Monday, 26 May 2014

Berlin take two: Trying to fall in love with the city.

I really wanted to fall in love with Berlin this time round.

Considering my recently discovered love for Germany in general thanks to six months living in Bavaria, I feel like I really ought to love the capital city.

When my friends heard I was going to saw my tweets from Berlin, SO many of them replied saying "OMG I LOVE BERLIN! BERLIN IS THE BEST! I MISS BERLIN! YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE IT!" And don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Berlin. I like it. I just don't love it as much as everyone else does.

Everyone says Berlin is fun, exciting, trendy, edgy, buzzy, great... I just haven't got that impression myself. Yet. However I know I'm not totally alone. One of my friends tweeted back saying, "It's not one of those cities I fell in love with and thought 'I wish I lived here'- it's interesting not magical." And I'd have to agree. Please don't hate me, Berliners and Berlin-fans!

The first time I visited Berlin was a year and a few months ago, in deepest darkest winter. And I'm sure you'll agree, nowhere is particularly appealing when it's freezing and the skies are grey.

After a fun few days powing out the sights with my uni friends and packing in as much as we could, I'd decided I found Berlin really interesting... But I didn't love it. Again, by no means did I disike it, oh no, but it hadn't charmed me. (Feel free to read more about my first impressions and what we got up to here.)

So, when I rather last-minute got the opportunity to spend another 24 hours in Berlin and this time in (nearly) summer, I was super excited and hopeful I might come away with an improved impression of the city.

To be fair, my impression has improved. But I wouldn't say I love it, as much as I want to.

Maybe it's because I am a wannabe Bavarian and nowhere does it for me like quaint, charming, traditional Bavaria.

Or maybe it's because I haven't seen the best places and I need an echt Berliner to show me round. Super-Berlin-lover, former-Berlin-year-abroader and blogger, Ellie, told me she didn't love it when she visited, it was only after living there that she grew to love it. "It's got a kooky hidden charm," she said, and that's what I'd love to discover.

Don't get me wrong, I still had a great few hours in Germany's capital city - I mean, hello, it's Germany! Personally, it makes me happy just to hear German all around me. Well, nearly all around. There are a lot of tourists to be fair.

I did a classic me on a mini city break - walked and walked and walked until I could walk no more.

However, seeing as this trip came about rather at the last minute, I unfortunately could not do a classic me and research/plan/make an itinerary beforehand. QUELLE HORREUR! So, with nothing organised or anything in particular on my "to do" list, I merely wandered.

I saw a few of the main sights, but I wasn't overly fussed about ticking them all off as like I said, I did them all the first time round.

With my trusty camera round my neck, I still found plenty of picturesque sights to capture, so allow me to take you on a little stroll through Berlin and share the things I liked most. Los geht's!

Past one of the uni buildings I went, thinking to myself it must be rather nice to study in there.

Then I went over the river with a lovely view of the Reichstag...

I love the mix of old and new here
... and my first stop had to be the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

Did you know they've banned the people in costume who were once so iconic in pictures of the Brandeburg Gate? Well they have. Yup, selfies with Mickey Mouse are no more. You've missed your chance, kiddos.

I walked down Unter den Linden (the biiiiig road leading up to the Brandenburg Gate) and ventured East. One of the things I love about East Berlin is the famous Ampelmann:

He's so cute, no? There are even Ampelmann shops all round the city (or maybe just the East?) where you can buy Ampelmann-themed, well, everything. I'm particularly partial to the gummi Ampelmann sweeties. There's a surprise.

Quick history lesson for those of you who know nothing about Berlin: after WW2 it was divided into East and West by this massive wall called The Berlin Wall. (Makes sense, huh?). It was kind of (totally) a big (HUGE!) deal. And although it's been 25 years since the wall came down, the differences between the two sides are still noticeable. Having studied the history of the city, I find it super interesting.

Aaaanyway, I carried on strolling, stopping to peruse some old German books as I went...

...and I soon got to the weekend art market on the Museumsinsel. I had a little lookie.

Then it was over the river to the very impressive Cathedral.

The sun may not have been shining but surrounded by green green grass and leafy trees, it looked even better than it had done in January.

Another thing I really like about Berlin is that you can basically see the TV tower from wherever you are. It may not be much of a looker but it's pretty helpful for getting your bearings, I'm sure you'll agree.

I walked some more. And some more. I went past this cupcake and froyo café and took a pic purely because it looked cute...

And yes, I did just say cupcake and froyo café. Perfect for me, much!? I tell you what, it was extremely rare to see cupcakes or froyo back in oh-so-traditional Bavaria, and I stumbled upon loads of similar places during just a few hours in Berlin. I guess that's quite a good demonstration of the difference between the two!

Oh, that leads me rather nicely on to where I went next actually...

I managed to find myself in Berlin's Nikolaiviertel (Nicholas Quarter if you want to translate, but I think it sounds much better auf deutsch) which is all historic and quaint and IT REMINDED ME OF BAVARIA!

Oh, cobbled streets and ye olde German-ness! It's been too long!

Next up, I walked round an area that was less photo-worthy so let's just skip that and get to the next pretty bit, shall we? Jolly good.

Ah, here we go:

That's the Gendarmenmarkt. It's sehr Grand and I like it a lot. By this point, however, my feet were aching and I realised my blood sugar had dropped perilously low. Any good city explorer knows that's fatal, so... TO THE BAKERY!

I really miss German bakeries. Just like Germany in general, they're totally underrated in my opinion. Everyone's always saying "Oh la la, boulangeries, bon, bein, baguettes, ouai, alors, délicieux" and there's this idea that French bakeries are the best thing since, um, sliced bread? (Not sure that expression really works here but we'll go with it.)

French bakeries, like Belgian ones, are undoubtedly full of delicious and diet-destroying treats. But they're quite different to German Bäckereien. And me, I prefer the latter. French/Belgian ones are fancy schmancy, fabulous and fine, German ones are like PRETZELS, BREAD ROLLS, PASTRIES  in your face. I'm not sure I've explained this very well but you'll just have to trust me.

Well the point is I had a delicious lunch and a reinvigorating sit down before venturing off again. I walked down the shopping street, Friedrichstrasse, managing to resist actually shopping (*hears applause in head* thank you, thanks very much.)

And I soon got to Checkpoint Charlie, which is one of the most famous crossing points on the Berlin Wall. It's now a total tourist trap and there was even a cool little sandy "beach" area where people were lounging on deck-chairs and sipping cocktails from the surrounding street trucks. Trendy, I know. The sun had come out too, hoorah!

However with so few hours in Berlin there was no time to stop and top up my tan, and on I went.

I crossed the river yet again...

...and after walking on for a while more I found myself in Gleisdreieck Park. Apparently this is quite an upcoming park, and on a sunny Saturday afternoon it was full of people picnicking, roller-skating, skateboarding, playing table tennis, sunbathing, playing on the swings and generally having a nice time.

At this point it was time for me to head to a meeting so off I went. Let's jump forward a few hours...


I had the evening to myself and so set off in search of dinner. Something vegetabley, thought I. Readers, nothing vegetabley occurred.

Back over the river I went, this time with some pretty lovely evening light going on...

...and back to the grand old Brandenburg Gate. Instagram/Twitter followers may know what happened next. You know what? I just couldn't help myself!

Yup, the classic Currywurst and chips. When in Berlin, eh? It's not even my favourite type of Wurst (everyone has one, right?) but on a mild evening in front of the Brandenburg Gate, with a side of people-watching, it was really most pleasant.

I have to say, now I'm accustomed to the famous Belgian frites I realised these chips had nothing on Belgium!

And that was pretty much the end of my day in Germany's capital. I feel like I really packed it in though. Achey feet to the max!

Goodnight, Berlin!
Aaaand good morning, Berlin!
When I woke up the next morning, there was not one cloud in the sky, and I opened my curtains to a gorgeous view of the city.

Unfortunately all I had time for was a quick (but DELICIOUS) breakfast then it was back to the airport.

Don't mind if I do!
Oh, and by the way, that is not - as my friend Rachel suggested - lasagne with strawberries. It is obviously a Streuselschnecke. You know, a Streuselschnecke. It's basically a pastry covered in crumble topping and an icing glaze. It ain't the healthiest but you can't be good all the time, and it was delish. I recommend you try a Streuselschnecke. Streuselschnecke. It's also such a great German word, don't you think? One of my faves.

Moving on...

Even the journey back to the airport looked much nicer than it had done the previous day because the sun was out to play. I was sad to have to leave on such a beautiful day.

But it was a lovely visit to Berlin and I really enjoyed discovering more of what Germany's capital has to offer. Maybe all I need is one more trip to fall head over heels in love with Berlin... Do you have any tips or recommendations for next time? I'd love to hear them.

PS. Get excited: I'M GOING BACK TO BAVARIA THIS WEEK! Keep your eyes peeled for what will undoubtedly be a gorgeous trip.


  1. Rach I've read many of your blogs before but felt the need to comment on this one because a) I genuinely was also like "woah, is she having lasagna and strawberries for breakfast?!" before you clarified that it wasn't (although I so would not have judged you for that), b) you told it like a little virtual tour where we can all pootle along and then you're say nice things like let's skip this bit, and we're like "yes, OK, I trust your judgement on this one", and it's kind of like travelling for really lazy people and c) to tell you that IT'S OK TO NOT LIKE A CITY! I was exactly the same when I went to Amsterdam, and came back with a general opinion of MEH. Actually, it was probably more extreme than that. I went on a day trip (from where I was based in the Hague), and ended up spending the whole day in the public library and then getting an early train back. And I mean, not liking Amsterdam is probably about the same as not liking Berlin, controversy-wise, so I feel ya. I applaud your general attempt to stick at it and still say nice things and take nice pictures :) To be honest, I think cities are all about time and place, so maybe one day you will change your mind! In the meantime, don't fret about it. If we all liked every city in the world it would, quite frankly, be rather exhausting. Nobody has the energy to like every place they go to ;)

    1. Ha ha ha thanks so much for commenting, Gem. And I'm so glad I cleared up that I wasn't having lasagne and strawberries! That would've been weird even for me.
      Thanks so much for letting me know you know how I feel... You're right. It is ok! :)

  2. I'd say the problem is you didnt have enough time to get outside the quite touristy central areas of Berlin! There are amazingly interesting and kooky areas just a little bit outside of the centre. Friedrichshain has an amazing street called Simon Dach Strasse which is just lined with restaurants and bars all with outdoor seating. Its the perfect place to start an evening out in Kruezberg which is just across the river. Kreuzberg has lots of bars and restaurants again but has the BEST clubs in the city.Watergate is one that stays open til all hours and it is one of the best places I have ever watched the sun rise from! It is on the river underneath an amazing bridge! Also in this area is the east side gallery (part of the berlin wall covered in art) and plenty more interesting historical stuff. Prenzlauer berg is a slightly more upmarket area in the city thats pretty amazing too, especially there sunday markets in the park. This was my favourite bit of Berlin. Everyone brings the entire family and lots of food and lots of entertainment. There is music and sport and food everywhere and thats outside the market!! So good! Hope you find some more things you like next time!

    1. You may be right, thanks Edel. I'll hopefully be able to check out all those other places soon! I went to the East Side Gallery last time I visted though and it was very interesting. Thanks!

  3. Love this post! I stopped off here when I was interrailling last summer and my friends and I went for the whole touristy route of sightseeing which was actually kind of dull (although the history is interesting of course), the best thing we did though was a last-minute walking tour of the street art, amazing to see all the art tucked away!

    1. Thanks Emily. That sounds great! Maybe I should try that next time :)

  4. Umm excuse me. Did you walk past a cupcake and froyo place and have neither a cupcake nor a froyo?! WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.

    1. I know. But it was nearly lunchtime and I just didn't want to spoil my appetite. I did have froyo later though and in my defence the cupcakes a) didn't look that great and b) I cannot justify the price at which individual cupcakes are sold!

  5. I agree with Edel, the centre of Berlin is really not what makes it special. Places like Kreuzberg, Prenzlauerberg and even Neukölln are brimming with kooky cafes, independent boutiques and lots of street art. But it's hard to discover those places on a whistle-stop tour, they're sort of the hidden secret known only to long-term residents. I personally didn't discover them until I moved there and was desperate for a good cup of coffee. Also, Berlin is awful in the winter, it's definitely a summer city for sure! Next time you go, wing me a message and I'll recommend you some Rachel-esque food/shopping places :-)

    1. Ahh that sounds amazing, thanks Ellie. I'll certainly be in touch next time! :)

  6. Hahaha I'm so glad you included my confusion about the lasagne with strawberries! And glad to see from the top comment that I'm not the only one who thought it!! I totally agree with you about the bakery thing! Although I definitely am always saying "Oh la la, boulangeries, bon, bein, baguettes, ouai, alors, délicieux", I actually just love a good pretzel... great post as always!

    1. Ha ha ha I bet you are! Thanks ma dear :)

  7. I fell in love with this city when I visited last year


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