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Berlin (Eyewitness Travel Guides) Flexibound – March 20, 2006
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You just cannot rely on the listed opening hours to build your itineraries, so if you have a place you *must* visit, double-check its hours on the web (example: nowadays Potsdam palaces are open from 10am-6pm April to October, and 10am-5pm Nov to March). However I never felt being "confused" or "misled" by directions and descriptions of where everything was. Except you HAVE to get an up-to-date map of the train system (or check the ones at ticket machines, as other people mentioned).
Finally, (even though I'm being redundant) do not attempt the suggested itineraries on p10-11! The "culture" looks especially frustrating because it has you wandering back and forth three times between Unter Der Linden and Checkpoint Charlie Area for no good reason... Just sit down with a map, and in 5 minutes you'll have a better plan.
The maps in the back were useful for getting around, though I have to mention that not all the restaurants recommended are given references on the maps included, which was a little bit of a hassle sometimes. The useful phrases in the back were also useful, particularly in decoding menus --- there's a special menu decoder to make the restaurant experience easier.
And my favorite perk from the book - the subway map in the very back. I didn't even know it was there until after a week in Berlin, and since I carried this book everywhere, it became a convenient treasure...very easily accessible, and completely indispensable.
MAPS: one of the most likely places you'll end up is the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) - there's even an special detail map for that area (map pages 15 & 16) - but crucial street names are missing. You can find the street signs but not where you are on the map! So, now you're lost, even with a map.
INCONSISTENT INFORMATION: Is KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens) the second biggest department store (page 11) or the largest one in Europe (p. 155)? And, out of curiosity, if the second, which one is first? The Oren Restaurant is mentioned on page 102 with a reference to page 238, where it does not appear. It should have been removed in both places, since it has been out of business for a few years. The Kadima Restaurant now occupies that space. Oren was vegetarian and kosher; Kadima is neither. The Borchardt Restaurant (page 236) is misspelled as Borchadt. On page 78 the Akademie der Künste has a reference to page 67 that should be to page 133. There must be many more such slips.
So, if you're relying on this book to guide you around Berlin, be prepared for some frustration.
First up, the good things. The background, history and descriptions of all the buildings are typical DK - first class, and better than every other guide out there. You can get the background story to the city and its art and architecture before you arrive.
I took the 2008 edition away with me to Berlin in April 2008. You'd expect up-to-date information, wouldn't you? I agree that some things do change; opening times change, museum regulations change etc. BUT - so many things change in a single city, in such a short time since this updated version was written?
I ended up missing so many things due to this book's wrong opening times to so many museums. Here are just a few things that happened -
- It states that all museums are closed on Mondays, and I arrived on a Monday at 9:30am. So I took my time spending the day wandering around the city. At 4pm I had a look at the Pergamon Museum, and saw its open on Mondays. I found that there are many museums open on Mondays. I could have spent a large chunk of my first day in one of the museums.
- I missed the Picture Gallery at Sanssouci because this guide stated the wrong closing time, even though I had paid for entrance to it.
- I lost a lot of time, in the first 2 days there, getting lost on Berlin's train system because the plan at the back of the book is wrong in so many places. Lines aren't shown, wrong line numbers are shown, several lines now go further than shown in the guide. Use the maps on the ticket machines.
- I wasted 2 hours traveling to a combined bookshop/art gallery that is a massive department store at the stated address. After this, I stopped relying on the practical information giving about anything.
- I nearly missed the magnificent Gemaldegallerie (Picture Gallery) in former West Berlin because the guide stated that photography isn't allowed inside. (One of my criteria for visiting a museum is to take photos.) I went there to visit the gallery's bookshop, and discovered that photography IS allowed, just without flash - and I should hope so! Luckily I went to the gallery's shop first things in the morning.
As another reviewer has already said, the 'Four Great Days In Berlin' suggested intinaries on page 10 and 11 would be impossible to do. The writer of this small section obviously has never done their own itinary. How can anyone take a 1 hour train journey to Wannsee, then walk for an hour in the forest to an art gallery, then walk further on to a lake, then take a boat trip on the lake to an island, then walk around the island, then get back to the train station to take the train to Potsdam, to 'enjoy the lovely Park Sanssouci ...' All this in the morning before lunch! (I spent an entire day at Park Sanssouci.) If anyone follows their itinaries, they wouldn't see anything at all - their trip to Berlin would be a huge blur in their mind.
Clearly DK have just reprinted the first edition of this guide, dating from 2000, and are passing it off as a newly revised edition for 2008. There is no way that entire buildings can be changed and train lines extended in the space of a few months since this newly revised guide was 'revised'. (Not even the efficent Germans could manage that feat). I have no idea what errors are in the restaurant and hotel areas of this guide as I didn't use them.
I have always used DK Guides whenever I travel, and will continue to do so. They are the market-leaders in travel guides. But my experiences with this one will make me very cautious in future. I'll be double checking the practical information given in all their guides in future.
* Just treat this guide as a book written in 2000 - don't trust any opening times or other practical information.