For the moment, Berlin is my adopted home. This is the Berlin, Germany’s old and new capital, a city of many controversies, world renowned for its eventful history, diverse art scene, and vibrant nightlife. Berlin is totally living up to the tongue-in-cheek slogan coined by its snappy mayor: poor, but sexy.
I have spent many hours walking through the city, getting more familiar with it one step at a time. I wondered whether a tool called Google Earth could help me discover cool places I had not seen before. Join me as I explore my city in aerial and street views before heading out into the real world.
Local Neighborhood: Inner Courtyards From Bird’s Eye View
I love walking and have discovered a fair share of my neighborhood on random strolls. My feet have carried me past the Buddhist temple down the street, on many different paths across the neighborhood, into the huge park on its other end. Some things, however, can not be seen from street level. This is where the bird’s eye view of Google Earth or Google Maps can help you discover places you never knew existed.
Berlin is an incredibly green city, not just because most streets are lined with trees and countless parks are sprinkled across the city, but also due to its architecture. Buildings run right along the street and shield the heart of the block, which typically is a green inner courtyard. With the help of Google Earth, I discovered a particularly large one only steps from where I live, right across from the Wall. You would never suspect such a green residential oasis, in the midst of a busy and touristy area.
On Google Earth satellite view it looks like a little park, with paths cutting through the green. When I went to see it, I found that most access points are gated and the green space is sectioned off with fences. Given the location and size, I wasn’t surprised. I did discover some open entrances and discovered lush green lawns and benches underneath tall trees. A great place for quietly reading a book.
- Learn to navigate Google Earth with your mouse and keyboard:
- [CTRL] + mouse wheel to rotate the map.
- [CTRL] + left mouse button to tilt and turn the map around the camera’s pivotal point.
- [CTRL] + [SHIFT] + left mouse button to tilt and turn the map around a point on the map.In
- In Google Earth’s layers (bottom left), enable photos to see what other people have discovered in your area.
Take Home Message: No matter how well you know your neighborhood, a change of perspective will always reveal new details.
Close By Districts: Art & Gifts Through Exploring
On some of my previous walks, I had noticed an old brick chimney, but never got close enough to find out what it was. Google Earth revealed that it’s part of an old brewery (Königstadt Brauerei). The brewery was build in the 1800s, back when Berlin was one of Germany’s beer capitals.
The above Google Street View image is from 2010. The place has changed dramatically since then. Sometimes you can follow the development of a place by enabling the historical imagery in Google Earth. Click the ‘turn back time’ button in the navigation pane above the satellite image. For the above scene in Berlin, the archive contained satellite images from 1943 to 2012.
When I returned to explore the location in some more detail, I approached it from the wrong side and found some cool graffiti…
…and an open air art installation.
Both finds were located in the back of a newly erected art hall, which is not yet visible in the Google Street View image from 2010. Of course I also saw the brick chimney.
More interesting than the place I went to see were the places I passed as I walked there: free admittance to a Depeche Mode exhibition, many tiny little urban / guerrilla gardening spots around trees on the sidewalk, and an unattended and open to all Give Box in a nook on a small side street.
- Street view is sometimes outdated and thus more useful for general orientation.
- In the satellite view of Google Earth, enable historical images and visually travel through time.
- Explore your neighborhood with your feet to discover the coolest things not visible online.
Take Home Message: The journey is the reward. Spend less time online and more time outside!
Outskirts Of The City: Picturesque Town & Beautiful Lake
The city is a treasure trove, but the true beauty is found in the nature within and outside its borders. A random Google Earth flight across Berlin reminded me how close I live not only to the center, but also to one of its many lakes: Tegeler See. Situated at its shore is the district of Tegel. Known for its airport, Tegel doesn’t seem like a good place to relax and enjoy nature, but Google Earth satellite view made it look very attractive.
The lake is only a few underground stops from where I live. What I found was a quiet part of town with cafés, a beautiful avenue leading to the lake, and an almost Mediterranean atmosphere on the promenade along the lake. And I never heard a single plane, although we could see them approaching the airport.
- Use Google Earth satellite view to scout for places.
- In the layers, enable transportation to see public transport lines.
Take Home Message: You don’t have to travel far; you can discover new worlds close to home.
Google Earth is a great tool to virtually explore your neighborhood. You can get a feel for an area you haven’t been to yet by looking at the aerial shots. For better orientation for when you are there, you can dive into street view. The real discovery, however, happens once you go there for real. You can observe people, see street art, and just be in the moment. There are many awesome things you can do on Google Earth, but you cannot experience — see, taste, feel, smell, or hear — reality.
What places have you discovered using Google Maps or Google Earth satellite view?