About Arja J
Lives in Berlin, Germany
Since Oct 2012
35-49 year old female
Hello, my name is Arja and I´m a tour guide in Berlin with my own little company Berlin Locals! My greatest passion are the stories in and around Berlin reaching back into the good and the bad old times. With my grandpa and mum being from former Eastern Berlin I feel a strong connection to Berlin even though I grew up in Western Germany. After years of traveling and working as a journalist and tour guide all over Europe there was no doubt for me that I would want to live in Berlin and even after years of living here I am still intruiged by finding out something new about this fascinating city every day – so let me share it with you!
Historic Sites, History Museums
Landmarks/ Points of Interest
Bar/ Clubs, Landmarks/ Points of Interest
Created in 1685, the tolerance edict of Potsdam allowed anyone persecuted for their religious beliefs to come to Berlin and live in peace. A lot of Jewish people followed this decree, and Berlin quickly became home to one of the biggest and most colorful Jewish communities. However, like all Jewish people, the Berliner Jews fell victims to the Nazi regime and 55,000 of them were deported from the capital and murdered in the extermination camps. Grunewald station, along the S7 to Wannsee, was one of the train stations from which they were deported, and today the platform where the trains departed is one of the most moving memorial sites in Berlin. Along the train tracks you'll find signs with the date of every single deportation, the number of people deported that day, and the destination of the train. Being a little out of the city, Gleis 17 is never too crowded and really worth seeing.
Thanks to Knut, the polar bear, everyone has heard of Berlin Zoo - but hardly any visitors know about the Tierpark (animal park) in the east of the city. It is the biggest of its kind in Europe and a fantastic place to spend a day with the family or a bunch of friends. The trip there is an adventure in itself, as the U5, which starts at Alexanderplatz, will take you far out into the eastern concrete jungle of the Friedrichsfelde district, and you can enjoy the spirit of former communist living quarters as you walk from Tierpark station to the entrance. Because most of the animals are in large enclosures, the park is also quite widespread, and sometimes feels more like a huge wilderness than a zoo.
The Jewish cemetery in the northern district of Weissensee is the biggest in Europe, featuring more than 100,000 grave sites. Wandering around its large grounds, you can admire artistic and beautiful grave sites, as well as those of important Jewish Berliners like Samuel Fisher of the Fisher publishing house; Josef Garbatý, the famous cigarette maker from Pankow; and Rudolf Mosse, the newspaper publisher. One field is a burial site containing the ashes of around 800 Jewish people killed in concentration camps, while at other places lie those who committed suicide under the Nazi regime. Although it is a little way outside the inner city, Weissensee is well worth a quiet and contemplative visit.
Berlin is well on its way to becoming the new micro-brewing capital of Germany. In the last 10 years, more and more brewers have decided to do their own thing, starting to create their own craft beers in little breweries all over town. One such place where the beer is still brewed by hand, without any technology, is Phillip Brokamp´s Hops and Barley in Friedrichshain. Housed in an old butchery, the beer is brewed next-door to the bar, and some of the special brews - of which only small batches are made - are brewed inside the bar itself! There is always a special beer on tap next to the normal sorts, making the bar a great way to get off the mainstream beer trail.
Saved from destruction by local Berliners, the former airport and airfield Tempelhof is one of the best places to spend a sunny afternoon in Berlin, or to soak up a little alternative history. The airport building itself is spectacular, being the biggest connected airport building in the world. It is also one of the few Berlin buildings built by the Nazis that was not demolished. In front of the main building is a memorial to the Berlin airlift, which centered around this airport. You'll also see the head of the original Third Reich eagle, which formerly graced the top of the building. For all history enthusiasts out there, a tour through the airport building is a must, and afterwards relax on the old airfield, which has become a popular city-centre recreation area for Berliners. Here you can rollerblade down the old runway, fly a kite, rent a Segway, and even play a game of softball - it's an outdoor sports paradise.
In January 1942, the Nazi elite, under the leadership of Reinhard Heydrich, met in this mansion down by Lake Wannsee to discuss and organize the mass murder of the Jewish people - or the "final solution" as they called it. Today, this place, where the darkest chapter of German history was created, is a museum with a great exhibition about the conference and its consequences. Perhaps the most striking thing is the contrast between the beautiful surroundings of the lake and building and the horrendous acts carried out inside. Definitely worth the visit.
Warschauer Street has transformed itself into one of the most popular nightlife hotspots in Berlin. The best place to start exploring it is at the S-Bahn station Warschauer Strasse - not far from Alexanderplatz. When crossing the bridge leading from the train tracks to the Warschauer Brücke, you will immediately find the first groups of musicians playing their songs for passers-by, and if it's warm a crowd of people will be sitting around them, drinking beer. If you find some music you like, buy a drink in one of the little shops at the end of the bridge and join them for a while! From here, there are two choices. Leaving the bridge and turning left, you'll find many great food places, plus the legendary Monster Ronson´s Ichiban Karaoke bar with private rooms in which you can sing the night away if the mood takes you. At the end of the street, the beautiful Oberbaumbrücke offers a spectacular view down the river and over Berlin's skyline and the East Side Gallery, the biggest outdoor gallery in Berlin painted onto the former Berlin wall. On the other hand, if you leave the bridge and turn right, you'll enter a large former industrial area, that today houses underground club the RAW Tempel, plus many more clubs, bars and outdoor hangouts - a popular spot with locals and visitors alike.
Swimming in the River Spree isn't recommended, so on warm sunny days Berliners like to get out of the city and take a dip in one of the dozens of lakes nearby. But for those who don´t want to travel too far, a visit to the Badeschiff - a riverside swimming pool with fresh water in Berlin's Arena district - is a great option.
This little paradise of urban gardening in the middle of Berlin is a must for nature lovers and anyone interested in sustainable, organic food production. In 2009 the non-profit organisation, Nomadic Green, turned this once-empty wasteland into a flourishing garden where veggies, fruits and herbs are grown in wooden boxes. Everyone can visit, buy the produce and even enjoy a 100% organic meal in Prinzessinnengarten's little restaurant. Kids can learn all about where their food really comes from and interesting guided tours explain the whole story of this little green utopia, which aims to set an example for the use of other empty spaces in the city. The project works because of the dedication of hundreds of volunteers, and its unique character brings everyone together, from neighbours to friends to visitors. If you want the freshest food in town, or maybe to get some ideas for your own garden, the Princess Garden is the place!
Tens of thousands of people died between 16th April and 2nd May 1945, the final Russian versus German battle of World War II. Their bodies were either buried in mass graves all over the city, or at one of three Russian War memorials built in Berlin. To get to the biggest and most impressive of these involves a trip out of the city to the district of Treptow. Just opposite Treptower Park, an impressive stone arch leads the way into the grounds of the memorial, where over 7,000 soldiers found their final resting place. The statue of a kneeling mother Russia greets you as you enter, beautiful white marble reliefs depict battle and victory scenes, and the memorial hall has a beautiful mosaic to admire. After exploring, relax in the park, sit by the water or even rent a boat.