Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ich liebe Berlin

With my visa renewal deadline fast approaching and the fear of almost a year without a passport I urgently booked a flight a few weeks ago to Berlin, a city I always wanted to go to. I asked along my coworker and friend Rose who gladly accepted. Last Friday we went off (much to the envy of my boss) to the Berlin wall, or what was left of it. I am German you know, but until this past weekend I've always been a bit timid to admit it.

We started our trip off right with a party flight Friday night which distracted poor Rose who has a great fear of flying. There was a group of 25 men on a 'stag do' who talked with us and we sat next to a nice musician, Lucio, who helped us catch a train and directed us to our hostel in it's perfect location, in Pfefferberg, in Mitte, right in the centre of the city. Lucio also recommended a place to have a drink and so after a bite we made our way to Scotch and Sofa, a local with retro 70s furniture, a DJ and good strong drinks.

Saturday morning we woke up and tried to find a certain vegan restaurant recommended by our co-worker Magnus. On our way there we happened upon a street fair which we explored. When we finally got to the resto, it was closed and because we were so hungry decided on Suicide Sue next door whose menu we couldn’t read, but whose waitress told us (in English) was all about bread. We got to choose from a variety of spreads to put on our long hearty slice (see photo).

The rest of the day was spent touring the Spree by boat (see photo below), exploring Berlin's wide boulavards, walking all the way to the Jewish museum to find it was closed and then went to a gallery around the corner, The Berlinische with modern art concentrating on the East and West divide and the development of the city of Berlin.

Later we ate proper German food, potatoes, sour cream, meat (well Rose ate the meat).We carried on drinking till late in the night chatting with locals at bars around Mitte, like Weinerei, a wine bar on Veteranenstrasse where one pays a euro for a glass and then leaves money in a jar on the way out depending on how much one drinks (though they do try and regulate). We liked the feel of the place and the big floral lampshades. Two other bars we went to projected movies on the wall which I find adds to the whole socialising, drinking experience.

Sunday we weren’t exactly energetic, but we survived with a huge breakfast buffet; crepes, salmon, cheese, yogurt and all. After stuffing our faces we went to a vintage/junk market near part of the wall still standing. We each bought a hat and then went and watched artists graffiti the wall.

We attempted to walk to the modern museum, the Hamburgerbahnhof that everyone said we must go to, but with darkness approaching and closing time evident we decided on the Jewish museum because it stayed open late. This time it wasn’t closed and we spent a good two hours on the main exhibit which was just so full of information. The museum’s physical structure is a modern architect’s delight and Rose repeated a few times how much she loved the building. We were a bit tired from our activities the day before so after dinner, after the museum, we decided to call it a night.

Monday morning, our last day, we woke and realised that the modern museum, Hamburger Bahnhof was closed on Mondays! The closure of places (or tables full in the case of restaurants) occurred a few times during the trip, but there was always something else near by. We just resolved to return again to Berlin to see more another time and and so headed to the West to the Kathe Kollwitz museum, a small gallery devoted to the works by Berlin’s most famous female artist of the 20th century. Her black and white etchings echoed social revolts and experiences of the time, war time struggle and motherly love. I’m glad Rose suggested it.

Later we walked to the largest deparment store, KaDeWe and explored its sixth floor food market which was massive, larger than Harrods'.

Although rents are meant to be cheap in Berlin and their economy is suffering, we found the shopping and drinks/food on par or if not more expensive than London, but I guess we also weren’t too particular about finding the cheapest option. Larger than London, but with half of London's population, the city has a great feel and the people are generally friendly.

Also see below, 'a quick update' for more Berlin information.

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