Oh, Berlin. Coolest of cities. I couldn't help but be charmed by the Bundeshauptstadt even on a flying visit five years ago. This summer, armed with a veritable artillery of creative recommendations from wonderful Lulu of Beside the Danube and B, I let myself fall completely in love. Unsurprising, really - I can't think of a pair better equipped to advise me on what to do. Thank you, guys. You're the best.
Berlin is like nowhere else I've ever visited. I was struck by its scale - what deceptively appears to be a single street on Google Maps takes a good half an hour to traverse, while gargantuan Neoclassical monuments and Communist blocks dwarf the visitor who stands helplessly agape. Despite its sheer size, I think the whole place resonates with a very chilled-out vibe. Conservatoire string players weave in and out of the shrapnel-pitted loggias on the Museumsinsel, busking at an incredibly high level. Bakeries sprout from every corner, boasting delicious pastries and coffee. Lovers wander along the Spree hand in hand and joyful toddlers and dogs have free reign of the vast parks. It's fair to say that I'm infatuated. Yes, I want to be ein Berliner. I admit it.
The perils of leaving Amsterdam before the sun is up: having to wear glasses for the rest of the trip because you've left your entire stash of contact lenses in your Airbnb...
The Holocaust Memorial.
Currywurst #1. Mediocre but vital - we were all famished from a day of walking, my shoes literally falling to bits on my feet.
A prelude to Pride at the Potsdamer Platz.
My inner art historian couldn't help but scrutinise the propagandic sculpture outside the Alte Nationalgalerie. I found this female archer's body particularly fascinating: robust yet blessed with child-bearing hips and breasts, the epitome of the Nazi feminine ideal.
Berlin's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Rausch Schokoladenhaus (Charlottenstraße 60): a Willy Wonka's paradise of chocolate creations.
One of the most interesting places we visited: the Jewish Museum (Lindenstraße 9-14). We managed to spend three or four hours in here, and I could easily have stayed for longer. The museum doesn't just cover the Holocaust but details the entire history of the Jews in Europe and Germany, although the sections on World War II are, of course, probably the most in-depth and moving. I found the Holocaust Tower particularly astonishing, and was equally fixated by the clips of the Nuremberg Trials and interviews with members of the public mere years after the events of the war. If you're passing through Berlin, I would wholeheartedly encourage factoring this into your plans.
Berlin Pride, stretching all the way from the Brandenburg Gate deep into the Tiergarten.
The Kulturbrauerei: cool arts hub by day, home to a slightly mad club (Soda) by night. That said, it's not one of the most insane clubs out there, as I found out when researching Berlin's nightlife scene...
Brunch at Engelberg (Oderberger Straße 21) in Prenzlauer Berg ('Prenzelberg', if you're a Berliner), our neighbourhood. This was at 5pm, by the way - the day after we visited said slightly mad club. I loved my Wurstsuppe - not the most photogenic of dishes, but comforting at the same time as being quite light: exactly what I needed after a big night.
The product of one of the sweet retro black and white photobooths on Warschauerstraße. Recommended by Lulu, this was one of the things I was keenest to do (I'd take one of these babies over Instagram any day!) and although the cabin was a little bit too teeny for three people, it's so much fun - and cheap. I'm definitely going to try and do one of these every time I visit from now on.
The East Side Gallery, an open-air promenade where artists use pieces of the old Wall as their canvas. Home to that notorious painting of the Socialist Fraternal Kiss.
Tempelhofer Feld, the site of Berlin-Tempelhof airport, which operated from 1927-2008. Now used as a park, with cyclists whizzing frenziedly around the old runways, it's stunning in scale and seems to be a favourite place for Berliners to hang out and have barbecues in the summer. We arrived and looked fruitlessly for the entrance. After seeing people darting in and out of the building, we were confused but determined to get in. After walking around the ticket office area and periphery for about half an hour, we realised that something was off. It quickly became apparent that Tempelhof is currently being used as a Syrian refugee camp - the biggest in Germany. We still had an interesting time walking around the grounds, though, and I'd love to see the interior if reopens to tourists at some point in the future.
Post-Tempelhof: Currywurst #2, at Curry 36 (Mehringdamm 36). Cheap and completely delicious, this was a very different dish to the one I'd had a few days earlier in Potsdamer Platz, the long queue of Berliners outside a testament to its superiority.
Restorative glasses of Berliner Weisse flavoured with woodruff, drunk under the stars at the magical PraterGarten (Kastanienallee 7-9), back in Prenzlauer Berg.
Victory sculptures, winged and evangelical, in the Deutsches Historisches Museum (Unter den Linden 2).
Our last afternoon, whiled away in the charming Volkspark Friedrichshain, sleeping in the sun and watching the ducks. (And getting kind of freaked out by this man-tortoise).
Berlin, ich komme wieder! And not in an Schwarzenegger way, either...probably. I'm particularly keen to visit during the Christmas market season, or maybe again next summer. I'm sure you've all discovered the joys of Berlin years ago, so if you've been and loved it too, please share your Berlin recommendations with me!