2018 is the year of big birthdays within my family, it’s the hubby and mine 30th this year and the Mother & Mother-In-Law’s big birthday, which I can’t say because my Mam will kill me if I say, quite literally.
The husbands 30th birthday was back in March. I wanted to get him something he would remember but for someone who has a vast aftershave collection and array of watches that would contend with Fenwick’s, I was at a loss what to get him. Last year I decided 2018 would be the year of travelling and seeing more of Europe so I decided to whisk him away for a couple of days. I chose Berlin mainly because it’s a city which I’ve previously fell in love with. The people, the architecture, the history, everything about it I love. Chris’ Birthday was on the Tuesday and I whisked him away on the Wednesday. He knew I was taking him away somewhere but he thought Amsterdam, which was very nearly the case.
Our flight was at 14.20 and we couldn’t have asked for a better flight, it was a bit bumpy landing but now I’m over my fear of flying (which I need to be with the amount I’m flying this year) this didn’t bother me at all. The German railway system is super easy to navigate, and cheap at only €3.80 each into the city centre, we decided to get the tube into Berlin. Our hotel was approx a 5 minute walk from the Bahnhof. I chose the hotel Blncty Hotel due to its rave reviews for location and with a rating of 8.2/10 on Booking.com I knew it would be ok. We arrived and were greeted by a lovely lady on reception. She was very welcoming and turns out they had upgraded our hotel room and had left a bottle of champagne in our room for Chris’ 30th - what a lovely touch I thought. After a quick freshen up we decided to head straight out, I’m mean we had limited time in Berlin and we weren’t going to waste any of it.
Start the clock - Our hotel couldn’t have been in a more perfect location, a 10 seconds walk to The Mall of Berlin which I honestly didn’t know about, Hitler’s Bunker was literally on the road opposite the hotel and The Brandenburg Gate only a few minutes walk. With this in mind, we headed past The Mall of Berlin and followed the traffic towards Potsdamer Platz, a shopping and nightlife district with shops, restaurants, cinemas and theatres crowned by an impressive marquee style roof. The architecture here blew us both away, especially when faced with the Kollhoff Tower & Bahntower.
After a walk around here, we walked past a sushi restaurant which we couldn’t say no to, considering our last meal was at the airport. The sushi restaurant was called Sushi Express and we would highly recommend it. The sushi was fresh and made in front of us, plus little did we know but it was 50% off everything - score considering we chose one of the bigger platters being the sushi pigs we are. Bellies full of sushi, off we went to see more of what this beautiful city had to offer.
Leaving Potsdamer Platz, we headed towards The Brandenburg Gate. Beautifully lit up by a score of warming lights, I started to get all giddy inside... I bloody love Berlin! En route to The Brandenburg Gate we had to walk past the Memorial To The Murdered Jews of Europe, which was extremely eerie with it being surrounded in a carpet of darkness. Needless to say we didn’t hang around her for long and continued our walk to The Brandenburg Gate. What an amazing site it was with its iconic architecture towering over us with such an amazing attention to detail and artistry, the 18th Century Neoclassical Monument certainly did blow me away. With the obligatory touristy photographs taken, the bars beckoned - after all, we didn’t have much time here and if we were going to have a drink tonight was the night with our early flight back home in the Friday. We headed to Andy’s Diner & Bar back at Potsdamer Platz, with its all American feel we stayed here for a couple of German beers then headed out on the search for another bar. Eleven Cafe Bar & Lounge was up. The bar was very relaxed with chill out out vibes, the bartender was attentive but not in our faces. The music was right up my street, think chilled out house music. The only downfall of this place was the bartenders whatever she was at the bar, sitting there looking at the customers up and down, speaking in German and laughing other than that we had a pleasant few drinks. With that, we headed back to our hotel room with a detour via our hotel bar, €2 bottles of beer you say?! No wonder I had a sore head the next morning but that didn’t dampen our spirits.
The following morning a busy day was set out in front of us. Yes we had a thick head but that wasn’t going to stop us, we had too much to plan and too much to see so off we went. First up we headed back to The Memorial to The Murdered Jews of Europe, designed by architect Peter Eisenman, remembering the 6 million victims of the Holocaust. The memorial had a very thought provoking and has haunting feel to it. To say there where so many people visiting the memorial, you felt very alone whilst walking around the vast space. One moment you would be walking around with the concrete blocks no bigger than a foot tall to them all of a sudden towering over you. For such simple structures they are very striking and powerful. After we finished here we headed to the Reichstag.
The Reichstag is a historic edifice in Berlin, Germany, constructed to house the Imperial Diet of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Diet until 1933, when it was severely damaged after being set on fire. The large glass dome at the very top of the Reichstag has a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The main hall of the parliament below can also be seen from inside the dome, and natural light from above radiates down to the parliament floor. The roof terrace and dome of the Reichstag Building can be visited by members of the public and offer spectacular views of the parliamentary and government district and Berlin’s sights. Admissions is free however advanced registration is required. I knew this however didn’t opt for this visit, even though it was free, due to the lack of time we had in the city.
On my wanderlust quest, I’m heading to Paris next month too. One of the main places I want to visit whilst there is the luxurious shopping mall, Galeries Lafayette. The Galeries Lafayette is an upmarket French department store chain. Its flagship store is on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris but it now operates in a number of other locations in France and other countries, including Berlin (this was convenient as I did know it was based in Berlin too) so a trip here was on the cards too. Galeries Lafayette Berlin is located in the City East at Friedrichstraße corner Französische Straße. Galeries Lafayette is highly visible, its modern glass façade distinguishes it from the other buildings around and provides an international shopping atmosphere.
A little piece of Paris in Berlin. Like any classic department store it’s filled with fashion, accessories and beauty products, all with a discerning Gallic eye cast over them. You’ll find everything from Galliano and Paul Smith to Mulberry and Moncler, Bikkemberg and a men only spa situated on the same floor. The gourmet floor is filled with French delicatessens including macaroons by Frédéric Cassel. I was blown away by the interior too, I mean who doesn’t love grand marble staircases and marble floor - very instagramable to say the least.
A must on the list to visit whilst in Berlin is the iconic Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point in the Berlin Wall located at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße (which for older historical reasons coincidentally means 'Wall Street'). I know this isn’t much good however at this point we were both starving, after much sightseeing and plenty of walking we decided it was time for food. We didn’t fancy anything big but at Checkpoint Charlie’s, there is a cafe next door to McDonald’s. It is super cheap and serves a wide selection of sandwiches, pastries, pizzas, hot drinks, cold drinks, you name it. Our lunch came to around €10, cheap and cheerful yet I can’t remember the name. You can’t miss it though, it’s right next door to McDonald’s and for the nicer, more warmer months there is an outside terrace upstairs.
One museum the husband was very eager to visit was the Jewish Museum which was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. The Jewish Museum Berlin, which opened to the public in 2001, exhibits the social, political and cultural history of the Jews in Germany from the fourth century to the present, showing and integrating the repercussions of the Holocaust. When you enter the museum, the entry fee is a mere €8, you are asked to leave your coats, scarves and hat at the cloakroom. I didn’t understand this at first but in the end I did, when entering certain parts of the museum you are made to feel alone, scared, upset, cold - as dramatic as it sounds it will never comprehend anything as close to what so many Jews experienced during the holocaust.
You enter the Baroque Kollegienhaus which then descends by a stairway through the dramatic Entry Void, into the underground. The descent leads to three underground axial routes, each of which tells a different story. The first leads to a dead end – the Holocaust Tower. The second leads out of the building and into the Garden of Exile and Emigration, remembering those who were forced to leave Berlin The third and longest, traces a path leading to the Stair of Continuity, then up to the exhibition spaces of the museum, emphasizing the continuum of history. Reading the stories of some of the named families and going into 'The Holocaust Tower' were chilling, saddening and moving experiences. Its architecture provides a thought provoking back drop to the sombre topic of the troubled historic relationship between the Jews and the Germans. The long stark corridors, harsh angles and many voids really added to the atmosphere of the topic and the memorial of faces in one of the voids was very poignant and on point. It's a sad thought provoking museum to visit but is very interesting and the architecture makes it well worth a visit.
After leaving The Jewish Museum, are spirits where a little damped due the effect the stories and exhibitions had on us so we decided to head back to our hotel room for an afternoon nap, don’t judge I’m hitting the big 30 and the hangover had finally got hold of me. We had seen and done so much so a couple of hours out wasn’t going to harm. Waking up nice and fresh, we headed back out. We sauntered around the Mall of Berlin, bought our baby boy some Lindt chocolates - the guilt always gets to me when we don’t take him away with us. On our walk around The Mall of Berlin we came across a slide which went from the top floor of the mall to the ground floor, oh my days this was the best thing I’d seen in a long time. The children where so well behaved too, waiting in line ready for their turn... you could never have something like this in Newcastle or Gateshead, there’d be carnage!
As you’ve probably gathered by now if you follow my blog, me and the husband love sushi. So much so we come all the way to Germany and pretty much just eat sushi, so as you’ve probably already guessed it on our final night we had sushi again. However, we dined at a different sushi restaurant, the one was just at the end of our street and, drum roll please, was ALL YOU CAN EAT FOR ONLY €14.90! Get in my face! The husband took this quite literally and must have ate around 15 plates, I had around 6. It was nice but I’ve had better but for that price you can’t grumble at all. Yet again, bellies full of sushi we headed back out for one final walk around Berlin at night. Seeing The Brandenburg Tor again at night was just as magnificent as when I saw it for the first time, what a trip this had been and what a finale.
From the architecture of Berlin, to the street art, parts of the Berlin Wall still being scattered around the city to the hospitality of the German people, Berlin will always hold a special place in my heart. To say we spent a mere 42 hours in the city, we did see quite a lot. Needless to say, I can’t wait to return but hopefully in the warmer months as it was freezing whilst we were there. Bearable but freezing, however on the final day the temperature dropped again and was pleased we were leaving and heading back to see our baby boy. If you haven’t been to Berlin before, you will not be disappointed and I highly recommend our hotel, it was the perfect base for our visit.