If you were following my InstaStories last week, you’ll know I spent my days luxuriating in Berlin drinking a lot of beer, and eating a lot of food.
When my coworkers found out I was heading to Berlin, they were all incredibly excited for me. Everyone loves Berlin, and after spending 5 days in Germany’s capital it’s easy to see why.
Berlin is an incredibly modern city, which is not a common thing in Europe, though in Berlin’s case completely understandable given its history over the past 100 or so years. Berlin has been through hell and back, more than once, yet it stands tall and proud not despite, but against its past.
The city is full of wide streets, modern architecture that contrasts more historic facades, and respectful nods to its history wherever you go. It is still easy to see the historic regions of East and West Berlin, with the west offering a far more modern scene than the east, that still bears scars from its Soviet past – in fact, a winding cobbled line still divides the east from the west like a scar, serving to remind us of the Wall, lest we should ever forget.
Berlin still seems to be under reconstruction from both war and segregation, and each and every turn you take will provide a new construction site to be seen, with blue or pink pipes pumping the surface water from the site gaily. Although you would expect construction zones to be an eyesore, these brightly coloured pipes distract you from the actual works, as you stroll past them on way to your adventure.
And trust me, when in Berlin there is plenty of adventure!
No matter where you go or stay whilst in Berlin, there is evidence of its turbulent history nearby.
The Brandenburg Gate, which marks the start of the path to town of Brandenburg an der Havel, looms large near the verdant Tiergarten and sombre Holocaust Memorial, its copper angel and chariot looking out over the city streets below.
The Reichstag Building is nearby the Gate and Tiergarten, with its glass dome easily seen from a distance. If you register in advance, you can visit the Dome which provides views far into the distance, view of Berlin unlike any other.
However, there is more ruin than rumination in Berlin, with many buildings bearing the scars of war and Soviet occupation. Remnants of the wall can be seen at places such as Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz, and the Kaiser Wilhelm church that once stood tall and proud along Kurfurstendamm still wears its broken, copper crown.
Yet, despite these reminders of the past, Berlin is writing a new story for itself with beautiful architecture and monuments celebrating its rebirth and continued growth.
Berlin was built on the edges of the River Spree and it’s tributaries, and there are many cruises which provide you a leisurely tour along its shores. Although perhaps not as grand as the Thames, the Spree is lined with weeping willows, and crossed by more bridges than Venice itself!
We were lucky to spend a morning sitting by one of the Canals, enjoying the music of a busker whilst the sun shone down and cruises passed us by, enjoying the contrast of the wild green of the trees, and the languid deep tones of the water.
However if you prefer to keep your feet on firmer ground, then one of Berlin’s many beautiful parks for you, though none are quite as resplendent as the Tiergarten. The park covers a massive 210ha and was once the hunting grounds of kings, though unfortunately suffered from deforestation after the war where there was greater need for firewood.
It has since been reforested, and is once again a beautifully lush green landscape held within the arms of the city.
One thing most people don’t tell you about Berlin is just how amazing the shopping is – better than London or Sydney! There are several distinct shopping destinations such as Mall of Berlin, Kurfurstendamm (which is the German equivalent of the Parisian Champs Elysees), and Alexanderplatz which offer your usual High Street retailers such as H&M and Zara but also a bevy of boutiques you won’t find back home.
There’s also, every Tuesday and Friday, the Turkish Markets which offer a variety of homewares, fabrics, clothing and food. Set alongside the Landwehr Canal, this is a great market for spending a couple of casual hours indulging in a cacophony of colour, aroma, and entertainment.
Although I am not typically a fan of brick and mortar shopping, I loved the sheer volume of options when it came to shopping and almost bought myself a Dirndl, cause well, it was the beginning of Oktoberfest! However, I resisted and instead bought myself a cute mini-stein covered with bears, which is features on Berlin’s coat of arms, and a gorgeous mustard scarf from Zara for Ben’s birthday (which is today, actually. Happy Birthday Ben!)
(I know some of my readers are vegetarians, so just a wee warning that there are images containing meat below).
“German Food” conjures imagery of sauerkraut and sausages, which may not excite most people, but when you’re in Germany – it should! Street vendors sell Wurst on street corners, or you could have a more gourmet rendition at a restaurant or pub, however no matter where you go sausages will be on the menu.
There’s plenty of variety too, however the most popular does seem to be currywurst, which is exactly what it sounds like. During one pub crawl, we stopped to buy currywurst and trust me when I say it’s absolutely delicious!
Schnitzel, thinly sliced pork fillet covered in breadcrumbs and fried, and Spaetzel, hand made noodles covered in cheese, are also both easy to find and delicious, and should be on the “to eat” list for anyone visiting Germany. Just a warning though – the Schnitzel is typically served with a fried egg which is much tastier than it sounds, especially from any of Berlin’s many GastroPubs.
However, Berlin isn’t just about sausages and sauerkraut, it’s also about Turkish food.
Berlin has a huge Turkish population, and at the Turkish Markets (mentioned above) you’ll find plenty of authentic, delicious Turkish food – I was finally able to introduced Ben to Gozleme which iI have been craving since I left Sydney!
On a final note, when in Berlin you must indulge in a beer or two! Although not particularly big beer drinkers, we ensured we tested several local Pilsners and even indulged a little further and had a massive 1L stein of ale each to celebrate Oktoberfest.
Have you been to Berlin? What do you think of this once divided city, finding itself anew?