Not that long ago, one of the bank holiday weekends in May, we went to Berlin to visit a friend.
This probably won’t be the best tour guide for you if you’re visiting Berlin, because to be honest, I didn’t plan much of our trip. We were there to visit the city, yes, but mostly we were there to spend time with our friend and therefore didn’t bother too much with the ‘must see touristic stuff’. So if you’re visiting this wonderful city I strongly advise you to do a bit more research.
Cool, now that that’s out of the way let me tell you about this awesome city. It’s probably the most casual, relaxed city I’ve ever been. You don’t really have to dress up, in fact if you going out you shouldn’t dress up at all because they won’t let you in, in fact it doesn’t matter at all what you wear – people just have this casual coolness about them. There’s loads of amazing galleries and a lot of street art everywhere, although sometimes, let’s face it, it’s just doodles. But it’s definitely the ‘artists city’. And then there’s the impressive amount of history all around, honestly in every corner you’ll learn something: you can learn everything about the war(s), and then of course there’s the Berlin wall.
We flew to Schonefeld airport, which is a tiny airport but getting to the city centre from there is super easy. You just get off the airport and follow the indications to BAHN (it’s their subway/railway). It’s easy to use, just buy a ticket and validate and then navigate it just like any other tube: find where you want to go, check how you need to get there.
We stayed at my friend’s place in East Berlin, a hip area close to the cool bars and hang out places. However we didn’t go out, we just stayed home catching up.
On Saturday morning, the first thing we did, after the brilliant breakfast prepared by our friend, was to go see the wall of course.
As you may or may not know, from 1961 to 1989 there was a massive wall splitting the city into East and West Germany. You can learn all the history about the wall on Wikipedia, but in a nut-shell the wall was built in a very damaged post-war Berlin, by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to prevent the massive emigration from East Germany, the communist Eastern block, to West Germany. GDR however claimed it was an anti-fascist protection against the NATO countries settled in West Berlinand their ‘ideals’. Basically they split the whole city and broke apart families, some people lost their jobs, the crossings were very restricted and you needed permits to do so; the tensions rose and a sense of desperation and oppression rose in East Berlin.The wall finally came down (in 1989) and it’s today a symbol of the city, visited by hundreds of tourists. Today the wall is a giant canvas for street art, an open-air gallery with graffiti on both sides. We visited the East Side Gallery along the Spree River, its 1.3 km covered with paintings by artists from all over the world. I have to say it’s a shame that some people just doodle over everything, but the essence is still there.
From there we took the subway to Alexander platz and walked to the Brandenburg gate. It’s a lovely walk and you can go through some of the city landscapes an monuments, we saw the Berliner Fernsehturm AKA the TV Tower (you can go up and have an awesome 360 view of the city), The Berlin Cathedral, the river and the bridges, the Lutsgarden a park surrounded by museums, a small flea market by the river right after the Lutsgarden and the great avenues until we reached the Brandenburg gate. Going through the Bradenburg gate you’ll find the Reichstag. Apparently it’s absolutely worth the wait to go inside and climb the huge glass dome where you a have a wonderful view of the city. Apparently. We wouldn’t know because we were hungry we went to have lunch instead.
We headed to Postdamer platz to get some lunch. Between the Brandenburg gate and Postdamer Platz you’ll find the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It looks like a grey labyrinth of large blocks of cement set on uneven ground. It’s supposed to “produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere”; It is quite impressive.
After paying our respects we went to grab some lunch at Postdamer platz and from there went to check an exhibition called ‘Angels’ by Russel James at the Camera Work gallery. It’s an exhibition of artistic nude, featuring Victoria’s Secret (angels) models. It was very good, the pictures were extremely beautiful.
The gallery was located in a very nice area of Berlin, so we walked around and ended up grabbing a hot chocolate and some biscuits at this cute little place on Knesebeckstraße which unfortunately I can’t remember the name of. But it’s easy to find: once you come out from under the subway ‘bridge’ it’s on the right hand side. It’s the cutest.
As we were feeling so intellectual that day (the weather wasn’t great) we decided to visit yet another great photo exhibition by the amazing photographer Sebastião Salgado. The exhibition, called Genesis, is a collection of several of his photographs taken in the most remote corners of the world. Some pictures are just breath-taking. We spent an eternity there.
In the evening we were so tired we went to a restaurant close to my friend’s place. My hubby wanted to have a proper schnitzel so we went to this authentic restaurant, which actually turned out to be an Austrian restaurant (haha). The food was amazing though. So good that I ate before any chance of taking a picture. Sorry. I do have a picture of another Schnitzel, from another day, here:
Day two we walked a bit around the area where my friend lives, in East Berlin, saw a few of the local markets and went to this weird place outside Warschauer Straße station, with market stools, graffiti’s and clubs. It’s a really cool, grungy, weird environment but totally worth checking. And my friend tells me sometimes there’s parties there, like raves and that sort of stuff.
Next stop on our tour was Mauer Park, they have a food market there, and a lot of street performers. We climbed to the top bit of the park first to check more bits of the wall, then headed down to the food stools, checking a few street performances on our way. There was a dance crew that was amazing, too bad we only got to see the end of the act. Afterwards we ventured in the food stands and there was just too many amazing things. We had sausages (when in Berlin…), small pizzas and crepes… mmm Everything was amazing.
There’s also a massive fleamarket and the whole atmosphere is just extraordinary. But we haven’t even talked about the cherry on top – no, it wasn’t the food, despite it being ‘oh so delicious’. During spring/summer every Sunday there’s this magnificent event at Mauer Park: a live open-air Karaoke. If there’s no rain, from 3 pm you can listen to all kinds of tunes, sang by all kinds of karaoke artists: the talented, the not so talented, the creepy, the cute, the drunk, the high, the very drunk and high. Usually you have to sign up before, but towards the end they let anyone from the audience join in. If you get there from 3pm, you’ll probably manage to find a good seat and hear a few of the good singers. But do stick around for the others, they are spectacular fun, and they deserve our love and support as well, no matter how much they suck (actually sometimes the worst they are the better it gets). You can check it out here.
Honestly this was one of the most amazing things ever. The whole atmosphere was just incredible. You feel this positive energy – kind of like when you’re at a music festival – just love and fun all over. Even if you don’t visit all the monuments this is a must GO must SEE must ENJOY place. So write it down: Mauer Park, Spring/Summer sunny Sunday, 3 pm.
That’s it, that pretty much sums it up. Sorry it’s probably not that helpful as it doesn’t have as many ‘touristic’ must do, must see things, but still fun (for me at least).
Here’s a few more pictures and a short video of our trip to sum it, please ignore my singing, I am the worst singer in the whole world but had to share the video of the karaoke and the whole atmosphere.