Buongiorno a tutti!
Well I’ve had a lovely few days in Berlin with my friends who have an apartment out there. Here’s an update…
I’ve been to Berlin before, a few years ago. It’s a really lovely city, in fact, one of my favourites. In my opinion, a visit there at Christmas time at least once in a lifetime should be mandatory! In December, the whole city lights up and what is already a pretty city becomes even prettier. It seems there’s a Christmas Market on every street selling all manner of things, including the delightful Glühwein (mulled wine for us, Vin Brule’ for the Italians).
Berlin reminds me of London only it’s a lot more open – the streets and pavements seem wider and it feels a lot more spacious as opposed to a bit claustrophobic like some parts of London feel to me!
I arrived at Schönefeld airport on the outskirts of Berlin. If you ever go, go prepared! I wasn’t! I thought there might be information or people to ask about how to get into town. Ha! There was no visible information office or people to ask. I managed to locate only two faded small tube/train maps but trying to find out where the airport was, was like a game of Where’s Wally only harder. You can only buy your tickets from ticket machines and the machines that I went to didn’t take card or notes (actually it turns out they do take cards but “Maestro”, which we don’t use in the UK generally).
For what it’s worth, I took the train (the RB14) to Berlin HBF from platform 6. You have to stamp your ticket before you get on the train and there’s a handy red stamping box at the top of the stairs on the platform. It took 20 minutes or so to get to Alexanderplatz. Single tickets cost €3,20 I think, the day pass was something like €7.
I spent the first day wandering around the city. I walked about 234059234859 miles and as a result, I finally feel like I have my bearings. The city is served by overground trains (s-bahn) and underground trains (u-bahn) and lots of buses but it’s easy to walk around too. Bike hire places are everywhere and you can hire one for a day for €10. Many of the streets have cycle lanes too.
These are some photos from my little walking tour…
The thing that’s most noticeable for me about Berlin is its connection to the war. There are memorials everywhere to the millions of people that lost their lives (I’ve just checked on Wikipedia – over 60 million people killed in WW2. What a terrible and unfathomable number). It’s very poignant. The memorials are all beautiful, all very somber and thought-provoking. But from a personal perspective, I’m not sure how I would feel if I were a Berliner. Of course it’s important to remember the war and what happened but there’s just soooo much of it that I do wonder whether they’ve got the right balance between remembering the past and moving on with the future. The past and the mistakes that were made are a lesson for us all, not just the people of Berlin. Anyway, here are some of the memorials…
The second day we investigated the Charlottenburg area of Berlin. This included a famous bombed out church (here I excelled in my knowledge of architecture by not actually being sure whether the church steeple was designed in the way it was or whether it was indeed evidence of bombing activity). We also conducted further quality control tests of the glühwein there. It’s a hard job but somebody has to do it. We had a wander around the shops and warmed up in a lovely little cafe’ overlooking the zoo.
The bombed church has a concrete monstrosity next to it which turns out to be significantly prettier on the inside than the outside. Here it is from the inside.
That night we went to the Piano Saloon in Wedding (Wedding is a northern region of Berlin), a very cool warehouse kitted out stylishly in bits and pieces from pianos. The pianist played what I think must be “discordant jazz” and though it wasn’t particularly my style (if my headaches could play the piano, this is exactly what they would play), he was absolutely brilliant.
The next day we headed to a Vegan Market in the Friedrichshain region (East Berlin). The area was noticeable for it’s completely rundown feel but the graffiti was excellent! There are some very talented delinquents in Berlin 🙂 We loved the Vegan market. I know it might not sound thrilling to many of you who are not vegans but actually, it was very good indeed. The thing with veganism is that you have to be very inventive. You don’t just eat bog standard waffles, you have waffles made out of polenta and grated veg and other things. And you don’t buy leather wallets, you buy them out of recycled car tyres. Vegans are cool.
Then we went to see the part of the Berlin Wall that still stands, called the East Side Gallery. Again, covered in graffiti, but really nicely done graffiti!
At this point we were thoroughly freezing so we went to one of my favourite places in Berlin, Soho House, for an hour or so in the spa. German spa-ing is unlike spa-ing in the UK. It’s frowned upon to go into a spa with your swimming costume (which is handy because I didn’t have one). We chatted about it briefly in the sauna. It seems to be considered somewhat disgusting to wear one because of the close proximity of the swimming costume fabric to your body whilst you’re sweating. I suggested that this would imply that going to the gym would also need to be conducted in the nude but apparently the fabric is an acceptable distance away from your body to make it perfectly acceptable. So that clears that up then.
All in all it was a lovely weekend and I was sad to leave! I thoroughly recommend Berlin to you all 🙂
Meanwhile I hope you’re all having excellent weeks.