An adventurous girl cooks, eats and explores in Europe.
I was very excited about our trip to Berlin. I’d loved Germany when we were there in September. I was actually surprised by just how much I loved it, and Munich is still one of my favorite cities. I knew Berlin would be different, but hoped for some of the same feeling I loved about Bavaria. There were some similarities- the welcoming culture, the abundance and awareness of history, but it did have a very different feel to it.
Being such a large city, it had so many neighborhoods. Each had their own feel and unique aspects. Because of this size though, and because of the international influence on the city (as well as many other factors that clearly play into this), it does not have that very traditional and stereotypical German feel as the focus of the city. Munich and Bavaria was all about the beer gardens and beer halls. Every corner had a German pub and every restaurant was filled with German food- sausage, pretzels, hotpots, and dumplings. In Berlin, the focus is on clubs, upscale bars, underground music spots, and the food is of every variety you could imagine. I saw only one German restaurant for every 15 or so of another type. There is still a very strong and clear German identity, but it has incorporated much of the world around it.
Despite its size, it was so quick and easy to get around. The subway and train system in Berlin was amazing. It was a bit more difficult to orient yourself and really understand where you are in relation to what you see. (It took us three days to realize the park we saw from our hotel window was the park behind one of the longest stretches of the wall still standing). Walking would have helped this, but as it was freezing and snowing most of our visit, we relied heavily on the subway (Day passes are about 7 Euro and work for all their transit systems).
We arrived Friday afternoon, took the train into the city and found our hotel, Relexa, just off the S line. We did a quick bag drop, made some plans with the concierge, and got started on our day. A short subway ride got us just a block from Museum Island where we toured the Pergomonmuseum. From there we wandered the streets a bit, walked by the Berliner Dom which is their big Cathedral, and strolled down the famous Unter Den Linden street before it was time for our very interesting dinner reservation at Nocti Vagus. The restaurant does a Dine in the Dark experience where you have your entire meal in total darkness.
The next morning we headed out early for a tour through the Berlin Cathedral, as it was not open for viewings the day before. We then tried to catch a walking tour but were surprised to find a huge line and tons of people being turned away as it was full. I’d never seen so many people trying to do a walking tour! We scheduled a tour for the next morning and went on with our exploration. We walked through the Brandenburg Gate, a huge and beautiful monument with great historical and symbolic significance. From there, we headed out to the East Wall Gallery- where you can walk along the wall viewing all the varied and interesting art painted on it.
Sunday we spent most the day on our Famous Walking Tour, then took a break for lunch before the tour of the Reichstag Building- their parliament with a large glass dome as their roof. From here we went to a quick dinner at a touristy German spot in the Hackesher Markt, the market and restaurant area around one of the only original train stations in the area, with only the windows and roof replaced after WWII. A few blocks over we met up with a pub crawl to see some more of Berlin’s nightlife.
Monday we had an easy day- catching up on some things we hadn’t seen, like the Topography of Terror Museum which traces the science and skill of the Nazi rise to power and how they maintained control for as long as they did. From there we walked some new streets, checked out the Sony Center with some huge offices, lots of restaurants and a cinema. We grabbed a quick lunch at Billy Wilders- an American style cafe/diner, stopped into Haagen Dazs for an afternoon break after walking around between. We caught a movie since it was too cold to keep walking around. It was then dinner time, so we headed to Peking Ente (Peking Duck in German) which was just a few blocks from Hitler’s bunker, which is now covered over with a car park. We had some delicious Szechuan food before heading out for the airport.
After a smooth trip there and a fast security line, we entered a tiny section of their airport for our late night flight. Taking off around 9:50 pm we finally arrived back to our house in Dublin just before midnight. We had an amazing trip, filled with tons of old and newer history, new experiences and fun memories. Following soon will be all the highlights- more detail on our most interesting experiences.