Travel Diary: Berlin
I thought it’d be fitting to revisit and finally get down to my Berlin posts as my best friend from Beijing was visiting this week over Christmas. A core part of my “growing up” into adulthood during my 4+ years working and living in Beijing with friends I have made for life. Earlier in the Spring we were in St Peter Ording via Hamburg for a wedding and spent 5 days in Berlin with friends also from Beijing.
I love Berlin. I felt right at home, in a way it reminded me alot of Beijing, the layout of the city, large boulevards, stern communist architecture and bicycling as a main means of our commute.
Sakuras in Berlin in Spring – who would have thought?
Here of my favourite highlights.
- Museum Island, if you’re short of time, definitely make time for the Neues Museum, whose main feature is the gorgeous Nefertiti bust – the Louvre’s equivalent of Mona Lisa. No photos allowed, mindfully take it all in. :) And take time to admire the gorgeous tiled floors.
- Watch the sunset from the dome of the Reichstag. We regretfully didn’t manage to as we didn’t make our reservations earlier, plan in advance and make your online reservations before hand. Admission is free.
- The Berlin wall and landmark Checkpoint Charlie. Apparently, you can also get your passport stamped – but I have mixed feelings about it and a quick search says it might invalidate your passport – so be mindful of that!
- Bikini haus – the mall that overlooks the Berlin zoo, so watch the animals feed and play while you’re doing your spot of shopping. We were told the building got its name for its half old (zoo)/half new location (concept stores)
- Rent a bicycle and cycle downtown to Templehoff the old Airport and admire the stern Hitler era architecture.
- Berlin Memorial, an iconic place
- The Jewish museum – stunning architecture and the feelings it evokes in the narrow sharp spaces.
- Fantastic flemkuchen at a hidden spot Frei Schwimmer over looking a little stream with ducks.
Nearly two weeks in Germany and what did we eat? While the country isn’t quite known for it’s gourmande culture, Berlin is such a melting pot with so many different type of cuisines. We had our share of cold cuts, cold bread, cold cheese and all types of wursts and needed some hot comfort foods and admit that we went to several Asian restaurants Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese – which were all excellent. And had great Middle Eastern food at Baraka in Kreuzberg, we had earlier gone to the food market Markthalle Neun for Street Food Thursdays, but we were drenched and cold, not resilient enough to squeeze through the crowd trying to get food from different stalls. Definitely would return though – the selection was wonderful.
We gave the one michelin star Pauly Saal a go, an old Jewish primary school turned restaurant, beautifully decked out space. I think I expected a little too much comparing it to the same standards in France and was slightly disappointed at the price point of 100€ for a three course set lunch. The husband’s two Michelin star three course here in Macau is 40€, and given the market, it’s actually so much cheaper in Berlin than Macau, so I couldn’t reconcile the experience for the price.
Pass by the friendly Kreuzberg Lissabonbon café for a real Portuguese coffee and diary free, gluten free bakes and if you’re a typography buff, you will love the store Type Hype. A spot of shopping for cool design stationery and accessories, I like Paper and Wohmzimmer is great.
I got super cute bicycle wrapping paper from this store.
Finally a cute little ice-cream store Anna Burkes with sweet giant tea cup shaped stools and a favourite with kids that come running after school to get their dose of dolce. It is our Berlin friend’s favourite in Kreuzberg and Anna is an Italian lady that only opens in the Spring and Summer and closed the rest of the year.
I stayed in a beautiful Airbnb apartment in Kreuzberg and would recommend it since you’ll be spending at least 5 days in Berlin to truly enjoy the city. CityMapper is a great travel app with maps and directions on the go (you’d need data but get a German SIM card which isn’t expensive and would save you lots of trouble).
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