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Berlin is located in the North-East of Germany and in the centre of Europe. With a population of about 3.5 million it is the biggest city in Germany and also an important industrial and cultural area. Divided into many districts you can find a lot of different atmospheres and impressions there. One famous district is ‘Berlin-Kreuzberg’. Here the population consists solely of Turkish people. That's why this district can be called the biggest Turkish city after Istanbul. In ‘Prenzlauer Berg’, ‘Mitte’ and ‘Friedrichshain’ there are a lot of nice cafés and small individual shops. These areas are a bit more informal as ‘Zehlendorf’ and ‘Tiergarten’ with its dressy bars and restaurants. After its reunification in 1990 the city and its image grew in many domains like culture and music. Because of it's size, the city has more than one center. Many places like ‘Potsdamer Platz’ or ‘Alexanderplatz’ which are called the heart of Berlin, show the diversity of the city itself. Due to the method of construction and Berlin's history you can find an architecturally mixture of old and new buildings.
Berlin is one of the richest cities in Europe when it comes to nature. It is richer in water areas and bridges than Venice. Almost 7% of the surface is water and nearly 18% are covered with green areas like parks and woods.
Every year many local events like fairs, exhibitions and the long night of shopping take place. So, no matter in which season you want to visit Berlin it always captures you with its charming atmosphere.
The summer in Berlin are balmy and pleasant. So the daytime temperatures are usually around
Winter there are cold but normally it doesn't achieve a temperature over -5°C. Typically there is not much rainfall and snow in Berlin.
German is the official language spoken in Berlin, although there is still a minor difference between standard German (Hochdeutsch) and Berlin dialect. English is widely understood and spoken in most of the touristy places.
Furthermore, by reason of the huge community of the Turks outside of Turkey their language is widespread in Berlin.
Berlin is with its many several faiths a multicultural meeting-place for everyone. However, Berlin is not as religious as the south of Germany. The city is rich in churches. Furthermore, there are some districts where solely people of Turkish decent live. In these parts of the city the Islam is represented very often. After the effort to obliterate the Jewish people in WW II, they got more self-confident again. The Jewish community and its religion grows every day.
Normally a tip of 10% is common. In restaurants in Berlin, the tip is included usually , though it is customary to round up the bill (ie €2 on €1.90.). For other services, such a haircut or a drive with a taxi, it is normal to leave €2 or more.
From January 2007 the VAT increases from 16% to 19%. In some shops which are signed with the „Tax Free“ shopping sign, the VAT can be reclaimed by visitors from outside the EU. In order to do that you have to fill a tax-cheque by the time of purchase. At the airport your purchased items need to be taken to the customs clearance where the customs official will provide a tax stamp which can be cashed at any of the airport banks in a variety of currencies.
To call Berlin from abroad, dial +49 for Germany and then 30 for Berlin. Calling from hotel is in general pretty expensive. To use a public phone you need a telephone card or coins. In some public phones you can use money or credit cards. Telephone cards can be purchased in any post office, at the main stations and in a lot of kiosks.
Berlin has a lot of internet cafés. The prices start with one euro. Some of the internet cafés have a lot of other services like laser printing, internet-courses and multi-player online games. A number of the normal cafés offers also an internet station - this service is often for free.
Below is a short list of internet cafés:
Easy Everything: Kurfürstendamm 224, surf-inn at the Galerie Kaufhof: Alexanderplatz 9, Library of the Humboldt University: Dorotheenstraße 27, KaDeWe: Tauentzienstraße 21-24, etc.
Banks can be found on almost every corner in Berlin. Normal business hours are 8 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday. The banks in the malls are often open until 8 pm. Most of the banks in the city have 24-hours ATM’s. The exchange rate at the ATMs is very good, so the only extra fee you'll pay is whatever your bank at home charges for international withdrawals.
Usually the post offices are open from 8 am - 6 pm. After that there are some counter for late selling. If you just need a stamp there are machines next to some offices.
On the following dates, shops and businesses close and public transport runs a limited service.
· 1st January (New Year's Day)
· Good Friday/Easter Sunday/Monday (late March or early April)
· 1st May
· Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day - ten days before Pentecost)
· Whit Monday
· Fronleichnam (Corpus Christie - ten days after Pentecost)
· Mariä Himmelfahrt (for exact date, refer to a German calendar)
· 3rd October (Day of German Unity)
· 1st November (All Saints Day in Catholic States)
· 25th December (Christmas Day)
· 26th December (Boxing Day)
Berlin is one of the most visited cities in Germany. In general the city is relatively safe and has a low crime rate, especially in the centre and close to the attractions. Most of the time it is safe to walk through town even in the night. That refers also for the public transport. However, there are some points of notice and take care about. Pay attention with petty crimes like pickpockets. If you are in crowds or in cafés and restaurants take care of your belongings. In Berlin’s centre are some places where you can also find trickster, for instance the famous “Hütchenspieler”. Do not engage in such a game – it is sure that you will always lose it!
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