Author Topic: Need advice: Berlin, Vienna, Prague  (Read 1385 times)

merula

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Need advice: Berlin, Vienna, Prague
« on: April 10, 2018, 06:54:28 AM »
I'm planning a trip to central Europe this summer, and I could use any and all advice on what to see, avoid and eat. Preferably from locals, but fellow traveler perspectives would be good too. I've never been to any of the cities we're seeing: Berlin, Vienna and Prague, and this will be the first trip with both my kids (ages 4 and 6).

Oh, also, what should I remember to wear/not wear in order to not look like a tourist? I have experience doing this in Spain, France and the UK, but are Germany/Austria/Czech Rep different? My go-to travel clothes are plain/unobtrusive t-shirts, sweaters or blazers, non-jean pants and nicer, not-white sneakers.

The last time I was in Germany was the early 2000s, and there seemed to be lot of anti-American sentiment, including people telling me the president was stupid. (Like, dude, I know, I have to live with it.) Has that come back? Or is it more sympathetic?

ncornilsen

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Re: Need advice: Berlin, Vienna, Prague
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2018, 07:53:54 AM »
I'm planning a trip to central Europe this summer, and I could use any and all advice on what to see, avoid and eat. Preferably from locals, but fellow traveler perspectives would be good too. I've never been to any of the cities we're seeing: Berlin, Vienna and Prague, and this will be the first trip with both my kids (ages 4 and 6).

Oh, also, what should I remember to wear/not wear in order to not look like a tourist? I have experience doing this in Spain, France and the UK, but are Germany/Austria/Czech Rep different? My go-to travel clothes are plain/unobtrusive t-shirts, sweaters or blazers, non-jean pants and nicer, not-white sneakers.

The last time I was in Germany was the early 2000s, and there seemed to be lot of anti-American sentiment, including people telling me the president was stupid. (Like, dude, I know, I have to live with it.) Has that come back? Or is it more sympathetic?

I was in Berlin a few months ago. I did not get an overt anti-american vibe.  As for how to dress, can't say. We got picked out of a crowd as a tourist by every bootleged purse salesman or shell-game huckster around. People saw us and defaulted immediately to English. So, i have no good advice on that!

I'd avoid Berlin though, I found Muchen, Rothenburg ob der tauber, and Nurmburg to be far more interesing. I suppose it depends on what you're hoping to see while there.

I recommend trying a half-meter-wurst, and curryworst. Don't try too hard to eat at the hofbrau house in Munich... There's a restaurant kitty-corner to it that was much better.



runbikerun

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Re: Need advice: Berlin, Vienna, Prague
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2018, 09:53:58 AM »
On Vienna - my wife and I were there in August of last year, and there was an outdoor film festival at the city hall. They were showing operas and concert films rather than movies, but if it's your kind of thing it's a very pleasant place to turn up with a few beers.

If your phone is compatible with European networks, buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card in the first country you go to and make sure it has a generous data allowance. Thanks to the EU, you'll be able to use that data allowance across national borders, and TripAdvisor and Google Maps are very useful for finding good spots to eat and drink. Plus you can find your way around the cities quite easily using data!

If you weren't thrilled with the sentiment back in the early 2000s, then now may be even worse. There's a pervasive sense in Europe that the USA has taken leave of its senses, even more so than under GWB. I remember people disliking Bush and objecting strongly to his foreign policy, but the current incumbent is regarded as a circus clown by a substantial majority. This could manifest as anger or as sympathy, depending on who you're talking to.

Telecaster

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Re: Need advice: Berlin, Vienna, Prague
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2018, 11:50:16 AM »
I was in Berlin a few months ago. I did not get an overt anti-american vibe.  As for how to dress, can't say. We got picked out of a crowd as a tourist by every bootleged purse salesman or shell-game huckster around. People saw us and defaulted immediately to English. So, i have no good advice on that!

I'd avoid Berlin though, I found Muchen, Rothenburg ob der tauber, and Nurmburg to be far more interesing. I suppose it depends on what you're hoping to see while there.

I recommend trying a half-meter-wurst, and curryworst. Don't try too hard to eat at the hofbrau house in Munich... There's a restaurant kitty-corner to it that was much better.

Ditto on skipping the Hofbrau Haus.  The kitty-corner restaurant is called "Der Alte Fritz" and it is well-regarded for traditional German food.

That said, I really like Berlin!  It is very much of mix of old and new, which a strong shot of Cold War stirred in.   There are a lot of good mid-priced hotels around Alexanderplazt, in the former East Berlin which is a good central, place to be with lots of tourist activities/things to see in easy walking distance.  All of the museums on Museum Island are excellent.   The DDR Museum (same area)  is also surprisingly interesting.   The Technology Museum (not in the same area) is huge, and will take more than one day to see, so plan accordingly if that's your thing.  You could spend an entire week in Berlin just seeing museums, there are lots more and very good. 

The Raddison Blu has a giant five-story salt-water fish tank in the lobby that your kids might enjoy.   Just walk in like a paying guest and have a seat.   The Park Raddison has top level observation deck (costs a couple Euros) that has spectacular views of Alexanderplaz.   An excellent walking tour (available guided, or you can just do it yourself) is to start at Alexanderplatz and simply walk to Museum Island (you can hit the Raddison Blu on the way) and then down Unter Den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (must see).   There are interesting sights the whole way.   If you like, you can continue onto the Reichtstag, but a reservation is required to go to the top (it is cool, but safely skipable if you don't have time).   Checkpoint Charlie is definitely skipable.  There are several sections of the Berlin Wall still standing, which a must see, IMO.   One of the most famous sections is the East Side Gallery where artists have painted murals on the wall.   Potzdammer Platz is definitely skipable.  It just a modern section of the city that has the same stores as every other big city.  If you want to just wander around the neighborhoods, the Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg still have a lot of the old architecture and lots of interesting shops and restuarants.

It is possible to eat cheaply in Berlin.   One way is get a currywurst from street vendors, a hot dog with curry ketchup, definitely a Berlin thing.   Another is the doner kebab, which is a  Turkish kebab done Berlin-style.  Every place does it slightly differently, but you can't go wrong anywhere and there are tons of doner kebab joints.   When I travel, I try to eat the food of that country as much as possible.   I feel like that's part of the experience of traveling.  That said, it is harder than you might think to find traditional German food, but you can find any other kind of food you want.    A good old-school traditional restaurant is Der Alte Fritz mentioned above, which is right off Alexanderplaz.   Another is Max and Mortiz which is a traditional, yet laid back locals place in the Kreuzberg neighborhood.   And Die Schwarzwaldstuben in the Mitte neighborhood, which is lively, modern take on traditional cuisine sort of place.  Again, more of a locals joint. 

That's just scratching the surface.  Let me know if you have more questions.   I'll do Prague in another post. 


merula

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Re: Need advice: Berlin, Vienna, Prague
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2018, 07:14:23 AM »
Thanks for the tips everyone!

We're not planning to see any other cities (including Munich) this trip. I saw a lot of western and southwestern Germany my last trip, but this trip is more "big city wandering and museums".

My phone is unlocked and GSM, but I have no idea if it'll work in Europe. Is there a way to check before I go? In prior overseas trips, we've been able to use our phones pretty effectively with just random wifi networks and GPS. Is that still feasible?

My children are super stoked to go because sausages are one of their favorite foods, so keep the wurst suggestions coming! :)

cerat0n1a

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Re: Need advice: Berlin, Vienna, Prague
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2018, 08:31:59 AM »
People saw us and defaulted immediately to English. So, i have no good advice on that!

On recent visits, I'd say that the presence of large numbers of students from other parts of Europe means that you'll hear a lot of English anyway. I was quite amused that our German friends were addressed in English when in line to go into the Reichstag. It's not necessarily the case that you were spotted as American.

Telecaster

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Re: Need advice: Berlin, Vienna, Prague
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2018, 11:49:11 AM »
Prague is also one of my favorite cities.    It largely escape damage in WWII, and the Communists didn't build much of anything (in the city center anyway), so Prague really has retained its old world charm with a rich history.   There are few cities better for big city wandering.    I highly recommend doing a guided walking tour.   Almost every building has a fascinating story.  Other than that any guide book can help you prioritize the sights--and there are plenty.   Prague also has some lovely parks and outdoor spaces. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Prague is very much a tourist town.   Whatever you decide to see, go first thing in the morning.   The Charles Bridge and Old Town square (and all of Old Town, really) are magical first thing in the morning when you have them to yourself.  By noon they will crushed with tourists.   Restaurants in the tourist districts are plentiful and good, but expensive.  Restaurant prices drop a lot in the outer neighborhoods. 

Public transport is easy.  There is a good street car system that is easy to navigate and good subway system that is also easy.   I've had good success finding reasonably priced hotels in the Smíchov district.  You can walk to the Old Town or Little Quarter from there, but there are easy connections on public transport, especially the subway.   Taxis are cheap, but always negotiate the price before you get in.  The drivers are often corrupt.  And in general, tourist rip-offs are more common in Prague that most other cities.  Miscounting change, etc.   Also, restaurant receipts will often say something "Tips are not included."  That's true.  Trips are not included, but service is included.  It is common to round up on the bill, but you don't have to tip except for exceptional service.  Other than that, Prague is a wonderful city, you'll have a great time.