Museum city where rock gods blend with the past, writes SANDRA SHENNAN
LOUD punk songs, lots of black hair and leather and "1,2,3,4" ringing in our ears…it wasn't like any museum I'd been in before.
But this was The Ramones Museum - a shrine to the muchmissed New York band.
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It was created by superfan Flo Hayler and housed, bizarrely, in a tiny terrace house in Berlin.
We had heard about this labour of love and, although we only had 36 hours in the city, we had to track it down.
In the end we spent a fabulous couple of hours watching videos of the band and poring over photos, news cuttings, letters and even a pair of Johnny Ramone's jeans. Fellow fans gathered in the funky cafe, drinking beer before splashing out on souvenirs.
For the €3.5 it costs to get in, you get a badge which guarantees you free entry for the rest of your life!
Berlin boasts a staggering 170 museums, from the high art Berggruen Collection of paintings by the likes of Picasso and C©zanne to the Currywurst Museum celebrating the city's favourite sausage snack.
At Museum Island - a Unesco site of five museums - you can walk through ancient Babylon, meet an Egyptian queen and clamber up a Greek altar.
Our favourite was the colourful Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum, a replica of the radiant blue-walled entrance to Babylon with a frieze of lions, dragons and bulls - once one of the seven wonders of the world.
We had arrived in Berlin late at night so were glad to have chosen the gorgeous Maritim proArte Hotel on Friedrichstrasse - just off the classy Unter den Linden shopping boulevard - as our base.
Its enormous buffet breakfast has to be seen (and tasted) to be believed and set us up for a whirlwind day of sightseeing.
After our morning of culture, we spent the afternoon delving into Berlin's history.
The most popular tourist attraction is ironically one that is no longer there - the Berlin Wall. But disturbing slices of the past are never far away in a city that was split in two for 30 years.
Hop-on, hop-off buses take you to all the main historical and architectural sights but most are in the central borough of Mitte, so we did them on foot.
We started at Checkpoint Charlie - the main gateway between East and West from 1961 to 1990.
Here you can visit the free open-air exhibit chronicling Cold War history, see a replica guardhouse and even have your passport authenticated with the 16 stamps that were needed to make the crossing.
Five minutes' walk away is a 200-metre preserved part of the wall covered in original graffiti.
On the same site you can learn all about the Nazi era - a chilling reminder of that evil period.
We walked to the Brandenburg Gate - now a symbol of hope in reunified Germany and an attractive b a c k -drop for festivals - then on to the stunning Reichstag government building. For fabulous city views it's a good idea to book to go up to the sparkling glass dome.
Berlin is a 24-hour city where returning home at dawn from a night out is considered early, so we summoned up our energy for a meal and a bit of partying.
We toyed with heading out to White Trash on Torstrasse where fab fresh food is served up with the best Berlin bands. Brangelina were once rumoured to be looking at a flat nearby. We were also tempted by the white linen-clothed tables at Grill Royal in Mitte.
It's a regular haunt for stars and The Pussycat Dolls and Adrien Brody were seen there this year.
But in the end we were swayed by the traditional beer hall fun of Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt, a short walk from our hotel.
We grabbed one of the rustic tables, ordered two huge glasses of beer and tucked into massive plates of goulash and noodles. Then we shared a giant portion of apple strudel - and it all came in at under ?50.
From hip bars to techno hotspots and cabaret venues, there are lots of places to party the night away.
We were finally lured into the riverside Berliner Republik in Mitte where the price of the beer fluctuates with demand according to the bar's stock exchange. A heavy brass bell rings every five minutes to signify yet another price change.
You are guaranteed a fun and raucous night out as it's difficult to leave when you are waiting for your drink to hit rock-bottom prices.
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Just 36 hours is nowhere near long enough to do justice to a city like Berlin. So I've put my Ramones museum badge somewhere safe and I will be back.
A CLASSIC double room at the Maritim proArte Berlin, above, costs £98 per night. Breakfast is £18. To book visit maritim.com or call 0208 545 6910.
Fly from Leeds Bradford with Jet2.com from £35.99 one way, including taxes. Flights depart on three days a week. See jet2.com to book.
For information on the Ramones Museum see ramonesmuseum.com.
Details of all civic museums are available at berlin.de/international/museums/index.en.php.
For Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt see augustiner-braeu-berlin.de. For Berliner Republik see die-berliner-republik.de/en.
For White Trash see whitetrashfastfood.com. For Grill Royale see grillroyale.de.