This last week-end we went to Berlin, for the first time, and there really wasn't enough time. It's such a vibrant, culture-filled city that a week would've been better. But you take what you can get.. I came down with a heavy cold Friday morning, got up at 4am to get school lunches ready and to run for our 7am flight. Flights are easy to come by and prices are not extravagant, eDreams is a good way to start, from Lisbon to Berlin's 2 airports. We chose a comfortable, cozy hotel, Das Stue ,boutique in its size, luxurious, but discreetly so, and it did not disappoint. Super comfortable room, with an unique view, onto the zoo. More specifically, the ostrich and gnu enclosure! I loved the everchanging, country view, plus the naturalistic feel to such an urban hotel.
We had a quick lunch at a veritable classic of Berlin, Joseph Roth Diele, homemade cooking at its best. The restaurant pays homage to the writer of the same name, and is still patronised by literary types. We met and chatted to two very interesting neighbours...Visit the German Historical Museum, especially the post 1945 section, riveting and distressing at the same time. Walk through the streets, and look about you so that the small details do not go unnoticed, like bulletholes (or bigger) or plaques celebrating the short lives of people taken to the camps.
Dinner was early, booked previously, (the more in demand restaurants really require reservations), at Horváth, for a mouth watering Michelin starred dinner. After such an early day, it was back to the soothing bed of Das Stue.
Next morning, a brisk walk in the cold, blustering wind to the Reichstag, but unfortunately you do have to book in advance otherwise the queues are ridiculous!! and I didn't get to see the dome.
Street food is rampant, there are lovely little markets all over the place, where you can get a wurst of any kind, on a bread roll with mustard, delicious sweet roasted nuts, nougat, pretzels and of gluwein to keep you warm and happy.
Pergamon museum is THE must see in Berlin, unbeatable and absolutely mind boggling. The Pergamon Altar 180–160 BCE, the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way of Babylon, dating from the time of Nebuchadnezzar II 6th century BCE, and the but of Queen Nefertiti, are overwhelming. There are around 200 museums in the city so you have to pick the one's that interest you.
You can rent a bike anywhere, and since its flat, it's a joy to ride around and see the sights, and around the river, as Berlin has more bridges than Venice! Obviously better in spring or summer. No visit is complete with a stopover at the very touristic Checkpoint Charlie, (featured in so many films, check it out on Octopussy with James Bond) and a section of the wall, which is great to see with a guide.
Don't miss the Gendarmenmarkt, the most beautiful square in the city, with the German Cathedral on one side and the French Cathedral on the other. Since we're near Christmas, there is always a traditional market selling mostly handmade, authentic goods, such as glass ornaments, wooden crafts, great food and more gluwein!
Saturday lunch was at Pauly Saal, a restaurant housed in a Rationlist-style building which used to be an old Jewish school for girls, closed down years ago, and again, the food was incredible!
All the shops were closed on Sunday, so it was a museum day, the Altes Museum, Neues Museum, and to crown this culture vulture, La Boheme at the Deutsche Opera Berlin.
Monday, 1 hour, 1 store! Manufactum, the famed German catalogue, that I've lusted after for ages, has a shop in Charlottenburg. Well worth a visit if you like products that embody quality manufacturing with classic designs. Here you'll find the most exquisite office tools, wooden pegs, garden accessories that don't have an ounce of coloured plastic in sight, real fishermen's sweaters and striped tee's, the perfect boots for walking on the country, kitchen utensils you wouldn't mind your guests to see, matchless lights fixtures, all very understated. I'm a huge fan as you can see... Their English site is still limited, but take a peek at the German one and see how the world could be more elegant by catering to simplicity.
Places to eat at, to visit, for fun:
Sophieneck, great bistro, home cooked food ,
Brandenburg Gate, another historical site,
the Jewish Museum, opened in 2001, covering two centuries of Germanic-Judaic history, and all the suffering that comes with it,
Cordobar, a cute wine bar.
Make your own hot chocolate with 3 types of chocolate! All in all, an amazing city to visit on a weekend break, but I really want to go back!