Thursday, 13 October 2016

2 days in Berlin

It seems unbelievable to me that a return flight to Berlin can cost only slightly more than a return train ticket to Wiltshire to visit my family (£60 flights, £51 train). But wow, flying to Germany for the weekend felt super exciting, super cool and super fun!

We got up at 4am on Saturday for a 7:25 flight and were in Berlin by 10:30! And immediately bought airport coffee while Hobs collected our Berlin Welcome Cards, which are a handy tourist ticket thing. They cost us 21.5 euros each and covered 2 days travel, travel from the airport into Berlin and gave us discounts on museum tickets. They also give you maps but I prefer to use maps on my phone. This works out excellently if you use public transport a lot and go to plenty of attractions...I don't think we saved a huge amount of money as we only visited one museum, but I don't believe we lost money and it kept things very simple.

We were actually in Berlin so that Stu and Hobs aka SBC Guitars (and me) could go to the Holy Grail Guitar Show, which is an exhibition of independent guitar designer makers. So most of Saturday was spent there (and it was really great even though I don't even play guitar). I left around 3pm and headed to the Holocaust memorial and the museum beneath it. I'm still processing my feelings on this and will write about this (and the guitar show) separately.

We met a beautiful friend of mine for dinner (which was joyful as I'd not really been in touch with her for years because we are both terrible at keeping in touch) at Miss Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant in the Kreuzberg area. It had so many veggie/vegan options! Yaay! Stu's food was delicious. I picked the wrong thing....I know I'm not a big fan of noodle soup but I was seduced by the menu description and curious about banana blossoms. I couldn't even identify any banana blossom part of the dish. It was ok though and pretty cheap. We had actually wanted to go to Kimchee Princess but left it too late to book a Saturday night table. I'll be more organised next visit!

After, we went to a tiny, cool bar called Das Hotel. The speakers are on the ceiling and the tiny, paint peeled rooms are filled with candles and flowers. The drinks were cheap (compared to London anyway) and the music was good. It felt so odd that indoor smoking is allowed! Smoking has been banned in public indoor spaces in the UK for about 10 years now so being in a smoky bar was like blasting back to being a teenager! But in a beautifully dilapidated, candlelit space hazy with smoke and the scent of fresh flowers instead of a cheesy, sleazy, mirrored space that smells of smoke and cheap perfume and sweat. I'm romanticising a little...the flowers were mainly lilies which I thankfully couldn't actually smell properly over the smoke as I don't like the smell of lilies. But I do think they altered the smoke smell a bit, in a pleasant way.

Back at our hotel, Stu and Hobs got more beer from a vending machine in the corridor! We were sharing a triple room to save money, which was fine. People kept asking if it would be weird but it was just fun! Like a sleepover. (Unless Hobs secretly found it weird. Possible.)

We didn't arrange with each other what time to wake up and start the day on Sunday but fortunately we seemed to be on the same page! I woke up at 9:30 and flumped into the shower. When I came out, the guys were up. Excellent.

Gemmie (a best beast) had recommended Restaurant Bastard for breakfast, so we headed there....but alas, there was at least an hours wait for a table as it's super popular! Fuck waiting, we were hungry and in need of coffee. We headed elsewhere.

And ended up in Cutie Pie, which has a silly name but is round the corner from Bastard and is quiet. It's a kid friendly sort of place, the back was full of toys. We had decent coffee in nice thin cups (I don't like the thick cups you get in most coffee shops) and the coffee came with  a delicious tiny square of brownie! Then round another corner to Spatzle Express for actual food.

YUM. Spatzle are dumplingy noodle guys and they are comforting and delicious. They have plenty of veggie options and a menu in English if you ask for it. I had fried schupfnudeln with egg and onion and it was so, so good. I love fried food with a crispy edge. I love dumpling like things. Happy sigh. Stu had spinach spätzle with mushrooms and gorgonzola. Mmm. Hobs had something with pork. We were all happy.

From there we walked to the East Side Gallery to see the art on the remains of the Berlin Wall. Passing loads of art on our way there too. The city is full of colour and pattern. I found it beautiful. I also found it very clean and I thought there was much less advertising in your face. It felt so relaxed!

Not that we relaxed. We power walked from the East Side Gallery to the DDR Museum to learn what life was like on the East Side of the wall. And got a decent discount with our Berlin Welcome Cards! And it's a fascinating museum. Learning how people lived is my favourite kind of history.

By the way, in East Germany, the traffic light pedestrian crossing men have hats on! A little red man with a hat and a little walking green man with a hat. It's pretty great!

As we walked through Berlin later in the afternoon, Stu started to get hangry (not me, for once!) so we stopped at a touristy looking currywurst stall that sold vegan currywurst. Yay! I'm not really into German sausage (from what I remember) but the vegan sausage was so convincing I thought we might have the wrong sausage! And it satisfied our hunger quickly. In a dirty, too much sauce sort of way.

To my delight, we stumbled across an old photo booth, the kind that takes 4 different photos and gives them to you in a strip. Memories! Only this one was cooler than the ones from my youth because it is pretty and gives you flattering black and white pictures! This was really fun! I had read about these old photobooths in this post on What Olivia Did, but I didn't want to drag the guys on a hunt for one. So pleased that we just happened to see one! Also, it only cost 2 euros!

We finished the day by heading toward Checkpoint Charlie for a last bit of Cold War learning. It is  a border crossing booth in the middle of the street - not much to see, but there is a good (and free) open air gallery that explains the history, the construction of the wall, the lives that were lost and details of attempted and successful escapes. I definitely learned a lot on Sunday. For one thing, I didn't realise Berlin was in the middle of East Germany and the wall actually encased West Berlin!

By 11:30 pm, we were back in the UK and in bed around 1:00 am! An intensely fun weekend! Working on Monday was knackering but it was all worth it. And I'm looking forward to visiting Berlin again.

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