Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Ich bin ein Berliner

So for Tom's birthday in January, we went to Berlin. Have you ever been to Berlin in January? Yes, it may not have been my most sensible idea in terms of weather, but we had a blast anyway.

Over four days we did most of the touristy bits, ate a lot, drank a lot, slept a lot (much needed) and walked – A LOT. It's a pretty big city – bigger than I anticipated – so the blisters were somethin' else, but they were worth it.

If you haven't been, Berlin's such an interesting city. You get the sense that it's haunted by it's past and is apologetic for it. The most harrowing place we went to was an exhibition about Nazi terror, and it was unflinchingly detailed and completely condemned everything about the regime. Other previously war-torn places I've visited have been more murky and conflicted in their retelling of the horrors of war, but Berlin seems cut and dried about it and it makes you somehow feel sorry for the whole city, like the new generation who never committed these atrocities are forced to grovel over and over again for the sins of their (grand)fathers.

The history of the wall is just as interesting, especially as it's so recent and such a mad idea – just build a wall and divide a whole city overnight?! I just can't imagine it happening, and yet it did. And then there's the hipster Berlin that's sprung up since the wall came down – graffiti everywhere, which gives the city's culture a punky feel, and the vibrant nightlife and coffee scene in a place that, from the outside (and when you live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world) seems so down and out.

At the East Side Gallery, the remaining part of the Berlin wall has been covered by murals and graffiti – on one side, city-sanctioned and on the other, homegrown. These were my favourite of the murals commemorating the years the wall stood and the deaths that resulted when citizens tried to cross it. 

Some edgy city shots (impossible to get anything else). 

(The sun did come out at one point, so I had to take photographic evidence!)

Below is a road of caravans in Kreuzberg. Literally, people live in different caravans all down this road. 

Tom enjoyed some manly currywurst in traditional tourist style...

While I insisted on macaroons and espresso at KaDeWe

A hell of a lot of coffee was drunk actually – Berliners know how to caffeinate. One of our favourite pitstops was Five Elephant – lovely coffee, lovely service, very cool. One of those places you'd happily spend all day working/reading/drawing in. 

But sometimes you just need a little heiße schokolade to warm you up. 

The Reichstag building is definitely one to put on your must-visit list. You have to sign up for a time in advance, but it's free. When you get there you have to go through all sorts of security checks due to it being a government building but the view – even in the rain – is amazing and the Norman Foster-designed dome got my little wish-I-was-an-architect heart well excited. 

And Tom's little wish-I-was-a-pilot heart was very much into Tempelhof Airport. Only closed to commercial flights in 2008, it was built by the Nazis and is a ridiculously huge building and airfield, now used as a public park. Of course, no one except us was stupid enough to visit with the freezing winds when we were there, but it's probably amazing in summer when people gather to barbecue and, apparently, ride segways. 

We ate at some lovely places and found some lovely bars. Highly recommended are Der Golden Hahn (posh checked-tablecloth Italian bistro, pricey but excellent and romantic) below, Lerchen und Eulen across the street (super cosy and cheap cocktail bar) and Santa Maria (Mexican with wicked margaritas and a full gluten-free menu - godsend). 

(Still getting used to the camera...)

We stayed in this Air B'n'B and I can't recommend it enough. Johanna was fab, it was sooooo warm and toasty when we came in sodden and shivering, it was low-lit and romantic and in a great location for walking around Neuköln and Kreuzberg. 

I enjoyed it so much that I went back two weeks later for a hen do, which was a completely different but also excellent experience. I'll be back, Berlin! 

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