I didn’t think that I would get along with Berlin, Germany. Between the Berlin Conference where the European countries met to divide the African continent for colonization and the fact that at least 25,000 Afro Germans were killed in concentration camps, I felt no connection. Plus, how much techno music can one woman take? So when I received an invitation to present my short film work and stories in Berlin I was wary. Would Berlin even be safe for me as an African American woman traveling solo?
Well, I am pleased to report that I found a thriving Afro German community and became an official Berlin Homegirl. Some Afrodeutsche families have lived in Germany for a couple hundred years. Afro-Berliners are not only descendants of African American World War II GIs, but many biracial people are the children of African fathers who left them to be raised by their German mothers.
Are you ready to travel? More than 75 percent of Americans don’t have a passport. Do you have yours? The world is yours. Claim it. Here’s what to do in Berlin, Germany.
1. Massai Restaurant
Goltzstr. 35, 10781 Berlin
In my humble opinion most German food is disgusting. At first the only barely edible food I found was at pommes frites joints (french fries) or Turkish food carts. Thanks goodness for Massai Restaurant. Are you looking to sample genuine out-of-the-box African recipes like ostrich soup, gazelle meat, crocodile fillet or zebra steak? Massai has them on the menu. This Eritrean restaurant is also a good place to meet local Berliners. Be sure to indulge in Massai’s bountiful South African wines. Dress casually. They don’t accept credit cards but they do accept reservations.
2. Club Cassiopeia
Revaler Strasse 99 bdWarschauer Strasse Berlin
Say word. Germany has the 3rd largest hip hop market in the world. I saw Jay-Z on posters in the subway. Who knew? Berlin is a young city, legendary for its nightlife, so you have to investigate the club scene. When I last checked Cassiopeia has hip hop on Wednesdays, but also check the dancehall schedules for hot spots like Bohannon, Shrine or Calabash if that’s what you’re into.
3. The Wall
It’s been over 20 years since the fall of the wall separating East Germany and West Germany. There’s not much left to see but it’s worth checking out the East Side Gallery and the Checkpoint Charlie “You are leaving the American sector” Museum. Mostly so that you can say you did.
4. Shopping on Kurfürstendamm
The super-fab Kurfürstendamm is the most famous shopping street in Berlin. It’s called Ku’damm for short. You can find anything in this luxury area. If you like people watching or window shopping then you’ll enjoy Ku’damm too. Check out the side streets for all of the inexpensive deals on the good stuff. On some nights musicians and street entertainers gather in front of the burned out Kaiser Wilhelm Church Memorial for impromptu jam sessions.
5. The Egyptian Museum of Berlin
Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung im Neuen Museum Bodestr. 1-3 Berlin
If you’re in Germany and you get the opportunity please visit this museum. The original artifacts are some of the most awe-inspiring outside of Egypt. Mummies, masks, jewelry, segments of a palace floor, galleries and more. I really wish they hadn’t removed these items from Egypt but here they are. Breathtaking. Entry to the museum costs 10 euros for adults. Oh– and the Egyptian Museum of Berlin has a really unique gift shop.
6. Fountainhead Tanz Theater & Black International Cinema Berlin
Fountainhead Tanz Theater is a Berlin based dance, performance and distribution production company. They also produce Black International Cinema Berlin, a TV show called The Collegium and other diverse projects. African American Professors Gayle and Donald Griffith moved to Berlin and created these cultural institutions to engage people from different backgrounds. Join their mailing list for the latest events.
7. The Berlinale International Film Festival
Potsdamer Straße 5 10785 Berlin
I know, I know. The thought of Germany in the winter time does not sound enticing but the Berlinale Film Festival is worth it. Throw on your gloves, ear muffs and long underwear for one of the oldest film festivals in the world. Hang with folks from South America to South Africa as you watch and discuss film, arts, and politics.
Popkomm is a huge world music entertainment and business festival plus congress. If you have any interest in the music biz or just like meeting creative folks from all over the world then you should definitely visit. The Popkomm market place and trade show is the place to make business deals, sell your own music or just learn about the industry. This year Popkomm was held at the Airport Berlin Tempelhof. There are also Pokomm concerts and awards. Also worth the trip is the Africa Festival, “International Afro Music Festival” in Wurzburg Germany about 3 hours away.
9. Anne Frank Museum
Anne Frank Zentrum Rosenthaler Straße 39 Berlin
The purpose of the Anne Frank Zentrum is to document the life of an optimistic girl who didn’t survive the German Holocaust. If you’re traveling with children they’ll really enjoy the Anne Frank Museum as it features videos from children worldwide and personal artifacts from the time period.
10. Everyday Berlin
You’re on foreign soil. Just take in the culture. If you dare, Berlin offers naked sunbathing in Tiergarten Park and clothing optional aka nude beach Lake Wannsee. You can get German beer from any Berlin McDonalds. The subway may be of interest plus there’s Berlin’s general bohemian vibe. I stayed in Mitte, the center of Berlin. You may want to check in with the Goethe Institut Washington DC. They just finished an Afro German film series. For safety reasons avoid Marzahn or Lichtenberg.
You can travel cheaply if you stay at the bright, funky Backpax Mitte Hostel like I did. It had fun decor with an artist’s rate, theme rooms, lounges and common areas. Baxpax Mitte Hostel Berlin also offers bike rentals, laundry, cooking, walking tours of the area, kind staff and an internet cafe. It was helpful to have a built in community because I don’t speak German. Safe travels!
Author and Multimedia Personality Abiola Abrams, the Lifestyle Passionista, writes and makes TV and web series about living your best life.