This was our second visit to Warnemunde and once again we chose to take the long (3 hours each way) train ride in to Berlin. We did the Princess tour "Berlin on Your Own" in which you get a train ticket and bus transportation ... Read More
This was our second visit to Warnemunde and once again we chose to take the long (3 hours each way) train ride in to Berlin. We did the Princess tour "Berlin on Your Own" in which you get a train ticket and bus transportation from the train station to the city center. You are dropped off and get about 4 hours to explore on your own before heading back to the bus meeting place for the return trip to the train station and back to the ship.
On our first visit to Berlin in 2001 we had done this same tour and used our time to ride the Hop On/Hop Off bus to explore the city, visit the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, etc. On that tour we had driven by the Reichstag/Bundestag (Germany's Parliment Building) and loved the combination of original old architecture combined with a new modern dome that was added after reunification and moving of the German capital from Bonn back to Berlin. Anyone can walk by the building and view it, but if you want to go up into the dome it takes some advance planning. Don't just show up there and expect to be admitted. You need to have prior reservations, which are free, but it's something you need to do by internet, preferably before leaving home for your cruise. I started the process about a month before our trip by going to www.bundestag.de/htdocs_e/visits/kupp.html I encountered some problems with their web site, such that I'd get all the way through the registration process and they'd tell me they had sent me an email and that I had to click on the link in the email to finish the registration. However, the email never came, nor was it in my spam filters, etc. I tried signing up a second time and the same thing happened. Finally I emailed a human in the Bundestag tour office and enlisted her help in getting us signed up. But I still didn't get the confirmation number until about two days before we were ready to leave on our trip. So start early and have patience. The visit to the dome was worth it. There are 360 degree views of Berlin from up on the roof and you can actually look DOWN on Brandenburg Gate.
When I hadn't received my confirmation from the Bundestag, as a backup plan I also booked a lunch reservation at the rooftop cafe at the Bundestag. If you have a reservation number they will let you bypass the long lines to get into the Bundestag and you go straight up to the roof. I expected it to be a fairly casual cafe but we found that the restaurant Kafer is quite lovely and also quite upscale price wise. We had a very nice lunch, but it set us back about $95 USD for the two of us (including two beers). As it turns out you don't need BOTH a dome visit reservation AND a restaurant reservation. If I had it to do over again, I would have just made the Kafer restaurant reservation and that would have given us the access we wanted to the dome in addition to the rooftop views of the city. Be prepared that if you do either of these items you will need to provide your names and dates of birth to the authorities to get the reservation. Plus when you enter the Bundestag you have to go through passport control AND show them your printed reservation number. It's a bit of a hassle, but then this is their parliment building (like our U.S. Capitol) so security is expected.
It was difficult to guess how long the train and bus ride from Warnemunde to Berlin was going to take, so it was a bit tricky making those advance reservations from home. I chose a noon lunch reservation and a 1:30 dome tour reservation. The restaurant will hold your reservation for 30 minutes but release your table if you are later than that. We were very rushed trying to get to the restaurant on time. I had estimated that we'd get in to Berlin and the bus drop off point by 11:15 a.m. but we didn't get there till noon due to construction and heavy traffic. We had been told it was a 20 minute walk to the Bundestag so we tried to grab a taxi, but he wouldn't take us. He told us it was only 5 minutes away and not worth the fare. So we ended up power walking and it was every bit of a 20 minute walk. We should have tried more taxis until we found one who would take us. At any rate by the time we reached the Bundestag and went through the security lines it was 12:30 and we didn't think our lunch reservation would still be available. However our table was still open, so it all worked out. If you try something similar, give yourself more wiggle room and don't make your lunch reservation until 1 p.m. The email for restaurant reservations is firstname.lastname@example.org
After our visit to the Bundestag, we strolled around Brandenburg Gate (a block away) and had an ice cream. We had planned to walk to Checkpoint Charlie and the remnants of the Berlin Wall, however after our harrowing walk/run to get to the restaurant we were exhausted. We opted to grab a bicycle rickshaw at Brandenburg Gate and he peddled us on a scenic drive through the city and paused to show us some of the sites along the way. We felt this was worth the 6 Euro per person cost. We then took some photos around Checkpoint Charlie and the Wall remnants and walked about 15-20 minutes back to Gendarmenmarkt, which is where the Princess bus picks you up.
Try to get back to the bus pick up spot early enough to allow for a visit to Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatiers Am Gendarmenmarkt. It's an amazing chocolate shop at Chrlottenstrasse 60, just down the block from the Berlin Hilton, where your bus will pick you up. There are also many sidewalk cafes in the area where you can relax and have a coffee or a beer and do some people watching.
Now that we have been to Berlin twice, if we ever do this itinerary again we will probably opt to stay in and around Warnemunde/Rostock and see that area. However, Berlin is a pretty fun town with tons to see, so don't miss it if this is your first visit to the area. Read Less