Most cafes, bars, restaurants and apartments go without air conditioning, to find a satisfactorily cooled establishment you need to go out of your way. Berlin’s Museum Island, however, affords a cluster of five air-conditioned sanctums. One 18 euro ticket (about $20) gets you into all five, so you could spend a cool day museum-hopping. The Alte Nationalgalerie is especially strong on painting, while the Bode Museum offers sculpture. The star of the island’s Pergamon Museum is its reconstruction of Ishtar’s Gate, the rich, blue entryway that once stood before Babylon’s inner city; that of its neighbor, the Neues Museum: the bust of Queen Nefertiti in a room all her own. And behind the columns of the Altes Museum, there is central air for classicists.
Most buses and trams are air-conditioned, but the city’s metro, the U-Bahn, and its rail system, the S-Bahn, are not. Instead, they often operate with the windows down, adding the unsettling roar of the tracks to the cars’ pervading stickiness.
On hot, summer days, in several public parks across the city, seasonal “water playgrounds” emerge. Jets of water are pumped from under concrete platforms, into fountains and, as in the case of Volkspark Friedrichshain, the city’s oldest public park bordering the Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg neighborhoods, out from concrete elephants’ trunks. These are primarily utilized by Berlin’s bare-bottomed babies and children, but are open to all.
As landlocked as it is, Berlin is flush with bodies of water. Wherever you may be, there is always a public pool or lake within reach of foot, bike or transit. Of the lakes, Plötzensee, Krumme Lanke, Wannsee, Schlachtensee and Weissensee are favorites and no matter how crowded, always offer up a free patch of grass or sand. Swimming in them comes with much dodging of algae and excellent people watching. Weisser See, situated alongside a busy tram line, is an energetic mix of families, city teenagers and expat friend groups. The regulars of Plötzensee, on the other hand — often, Berlin naturists of an advancing age — give that lake a certain cultural clout. For a dip after work, pools offer a discounted ticket of 3.50 euros (about $3.90) during the weekdays to swimmers after 5:30 p.m.
— Sami Emory
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