A couple of weeks ago, DH and I spent a few days in Berlin – our first break together since the Jam’s operation in January. We didn’t have a lot of time but we managed to squeeze in some history and culture, chocolate and cocktails, a walk in the park, a little football and a lot of bears.
To say the city defied my expectations would be inaccurate, as I didn’t know what to expect in the first place. I’ve only been to Germany once before, and Cologne in December with 40+ Year 7s doesn’t compare to Berlin in June with just my lovely husband! I knew most of the city was heavily damaged by WW2 bombing raids and that the architecture would reflect the subsequent division, and I knew that Berlin, especially post-reunification, is considered to be one of the most vibrant 24 hour cities in Europe. I didn’t expect it to be so welcoming or so beautiful.
We only had one full day and we spent most of it walking. From our hotel near the Tiergarten in what was West Berlin, we strolled along the river and then up past what remains of the Anhalter Bahnhof to Checkpoint Charlie. There we crossed into what would have been East Berlin and walked to the Gendarmenmarkt – a beautiful square that is home to the amazing Fassbender & Rausch chocolate shop. The plan was to stroll up to the Brandenburg Gate and pass through it before wandering back through the Tiergarten. However, we didn’t consider the huge outdoor football viewing area that had been created for Germany’s opening World Cup match against Portugal. After a brief surreal moment of being trapped in East Berlin, unable to cross over without long queues and bag searches, we realised we could simple walk a few blocks south and back along the edge of the park instead.
A little later we ventured back out to visit the Reichstag building and see the amazing views from the dome. We also heard the build up to the football but somehow the atmosphere was more jovial and less intimating that football crowds here in England – maybe it’s because they win – though I did spot a few fans downing the bottles of wine that they weren’t allowed to take into the viewing area, so it’s not just us that overdo it before we begin!
I should also mention the eating and drinking highlights. Our hotel had a fabulous cocktail bar, named after Marlene Deitrich, which served an impressive range of delectable concoctions, and Weissbier for DH. On the first evening we visited a restaurant recommended by a friend of Dad’s – Schildkröte – which seemed to be popular with locals and tourists alike. The waitress was very helpful but her English was about as good as my German. We were seated in the back room, which seemed to be reserved for bumbling English speakers, and we managed to get through a very pleasant meal (and quite a lot of Riesling) with only one significant miscommunication. However, the gastronomic highlight had to be lunch at the Fassbender & Rausch restaurant, which reminded me of Rabot 1745 in Covent Garden, as every dish contained chocolate in one form or another. The best bit was definitely the Törtchen!
Berlin also has a quirky side. We spent far too long in the Unter den Linden branch of the Ampelmann shop, buying trinkets for the Jam. Last but not least, as we explored over the three days, I collected as many pictures as possible of the ubiquitous Berliner Bären: