars and most homes. It's the hot thing to do and many people always have their paddles with them in the hope someone will challenge them for a game.
Dr Pong is a bar which hosts a nightly musical chairs version of table tennis. Tischtennis became popular in Berlin in 1899 and has been around ever since. The ping-pong table is a social meeting point and Dr Pong was started by American Oliver Miller in the late '90s. He'd been used to playing outdoors in his home state of New Mexico, and when he saw how much the Germans loved to hit the tables, but the weather was not always conducive, he opened his indoor set-up and never looked back.
Ostel GDR The Hostel is right amongst the action and has various types of accommodation at very reasonable rates. Choose from the Holiday Camp room, a pre-fabricated apartment or the Stasi Suite. The Hostel has clever and amusing touches pertaining to everyday life in the former German Democratic Republic.
Lux 11 is a 72-room apartment boutique hotel, spread over three seven storey 19th century whitewashed buildings. The ground floor is used mainly for the Aveda salon and spa and the all-white Shiro I Shiro restaurant and Ulf Haines' store trading in minimalist fashion.
Apartments have a kitchen with microwave, refrigerator and dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer and bathroom with tub and shower.
The designers have used sleek shiny white surfaces with the few splashes of colour reserved for bathroom and kitchen accessories. Some rooms have small terraces and some overlook the interior courtyard.