36 Hours in Berlin – The New York Times

On Nov. 9, 1989, the East German government made a surprising announcement: It was easing up travel restrictions on its citizens. East Berliners flocked to the nearest border crossings at the Berlin Wall, especially at Checkpoint Charlie, the famed crossing between the divided Berlins. Not long after that, Berliners from the east and west began chipping away at the literal and metaphorical wall that had separated them for nearly three decades, since the Soviet-backed East German government erected the concrete slabs that split the city in two. The Cold War was over. Well, sort of. Today in Berlin you can still go back to that world by eating and drinking in restaurants and bars dedicated to the German Democratic Republic — G.D.R. for short, or D.D.R. in the local parlance — as well as learn about the former East Berlin via fascinating museums, architecture and shops.

Ever wonder why East Germans had a proclivity for hanging out in public stark naked? Or what it was like to drive a Trabant — the cult East German-made automobile with a Formica-like Duroplast body — around East Germany in the 1980s? Or what an interrogation room looked like? You can find out at the DDR Museum, a fascinating, immersive, hands-on experience that serves as an excellent introduction to life in East Germany. The museum, which opened in 2006 and is housed in a modern building on the Spree River, recently welcomed its six millionth visitor. Admission: 9.80 euros, or about $10.80.

The Stasi’s main job was spying on ordinary people who were not in line with party policies and values, hauntingly depicted in the 2006 German film “The Lives of Others.” The Stasi Museum is in the agency’s former headquarters in Lichtenberg. The three floors hold hundreds of artifacts, such as bugging devices, hidden cameras and lock picks, as well as placards detailing nearly every aspect of the organization, including the fact that up to 180,000 East German “unofficial informants” were working with the Stasi by 1989. The tour ends on the third floor at a cafe and bar — after the museum, you might need a stiff drink. There are free 90-minute guided tours in English at 3 p.m. on Thursday to Monday. Admission is €8 and the tour is free.

PILA is a restaurant on Friedrichshain Volkspark that also bills itself as a museum dedicated to the former East Germany. The interior is bedecked with all manner of G.D.R. minutiae — enough East Berlin flags and portraits of former dear leaders to bring tears to the eyes of those nostalgic for five-year plans and collective farming. This is a place for those craving dishes like schnitzel atop fusilli pasta with a few splotches of ketchup-spiked tomato sauce and plus-size plates of currywurst, which is better than you’d think. Even the light, flimsy forks and spoons are legit G.D.R. throwbacks. Lunch is about €40 with beer.

A Stadtbad, or public bathhouse starting in 1902, this ornate building in pretty Prenzlauer Berg became a hotel in 2016. Hotel Stadtbad Oderberger (Oderberger Strasse 57; +49 (30) 780 089 760; www.hotel-oderberger.berlin; doubles from 117 euros per night) has 70 rooms, five suites and two apartments. Rooms have oak floors, TVs and coffee makers. The bathrooms have rain-shower heads. The handsome in-house restaurant, housed in a former thermal power station, cooks up German dishes with modern flair and offers a fair number of vegan and vegetarian options. And don’t forget your swimming suit. The original pool is now the hotel pool.

Ostel (Wriezener Karree 5; +49 (30) 2576 8660; www.ostel.eu; doubles from 42 euros per night) is an East Berlin-themed hotel near the Ostbahnhof, or East Railway Station, in Friedrichshain. The 36 single and double rooms are, as one would expect, dripping in Communist-era kitsch, complete with groovy, colorful wallpaper and bedspreads. All rooms have G.D.R.-era radios. But be careful! It would be easy to think that the Stasi is secretly listening to you. Some rooms have shared bathrooms.

If you want to go the private apartment rental route, base yourself in pretty Prenzlauer Berg where studios and one-bedroom apartments may cost around €75 per night.

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