In November, we finally got to go to Berlin, after I threw my back out in October. In hindsight, this is where my bout of bad luck with trips must have started :-). Fortunately the reservation at the hotel could easily be changed, so November it was!
We went by train, from a small town just across the border in Germany and arrived at the bustling Hauptbahnhof in a couple of hours, after a few changes at almost deserted train stations.
Our hotel (Mercure Hotel Berlin Tempelhof) is located at the Hermannstrasse, a short walk from underground station Boddinstrasse, and thus within easy reach of the city center.
At most U-bahn stations, young people hang around. They’re more often than not dressed in ‘punk fashion’ and quite a few seem to live in the streets. Apparently working is not always an option. Drinking beer and asking for money seems to be an accepted alternative. Strangely enough, their dogs always seem well fed even if they themselves do not.
Right out of the U-bahn Hackescher Markt, we skipped the sushi place in favour of a Thai restaurant where we had a wonderful lunch for just a couple of euros. Food really is affordable in Germany. Once fortified with good food, we headed out to the courtyards of Hackesche Höfe and with all the eateries, galleries and designer shops around it is a great place to while away your time. Just off of the U-bahn a lively Christmas fair scents the air with aromas of sauerkraut, wurst and glühwein. Windowshopping was cut short by a pidgin pooping on my head.
Unfortunately, out of the two of us, I’m the only one that enjoys museums. Berlin offers tons of them but I gave the Hamburger Bahnhof museum a miss, thus missing out on Lichtenstein and Haring and probably many others. Fortunately I saw Warhol’s smiling Mao in Hamburg earlier this year.
In an attempt to visit all the Guggenheims in the world, the small Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin was a must see! The photo exhibit by Jeff Wall was really small and not very exciting, but still…
I would also have liked to visit the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, to add to my list of these museums but maybe a next time.
What we did do, is basically visit a whole lot of other highlights in this city, alternating between sights and seeking refuge from the cold in bars or restaurants.
We easily mixed East and West Berlin: the Potsdamer Platz, wandering through the concrete blocks at the Holocaust Memorial, see a small remnant of ‘the wall’ and Checkpoint Charlie (and nearby Starbucks with mouth watering double chocolate cakes and tea). Visiting impressive places like the Brandenburger Tor (Gate) and Unter den Linden. But also visiting a Catholic church, somewhere down a street, burning a candle for my mother’s friend (even though I’m not religious). Admiring the lack of beauty in East German architecture at the Alexanderplatz.
Prenzlauer Berg offers hip and happening streets, where the Kulturbrauerei was closed but the Jewish Cemetery (Jüdischer Friedhof) was surprisingly interesting and peaceful.
Berlin also offers great shopping (even though that’s not really my thing) at large shopping centers like KaDeWe and great nightlife, like in the Scheunenviertel. This historic Jewish quarter is said to be a great spot for nightlife but when we visited, it was almost deserted, probably because of the cold.
At night, quite a few neighborhoods look bleak and grey but wandering around sometimes offers little pearls in a grey shell, like the very basic Indian restaurant Raja at the Zossenerstrasse. Lacking in ambiance but offering delicious and surprising dishes like lotus root balls and other more standard Indian dishes. Yum!
All in all, Berlin is a very diverse city and worth a longer visit than just two days and a bit… lots of impressive architecture, cheap and great food from all parts of the world, trendy areas. I must get back some day…
Hotel Mercure Hotel Berlin Tempelhof Airport Hermannstraße 214-216 12049 Berlin Tel. +49 (0)30 / 62780-0 Fax: +49 (0)30 / 62780 111 E-Mail: email@example.com