My boyfriend turned 21 back in December and as a little surprise for him I booked a few days away in Berlin after his exams last week. We've both visited the city before and absolutely loved it, but we had never been together so both of us were pretty excited to go back.
Getting a new camera just before jetting off to Berlin has resulted in a lot of photos, but I've tried to narrow it down a lot for this post... Tried being the operative word. It's pretty photo heavy so I've tried to break it up a little bit, but I just loved testing out my new Canon G7X whilst away! I'm thinking about posting a full review of it soon so if that's something you'd be interested in seeing then let me know and I'll move it up the to do list.
We arrived in a very snowy Berlin after an eye-wateringly early flight from Glasgow on the Sunday morning, so our first port of call after picking up our travel passes was to head to our hotel to drop our bags off and decide how to spend the day. Our hotel was Mondrian Suites, located just a stones throw from (the very commercialised) Checkpoint Charlie, and was a really great base for our adventures in the city.
True to form, we decided to head out for burgers for lunch. Having heard lots about Burgermeister I was absolutely buzzing to try it for myself and it really did not disappoint. I've had a lot of burgers in my time, but these were something else. Served from what used to be a public toilet under a railway arch, the setting is the epitome of Berlin's street food culture. The burgers were straight to the point and so damn cheap but also insanely delicious. So fresh, juicy and tender. I don't want to admit it, because it's so far away from home, but it might just be the best burger I've ever had.
After refuelling we wandered along snowy streets and across the Oberbaum Bridge towards East Side Gallery, an open air street art gallery using a segment of the iconic Berlin Wall as it's canvas. Neither of us managed to visit on our previous trips so I had expected it to be one of the highlights for me, but unfortunately a lot of it was covered in scaffolding and excess graffiti which did ruin it a bit. It was still amazing to see such an iconic piece of art in the flesh, but I can't help but feel like the experience could have been a bit better.
Still full from our burgers, we trudged through the snow towards the U-bahn to head back to the hotel for a nap. The week before we were heading out Paddy had realised that Frank Turner was actually playing a gig the night we arrived, but it was sold out. After lots of hunting we managed to nab a pair of tickets to the show so I was able to experience my first gig on foreign soil. He was playing in Huxley's Neue Welt, not too far from our hotel, and it was a seriously great venue. The best way to describe it is a combination between my two favourite Glasgow venues - the Barrowlands and the O2 Academy - but I think the main selling point was the fact that they offered both cocktails and crepes as refreshments. Gigs done right, Germany.
MONDAYDespite me thinking Sunday was the coldest I had ever been in my life, Monday was even colder.
We woke up nice and early and grabbed our breakfast from a local bakery, as well as a couple of hot drinks to keep our hands warm as we wandered up the road past Checkpoint Charlie towards Unter Den Linden and the stunning Berliner Dom. This was one of the attractions that stood most prominent in my mind after my last trip to the city so I was eager to see it in standing proud in the snow. After an extremely necessary stop in Primark to pick up more layers and an extra pair of gloves we hunted the streets of Berlin for Curry 61 which various people had cited as the best Currywurst in the city. It's heartburn on a cardboard tray, but it's not surprising that it's a local delicacy when it's both mouthwatering and cheap as chips.
The cold forced us to seek shelter in a cafe on Unter Den Linden after meandering through a local park and past the very impressive Humboldt University, where we refuelled with yet another hot drink whilst figuring out the game plan for the rest of the day. On the way back to hotel for our daily afternoon nap we stopped in at Pandora where I picked up a charm to commemorate the trip and checked out the make up on offer in a local drugstore. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Brandenburg Gate and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe before making a beeline for KaDeWe so I could grab a bag of my beloved spaetzle to take home.
Annoyingly, I'd ended up with a crippling migraine which is all too common for me after travelling so yet again we headed back to the hotel to chill out before dinner. After hunting through various supermarkets and drugstores to find some sort of pain relief our very helpful receptionist pointed us in the direction of a pharmacy which is where I realised that my purse had been taken from my bag. Pretty heartbreaking, but luckily there wasn't much in it aside from a few euros, my driving license and my bank card which can easily be replaced. It could have been so much worse, so I'm just glad that I'm safe and I still have the rest of my valuables in tact.
Despite the setback and the inevitable tears I managed to get a quick half hour of sleep which helped me fend off my lingering migraine for long enough to head out for a brilliant steak at Gaffel Haus and some cocktails in the impressive Sony Centre.
For our last day we wanted to head to the Reichstag and had a nosey at the hub of activity and extravagant outfits surrounding Berlin Fashion Week which had started the day after we arrived. After a later start to the day we had decided to push our lunch back a couple of hours so we could make the most of the city in the daylight, but once again the plummeting temperatures forced us to find slightly warmer shelter for an hour or so in the afternoon and we ended up in the Hofbrau beer hall tucked away past Alexanderplatz. I had visited here with my dad so when Paddy wanted a slightly more traditional German beer experience I figured it was worth recommending!
Lunch was tapas at Bar Celona, located just around the corner from our hotel. A common theme throughout our trip was the cheapness of the food, which we really appreciated as wannabe foodies on a budget! It was simple, but delicious and exactly what we needed for lunch.
Our evening had been planned around a trip up the Television Tower for drinks, but beforehand we visited an amazing little Italian - that I infuriatingly can't remember the name of - for delicious, fresh pizzas and incredibly welcoming service. Once we'd headed up the tower lift at an eye-watering speed we had a wander round the observation deck, taking in the views of the city at night and enjoying a cocktail or two.
TIPS & RECOMMENDATIONS
- Berlin has an amazingly efficient public transport system that puts Glasgow to shame. Pick up a WelcomeCard to cover your travel on buses, trams, trains and the underground and you're good to go.
- Apps such as Citymapper and Yelp make navigating a new city a total breeze. It really helped us figure out the public transport system, find amazing restaurants and decode which attractions were really worth visiting.
- If you want to visit the dome in the Reichstag you need to book ahead. It can be done on the day, but they recommend doing it in advance.
- Whilst it's pretty warm in the summer, Berlin gets seriously cold in the winter. We're talking -10 here. Take lots and lots of layers.
- Like many major cities, pick pockets are rife so make sure to look after your belongings properly. I wore my bag under my jacket and tried to ensure it was always zipped, but I still had my purse stolen.
- A lot of Berlin is under construction or being renovated at the moment, so cranes are a pretty common sight. It's annoying, but part of it's modern/historical mash up charm.
- Unsurprisingly beer is very easy to find in Berlin, but if like me you're not a big beer fan then you'll find plenty of brilliant cocktail bars. Water in Germany is typically served sparkling, so be clear to avoid any confusion. The tap water is drinkable, which is a plus!
- Berlin is home to amazing classical architecture alongside some more modern marvels, as well as a splattering of seriously impressive street art. It's an incredible mix of culture and obviously houses a lot of history, so there's plenty to see and do in the city.
I think that about sums up our whirlwind trip to one of my favourite cities. I probably could have split it up in to a couple of posts, but whatever. My blog, my rules.
We've already been planning a trip back one summer - blame the holiday blues. It may have been cold and I may have had my first run in with pickpockets, but I cannot recommend Berlin enough if you're looking for somewhere to visit. There is so much history to the city and it's really interesting to see how it's developing in to a modern hub of art and culture. It's relaxed nature might be endangered if the internet is anything to believe, but the easy-going yet efficient pace of the city is something I'm yet to find anywhere else. There'll be a vlog up on my YouTube channel this weekend so be sure to subscribe and keep an eye out!