Tours are not always the best way to get to know a new place. I know, I’ve been on a lot of very bad tours — even in places I loved and really wanted to get to know. But sometimes, tours are actually one of the very best ways you can dig into a local culture. It all comes down to picking the right guide, the right format and the right length for your attention span; and always, the right combination of all of those to suit your needs in particular. In the case of Berlin, Germany, I couldn’t more highly recommend another tour than this one (with that handsome man to the left there).
Henrik Tidefjärd is at the helm of the company ‘Berlinagenten’ and while he was not born in Germany, he knows it better than most who I have met that were. Maybe, all — though to be sure, in a very different way.
My latest trip to Berlin involved touring quite a number of neighborhoods and learning so so much about the city that I still can’t sort through all my notes properly. There’s just too much information. It’s thanks to Henrik though, that I could make sense of it all while I was on the ground. He is “a Swede with Russian and Finnish blood, born with a Mediterranean soul,” according to his website; which must be why I liked him immediately, since my mother is Swedish and Finnish and of all the places I have traveled, the Mediterranean is where I always feel the most at home.
Touring Berlin with Henrik was like opening a door into another world. A city within the city. A store within a store. A history underneath the history you can see and feel. Other tours I’ve been on just don’t compare to Henrik’s knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the city of Berlin and for Germany as a whole.
In about 6 hours we explored four distinct neighborhoods in Berlin and we later were taken to some of the best restaurants and bars in the city by Henrik who knows all the places by neighborhood, type of cuisine and atmosphere.
From the wide open streets of quieter Prenzlauerberg
to hip Mitte
to even more hip Kreuzberg
and finally to „Warschauer Brücke“ and the East Side Gallery…
Berlin is one of the largest cities in Europe, so spread out that it can’t easily be walked and so diverse that it cannot be easily boiled down or summarized. For that reason alone a tour is a smart move. Yet I’d been on them before and not felt that I really loved what resulted. I didn’t feel before that I walked away having learnt anything I couldn’t find from Wikipedia or an average guide book. Henrik, on the other hand, knew the business owners, knew the neighborhood gossip, he knew (as I called it before) the history underneath the history and instead of being overwhelming it was in fact so exciting that it made me want to move to Berlin and make it my home too. As Henrik did. His honest, but truly positive, commitment to Berlin is contagious.
I know this because, since returning to the USA, I have met others who toured with him and feel the exact same way that I do about both Henrik and his tours. I even learned from a friend here in NYC that she toured with him again upon returning to Berlin a second time!
I’ll be choosing a few select stories and/or places to highlight further in another post or two. But I wanted to do an overview of our tour first and if you’re looking for more information on the tour itself or where we went, you can check out Henrik’s site or email me anytime. All of these images were taken with my Samsung NX30 camera.