Books Can Take You Places: Berlin

Already this year, we’ve taken a trip 8 different cities and our journey around the world is far from over!  This month let’s explore all that Berlin, Germany has to offer.

Known for its cultural institutions and trendsetting old-meets-new atmosphere, Berlin has been a destination for writers and other artists for hundreds of years. The list of creative types with a “Berlin era” in their biography includes writers Franz Kafka and Vladimir Nabokov as well as rock musician David Bowie, who famously described 1970s-era Berlin as “the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.”

BerlinVisitors raised on decades of spy films and John le Carré novels may envision Berlin as a cold, uninviting labyrinth of concrete and razor wire with sinister Stasi operatives and KGB agents lurking around every corner. But even though elements of the city’s Cold War past remain (and can be viewed in places like the East Side Gallery and Checkpoint Charlie), Berlin bears much more in common with other European cities than you might expect.

Upon arrival, my companions and I instantly made a beeline for the nearest café, where we sat drinking beer alongside cobblestone streets and soaking in the simple pleasure of people watching on a warm summer day. Later that afternoon we toured a Baroque palace at Schloss Charlottenburg, discovered the marvels of döner kebab (a popular form of Turkish rotisserie sold by street vendors and small shops all across Western Europe), and staggered a few kilometers back to the hotel after a rowdy night out at a biergarten in the Tiergarten. You may begin to detect a theme here.

Berlin2Yes, there are plenty of places in Berlin to quench your thirst for all manner of adult beverages. However, one should not overlook the variety of culinary options the city has to offer. While it is certainly not Paris, Berlin’s cosmopolitan character makes it an underappreciated destination for foodies. Like many central Texans, I come from ethnically German stock. Thus, I was already well- familiar with the style of sour roast known as sauerbraten, and yet it was great fun to discover a different Saxon variant of this dish which had adorned our family’s table on just about every special occasion throughout my childhood.

But you don’t have to be German yourself to appreciate everything Berlin has to offer. Whether you are looking to spend hours browsing through world-class exhibits on Museum Island, or prefer the throbbing electropop madness of the Diskothek, the city represents a unique blend of the historical and the hypermodern which appeals to travelers of every age and budget.


music-note-21 Achtung Baby!, U2 • book Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin • book Berlin Noir, Philip Kerr • music-note-21 Cabaret Original Soundtrack music-note-21 From Here We Go Sublime, The Field • slate_film-512 Good Bye, Lenin! book Goodbye to Berlin, Christopher Isherwood • music-note-21 Heroes, David Bowie • book The Innocent, Ian McEwan • slate_film-512 The Lives of Others slate_film-512 One, Two, Three slate_film-512 Run Lola Run book Stasiland: True Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, Anna Funder • music-note-21 The Threepenny Opera, 1954 New York Cast Recording • slate_film-512 Wings of Desire


  • The Bebelplatz is a public square where 20,000 books were burned by Nazi officials in May 1933. A memorial, installed in 1995, consists of a glass plate at ground level which provides a view into a subterranean room lined with empty bookcases.
  • A sign inside the Speisekammer BIO Supermarket on Motzstrasse marks the approximate former location of the Eldorado, a nightclub featured in Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, the novel that inspired the musical and film Cabaret.
  • Babelsberg Film Studio is the world’s oldest large studio complex. Open since 1912, it predates Hollywood and has been host to hundreds of productions, from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to The Hunger Games.

If you don’t want to miss a stop on this journey, join the Half Price Books Booklovers Survey Club and we’ll send you an email each month with a new city alongside a quick survey. Plus, you’ll receive coupons to save throughout the year when you travel to your favorite Half Price Books.

Justin is an avid reader and travels the world whenever he can afford it (and even sometimes when he can’t). His brother, Jason, works in the Marketing department of Half Price Books Corporate.

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