What the cherry blossom season in Berlin has to do with the Cold War, how Japan was involved in planting the trees, and where to find the best spots for the pink sea of blossoms – all of this I will tell you in the following blog post.
Every year between mid of April and the begging of May, Berlin blazes in a pink sea of cherry blossoms. The time mostly depends on the weather and how early in the year it is getting warm. In general, the trees bloom between two and three weeks.
💡 Information about cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms (also Japanese cherry) or in Japanese called “sakura” (桜 ) is the white or pink flower of the ornamental cherry tree and of particular importance in Japan. The blossom of the tree is considered to be the national flower of the country. In Japan, it describes the attributes of beauty, departure, and caducity. In Japanese, it is combined in the non-translatable word “mono no aware” (物の哀れ) that describes the bittersweetness of a fading moment of transcendent beauty. The cherry blossom season in Japan markers the peak of the Japanese calendar and the beginning of spring. The Japanese cherry is only used as an ornamental tree in contrast to cherry trees that are planted for the actual fruit.
A present from Japan
Germany received the cherry blossom trees in 1990 as a gift from Japan. East and West Germany celebrated their reunification on the 3rd of October. Therefore, the Japanese TV broadcast TV Asahi started fundraising for the planting of some cherry blossom trees. They received enough money for more than 9,000 trees, most of them were brought to Berlin.
Exchange of spies during the Cold War
The first trees were planted at the Glienicker Bridge in November 1990. The bridge links Potsdam (former East Germany) with (West) Berlin and was especially important during the Cold War since the USA and the Soviet Union used it to exchange their spies. Until today, the bridge is painted in two different shades of green and markers the borderline (nowadays it is just the borderline between two different federal states). The GDR (German Democratic Republic, East Germany), as well as the FDR (Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany), painted both around half of the bridge. The part of West Berlin is in a darker green shade. Not only because East Germany chose a slightly lighter green but also because West Germany started painting the bridge a few years earlier and therefore, the weather conditions stained the bridge.
More than 1,000 trees seaming the TV-Asahi-Kirschblütenallee (cherry blossom alley) on the wall trail (Mauerweg) between former West-Berlin and the GDR (German Democratic Republic, East Germany). The alley is more than 100 metres (109 yards) long. Usually, there is also the Hanami Festival. Hanami (花見) is Japanese and means literally translated “flower viewing”. It describes the Japanese tradition of visiting the first cherry blossoms in spring and enjoying their beauty. In Berlin, the festival offers a picnic, Japanese food, and a cultural programme.
❗️ Cherry blossom ticker
The city of Teltow in Brandenburg has its own cherry blossom ticker (Kirschblütenticker) to check if the blossoms are already blooming at the TV-Asahi-Kirschblütenalle, the longest cherry blossom alley of Berlin. The ticker is in form of a photo gallery with a current photo of the bud of a flower, renewed every second day during the season. You can check out the ticker here (the homepage is in German).
The cherry blossom trees are mainly planted along the wall trail (the former location of the Berlin Wall) and also marker some Historian places in Berlin. A lot of trees are under the bridge “Bösebrücke” which was the first open borderline between East and West Berlin on the 9th of November 1989, the day of the fall of the wall.
🚌 Where to find cherry blossom trees
📍 TV-Asahi-Kirschblütenallee (Borderline between Berlin-Lichterfelde and Teltow): Take the S25 or S26 to the S-Bahn station Lichterfelde-Süd, from there you follow the Holtheimer Weg. After around 550 metres (601 yards) you should reach the cherry blossom trees.
📍 Under the bridge “Bösebrücke” at Bornholmer Straße (Prenzlauer Berg/Gesundbrunnen): The Mauerweg with its cherry blossom trees runs directly under the bridge of the S-Bahn station Bornholmer Straße (S1, S2, S25, S26, S8, S85).
📍 Volkspark am Weinberg or also called Weinbergpark (Mitte): You can reach the Weinbergpark in around 5 minutes by foot from the U-Bahn station Rosenthaler Platz (U8).
📍 Zionskirchstraße (Mitte): The Zionskirchstraße is just another 5 minutes walk from the Weinbergpark. If you follow the street in the direction of the same-named church you will find an alley of cherry blossom in the middle of the city.
📍 Schwedter Straße at Mauerpark (Prenzlauer Berg): The Schwedter Straße on the Mauerpark lays between the U-Bahn station Bernauer Straße (U8) and Eberswalder Straße (U2).
📍 Strausberger Platz (Friedrichshain): The cherry blossom trees are directly at the U-Bahn station Strausberger Platz (U5).
📍 Gärten der Welt (Marzahn): Gärten der Welt (literally translated Gardens of the World) offer 22 different garden installations. The park costs an entrance fee and is best reachable with the U5 to the U-Bahn station Kienberg – Gärten der Welt. Click here to visit the official page and to get more information.
There are a few more spots in and around Berlin, especially at the Mauerweg (Wall Trial) where you can find more cherry blossom trees. These are the more famous spots. The public transport of Berlin is called BVG, click here to find more train connections.
First written on Wednesday, May 12th, 2021, you have read the blog post Berlin’s best spots for the Cherry Blossom-season on My Travel Journal-Blog.
Art is on the street – at least in Berlin. Nowadays, Berlin is one of the hotspots for Urban Art in Europe and is used by people from all over the world as a canvas.
The graffiti scene started in the underground of New York in the 70ties and came within a few months from America in the capitals of Europe. In West-Berlin, street art was mostly used by groups which were excluded from the society back then. But already at the end of the 70ties, the interest in urban art increased. Artists explored new techniques and styles. They used the street to leave their messages – very often political motivated – and took part in recreating their city. Especially the Berlin Wall was used as a screen. Urban art also established in East-Berlin however the artists were more limited here since their art had to conform with the Socialistic Realism of the GDR (German Democratic Republic).
Urban Art is the main term which combines street art, graffiti and general art in a public space.
Urban Nation Museum
The Urban Nation Museum (Bülowstraße 7) for urban contemporary art was founded in September 2017 in Berlin-Schönefeld (free admission). Not only the exhibitions but also the housing facades are changing approximately once a year. The museum enables a deeper look into urban art, its history, artists, and techniques. The Urban Nation initiative supports the exchange with the neighbourhood of Berlin – not only in its own museum walls but also with the project One Wall. The idea is to bring five artists to Berlin every year to repaint old house walls and create a colourful Berlin – a lot of the following murals were also painted by this project.
No wonder that the Bülowstraße around the U-Bahn stations Nollendorfplatz and Bülowstraße is full of urban art because this is where the Urban Nation initiative has its offices. The building right on the opposite side of the museum (Bülowstraße 101, corner Bülowstraße/Zietenstraße) was designed by the Berlin-based Ecuadorian artist Roberto Rivadeneira in October 2020. As part of the One Wall Project, he created a metaphor for colliding time periods and named it Because the moment simply is. But also the buildings next to it are covered with street art in different sizes and forms (Bülowstraße 94-98).
Next to the museum, on the same street side (Bülowstraße 11, 12) the works of the two Spanish artists Deih XLF (first photo below, left) and David de la Mano (first photo below, right) decorate the houses. The latter was painted afresh over another work of David de la Mano which was damaged through work on the houses. The artist prefers to draw silhouettes, trees and other monochromatic symbolisms. This also confirms itself in the new artwork. It is named Gray Habit and shows a black and white silhouette of a woman. Altogether eight murals are at the facades of the houses (Bülowstraße 32) next to the U-Bahn station Bülowstraße. The paintings are from different artists as D*Face, and Word to Mother from England, the US-American collective Cyrcle, as well as Shepard Fairey, and the group Berlin Kidz. The newest is an additional painting of a naked woman with a red glove and a paper bag over her head from 2019. Portraying persons with the just mentioned paper bags in a critical context is a trademark of the German artist Christian Böhmer. His mural Speak Up. Stand Up. draws attention to the violence against prostitutes on the street of Bülowstraße.
Concealed in the backyard of the Haus Schwarzenberg (Rosenthaler Straße 39, next to the Hackesche Höfe) does a dream come true for urban art lovers. Here are all kind of colourful murals, paintings, graffiti, collages, and stickers. A closer look is recommended because there are so many messages, drawings and little details hidden. Some of the paintings are changing with time. Besides the art, there are a studio, a cinema, two bars, the museum of Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind, and a permanent exhibition about Anne Frank.
U-Bahn station Heinrich-Heine-Straße
Next to the subway exit of Heinrich-Heine-Straße is the entrance to the rock club Sage. The door itself is hidden through paintings. Sage shares its rooms with the KitKatClub, Berlin’s most famous fetish club. Right on the opposite of the entrance of KitKatClub is the mural Unter der Hand (freely translated: secretly) by the German artist CASE.
Just around 700 m further in the direction of U-Bahn station Moritzplatz (Heinrich-Heine-Straße 36) is another mural calledFace Time by the artists Various & Gould right in front of a parking slot. The painting is a combination of the techniques of serigraphy and collages.
U-Bahn station Birkenstraße
The boy with the injured elephant is from the German street art duo Herakut and the two Swiss artists Wes21 and Onur. The mural carries the message As long as you are standing, give a hand to those who have fallen – and was created through the first edition of the Berlin Mural Festival. It is located next to the subway station Birkenstraße (Stromstraße 36).
RAW-Friedrichshain and East Side Gallery
A must-see on every sightseeing tour through Berlin is the East Side Gallery (Mühlenstraße 3-100) between the S-Bahn station of Warschauer Straße and Ostbahnhof. The historical monument is the longest (well) preserved segment of the Berlin Wall. In spring 1990, after the fall of the wall, 118 artists from 21 countries painted and decorated the east side of the wall. Most pieces show the Political changes around 1989 and 1990.
The RAW-Friedrichshain – or RAW-Gelände (Revaler Straße 99, next to the S-Bahn station Warschauer Straße) – is one of the most popular places for night owls in Berlin. Besides plenty of smaller clubs and bars around the corner, it is also a perfect spot for street art lovers. The walls exhibit all kind of art pieces. The RAW-Friedrichshain are former rail train halls which are used for an alternative culture project nowadays. It is also the home of the Urban Spree, a small art gallery with changing exhibitions (free admission) but also a location for concerts and festivals.
Holzmarkt25 (Holzmarktstraße 25, close to the S-Bahn station Ostbahnhof) creates its own village somewhere between the districts Mitte, Friedrichshain, and Kreuzberg. Besides a music school, a kindergarten, and different creative-working companies, it has its own bars, restaurants, and saloon for events. But more importantly, it offers nice spots to chill at the Spree, get a beer from the very own brewery – with the club Kater Blau next to it. The houses and walls of the alternative quarter are full of paintings and art.
Volkspark Friedrichshain (park)
Attack of the 50 Foot Socialite (Am Friedrichshain 33, diagonally across from the Fairy Tale Fountain of the park) is a mural by the US-artist Tristan Eaton. It is influenced by the iconic film poster of the US-movie of the same title from 1958. The painting was also part of the One Wall Project.
U-Bahn station Gleisdreieck
Aufstand der Farben(freely translated: Riot of the colours) was a project of Interbrigades e.V. in July 2009. The mural (Luckenwalder Straße 11) covers 600 square metres. It was created by the Latinamerican street artists Shamaniko, Hechiza, Somos and UKI as well as four Berlin artists. It took four months to finish the painting.
U-Bahn station Hallesches Tor and Tommy-Weisbecker-Haus
Next to the exit of the U-Bahn station Hallesches Tor (Mehringplatz 28/29) are the murals Make Art Not Warby the US-American Shephard Fairey and Hoodie Birds by the Danish-artist Don John. Both paintings are part of the One Wall Project in 2014. Just a few steps further are two other murals (corner Franz-Kühls-Straße/Friedrichstraße) by Aryz (third photo) and the Spanish street art duo PichiAvo (second row, first photo) which were created during the Urban Art Week in 2019. A lot more paintings are hidden around the corner: There is a housing complex (Wilhelmstraße 2-6) covered in portraits of people with different ethnic backgrounds.
My favourite mural shows an elephant with a balloon in form of the earth by the Berliner artist Jadore Tong. It is on the backside of the Tommy-Weisbecker-Haus (Wilhelmstraße 7) in the background of a basketball court and right in front of the Theodor-Wolff-Park.The house is a self-governing residential collective named after the left-wing extremist Thomas Weisbecker. But also a view around the house is worthwhile since all four walls are covered with art.
U-Bahn station Kottbusser Tor
The Astronaut/Cosmonaut(Oranienstraße 195) is part of the project Backjumps – The Live Issue von 2007. The mural was created with help of stencils by the Portuguese artist Victor Ash. The motif was inspired by the Cold War when the USA and the Soviet Union not only started their arms race but also tried to outplay themselves on space technology. The divided city Berlin was part of this conflict between East and West. This is why Ash wanted to place his painting close to the former borderline. The lettering around is not part of the original but was added later by other influencers. The mural is close to the U-Bahn station Kottbusser Tor. On the way, you can also find the older lady with the pelican and coffee in her hand (Skalitzer Straße 134) – This mural is right next to a coffee shop.
The street Schwedter Straße in the district Prenzlauer Berg was repeatedly one of the locations for the One Wall Project. In 2017 the Spanish street artist Deih XLF started with his science-fiction mural (Schwedter Straße 34) where he reflects his introspective of emotions and draws his inner life. One year later the Berlin artist trio Innerfields created another house facade (Schwedter Straße 30) – a cynical observation on digitization and social development. The newest painting links the well-known cartoon character Snoopy with realistic optical illusions (Schwedter Straße 29). The English artist Fanakapan combines two- with three dimensions – a closer look reveals the artist with his smartphone taking a photo as a reflection in the 3D balloon. A little further is the international filling station FIT (Schwedter Straße 261). Not only the petrol station is sprayed but also its walls around. In the pretty side road with buntings is a book store with paintings of a child riding a giraffe and an elephant (Choriner Straße 49).
The street Neheimer Straße in Tegel is the home of four skyscrapers with eight murals on both sides of the houses. They were painted in different years during the One Wall Project. Some of them are already overpainted by new urban artists – these eight murals are the current ones. The first one Summer of Peace(Bernauer Straße 133/Neheimer Straße 2) was created in 2015 by the Australian FINTAN MAGEE and is inspired by the children’s book A Child’s Garden by Michael Foreman. Around one month later the US-American twin brothers How and Nosm realised their painting On Tiptoes(Neheimer Straße 6) at the Artpark in Tegel. One year after, in 2016 followed the mural The Starling (Neheimer Straße 6) by the Dutch duo Collin van der Sluijs and Super A. The paintings of the two artists seem often dreamy and surreal. Their chosen motif symbolizes the strength of a collective. Another mural created in 2016 is Lads are back(Neheimer Straße 8) by the English duo The London Police who use bold colours and simply iconic characters to create positive art. Playing Cards (Neheimer Straße 2) painted by the Italien Pixel Pancho followed a few months later. Typical for the artist is his work with earthy colours and robot-like figures.
In 2019 the female Swiss duo Queenkong worked in collaboration with the Polish artist Tankpetrol. Their mural 2268miles & Lunchadora Pachamama(Neheimer Straße 4) combines the work Pilot Girl (on the left side) by Tankpetrol with the naturalistic style of the Swiss duo. The latter points out the importance of the mindfulness for nature. The newest two projects of the Open Wall at Artpark Tegel followed in 2020. The Berlin painter, illustrator, musician and concept artist Jim Avignon created his mural(Neheimer Straße 8) about an adventure in a balloon and the future between uncertainty and departure. The latest mural from BustArt plays with the style of graffiti-pop and comic. Departure (Neheimer Straße 4) is the name of his painting and is a reference to the former airport in Tegel.
This painting was more of a chance find: On the front side of a parking slot (Donaustraße 94-95) of a supermarket is a huge mural with the theme Brave New World.
Covered in paintings is the front side of a hostel (Stuttgarter Platz 17) in the district Charlottenburg. The house facade was created by the Irish artist Dom Browne.
One of the oldest murals is the one of the ship Phoenix (Wintersteinstraße 20) from 1989 by the Berliner artist Gert Neuhaus – it is in surprisingly good condition especially in the consideration of urban art as ephemeral one.
Thirty degrees, sunny weather, cold beer and girdles of flowers of the head. On the 24th of June Berlin celebrated his Midsommar Festival with a real pole.
A Scandinavian tradition
Midsommar or in English “Midsummer” marked the summer solstice, it is the day when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky. Midsummer will especially celebrate by Northern Europe as Scandinavia and – very especially – Sweden. These countries have a short summertime. However, in the North in midsummer, it seemed as the sun doesn’t set. It is the lightest night of the year. In Scandinavia, people celebrate midsummer on a Friday between 19th and 25th June.
Flowers under the sleeping pillow
This special midsummer festival in Berlin started in 2012. Every year different bands and DJs play music and invite to dance. Furthermore, the organisers offer a flower wreath workshop, a pole, traditional dances and games. At the beginning of the festival, the visitors can create their own girdles of flowers (“midsommmarkrans”). I and a friend also tried our best. However, if you want to create a girdle of flowers, you should be on time. We came two hours after the beginning and had our problems to get flowers and wire. I am afraid, that was the reason why my flowers looked a little bit withered.
Actually, I read about a tradition. It says that you should pick up seven different flowers on your way home. If you put these flowers under your pillow, you will meet your future love in your dreams. Actually, I tried it, however, I can’t remember my dreams of that night. Damn. Perhaps I will give it a second chance next year.
Dance as a frog or play flute
Similar to the maypole the Scandinavians also have a traditional pole, the “midsommarstång”. The people dance around the pole. However, you can also dance without a tree. The midsummer guide of the festival said there are different styles of dances. One is the “Små grodorna”, translated it means something as “The small frogs”. The guide says you should imitate frogs (and also pigs, elephants and so on). Another dance is “Vi äro musikanter” translated as “We are the musicians” and the dancing rules for this is imitating violinists, trumpeters and other musicians. Another tradition is some typical games as the egg-and-spoon-race, sack race or the nail driving. Furthermore, in the back of the garden were waiting for a small Finnish sauna (and a bathtub full of ice cubes).
The festival also offers a lot of food trucks and small food waggons. They offered traditional food as Köttbullar, however, also -not so typical for the midsummer – fries, waffles and Brazilian pancakes.
Tickets for free in Berlin
I can strongly recommend the event. I have to confess, I never visit a midsummer festival in Sweden (or anywhere else in Scandinavia), so I’m pretty sure I missed the best midsummer feasts. However, the festival was really nice, the weather was great, it was fun to create girdles of flowers and I and my friends liked the Scandinavian folk music. One little lead in the end: If you want to go to the midsommar festival of Berlin, you should register before because then you will get a ticket for free. If you buy a ticket at the box office, you have to pay ten euros.
I love to taste new dishes from foreign countries or eat some meals I already know from my last vacation (it remembers good times there). That’s why I was really happy when I hear about the food market at the “Görlitzer Bahnhof” in Berlin.
From Switzerland to Peru …
In Berlin, you have the opportunity to choose between different food markets. I was with a friend at the “Markthalle Neun” (Eisenbahnstraße 42/43, Berlin-Kreuzberg) nearby the “Görtlitzer Bahnhof” (U1) and wanted to taste some foreign dishes. The market opens every Thursday between 17.00 – 22.00 o’clock (5pm-10pm). You can find all kinds of different food from all over the world. From Switzerland to Peru, from Vietnam to Italy, you can choose between different stalls with dishes from special countries.
Our first dish was summer rolls from Vietnam. It’s rice paper filled with tofu, pepper, cucumber, rice noodles, Chinese cabbage and fresh herbs with peanut-hoisin sauce. It was really tasty. My friend bought something like Samosa filled with meat from an African stall.
The location of the food market: Markthalle Neun
Kimshi, a typical dish from Korea
Little delicious cakes
My desert: Mousse au Chocolat in a fluffy waffle
Naan bread + Sandwich = Naanwich
It was really hard to decide what to eat because there were so many creative dishes which looked so delicious. In the end, we decided to eat a “Naanwich”, the word combines Naan bread (typical Indian bread) and of course the word sandwich. So you will already guess that it’s Indian food. You could choose between meat (12 hours cooked pork) and tikka cheese (paneer) combined with salad, different vegetables, coriander and mint yoghurt sauce rolled in bread. Not easy to eat, but it was really good (actually, I really love Indian food).
Fluffy waffles filled with Mousse au Chocolat
My friend decided to taste some of the wines they offered. I wanted to save my money for a desert. I forgot the name of the dish, but it was kind of a special waffle (very fluffy) rolled until it looked like an ice-cream wafer and filled with Mousse au Chocolat. You could, of course, choose between different fillings like Baileys, strawberry, banana, Nutella or just very common with sugar and cinnamon. The evening was very nice, why we will come again and after the closing hours, we went into the next bar to drink a beer.
Berlin has over 50 Christmas markets, one of them is the “Winterworld” at Potsdamer Platz. Potsdamer Platz is one of the most famous places for tourists to visit in Berlin because it is close to the Brandenburger Gate and therefore to the former Berlin Wall. It also offers one of the first traffic lights in Europe (1924), two huge malls, and the Sony Centre nearby. In the Christmas season, there is a huge market – or actually two because they are separated. You can reach the markets really easy with trains and the subway (the station names are also “Potsdamer Platz”).
What is a Christmas Market? Christmas markets are street markets during the weeks of Advent. These kind of markets are really typical for Germany, but also Austria, South Tyrol (Northern Italy) and some eastern regions in France. The history goes back to the Late Middle Ages of German-Speaking parts in Europe. Christmas markets have a lot of different stalls which sell all kinds of things, also typical Christmas dishes as German gingerbread (“Lebkuchen”), candied almonds, a variety of sausages (“Bratwurst”) and hot mulled wine (“Glühwein”).
The Christmas market has a large toboggan run out of ice (however, it costs money per ride). You can also try ice stock sport and ice-skate a small rink. An Austrian cabin (“Salzburger Schmankerl’ Hüttn”) offers a variety of typical food from our neighbour country. Beside “Obazda” (savoury cheese spread – also typical for Bavaria), “Brettljause” (a wood plate with different meat and sausages), goulash, “Kasnocken” (as the German version of “Käsespätzle” – spaetzles with cheese), also sweet dishes as “Kaiserschmarrn” (sugared and cut-up pancake, typical with raisins), Sacher cake and apple strudel.
My favourite Christmas sweets – Schneeballen (Snownballs)
One of my favourite candies at the market at Potsdamer Platz was “Schneeballen” (means snowballs). I didn’t know the dish before. It is like a really large and round cake with chocolate glazing and filled with different topics. I had one with white chocolate and filled with nougat. I don’t want to make too many covered advertising, though it was really tasty.
A toboggan run out of ice
Inside the shopping mall
"Schneeballen" - snowballs, out of chocolate
Besides all the food Potsdamer Platz is also a good opportunity to go shopping. A large shopping mall is full of golden lights and decoration, in my opinion, it’s a little kitschy (but hey, it’s Christmas). Also really kitschy is a big colourful Christmas tree with tonnes of lights in front of the Theatre of Potsdamer Platz. Last but not least, the stallholders also sell different things as clothes, Christmas decorations, lights or handmade woollen hats.