BERLIN Part Two- “I take thee, Berlin, for better or for WURST.”
Having awoken with slightly sore and fuzzy heads, we threw back the curtains to find Berlin bathed in beautiful winter sunshine, with the sun gleaming off the snow topped streets. After a hearty breakfast of melty cheesy croissants and strong coffee in our trusty hostel we slung rucksacks on our backs and cameras round our necks and galloped out for a spot of sightseeing.
Taking a leisurely amble down Friedrichstrasse, Berlin’s theatre district, we gazed in delight at horse drawn carriages, the world famous Berliner Ensemble theatre (the third year university drama student in me got really excited at this) and gave a little shiver at the frozen over river- it was COLD GUYS.
As we strolled onward toward the Brandenburg Gate, we cast our eyes and lenses over some more spectacular graffiti and street art.
As we turned a bustling street corner we were greeted with the Brandenburg Gate, standing in all it it’s glory at the end of Pariser Platz. It’s deeply impressive on the eye. Towering above the crowds with a certain majesty about it, flanked either side of the street by international embassies and swish hotels, it’s easy to picture the Brandenburg as a real symbol of Germany’s turbulent history. However, this was all kind of overshadowed by the fact that we thought we saw Benedict Cumberbatch. And so we chased him. And then photographed him. Unfortunately, it was not Benedict Cumberbatch. And then we were sheepish.
From here, we took a short meander over to the Holocaust Memorial. Officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, it comprises of a whole field of concrete slabs of varying sizes that vistors can walk around. Some of the slabs tower over you as you wander through the grid, giving the slightly uneasy feeling of being encased in cemetery-esque maze. However, though sobering and providing much sombre food for thought, we did raise smiles at a tiny laughing kid padded out in a snowsuit determinedly building a tiny snowman on top of one of the slabs.
The information centre for the memorial is built underneath, and is well worth a visit. Harrowing and difficult to process, this horrific period of history is dealt with with real respect and care. We also darted across the road into the Tiergarten to pay our respects at the Memorial for the Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, which looked stark and angular against the Christmas-Card backdrop of the snow-covered park, despite it’s front garden of bouquets.
The Tiergarten is Berlin’s biggest park, acting like a green lung in the middle of this buzzy, snappy city. Seeing it in the middle of this beautiful snowy weather was just breathtaking. Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland can absolutely suck it, FOR THIS was the real deal. We walked right across it, taking in the snowball fights that were happening around us, snowmen being constructed, happy dogs running into snow drifts and a chap ice-skating down the frozen river.
We had heard whispers and rumours of a fabulous Antique Market on the other side of the Tiergarten, so trekked on, past the Victory Column (pictured above) until our fingertips and toes felt like they may drop off. As we reached the end of the park, and walked past a tired looking Burger King, we feared all was lost.
BUT THEN BEHOLD! We found the elusive Flea Market! It was like the ‘Portobello Road’ sequence in ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ (just with more currywurst stalls and more political correctness).
Before we truly lost ourselves in the endless trinkets and rickety stalls, we needed sustenance. There was only one thing for it: A plate of steaming currywurst and a bier, all served up by ANOTHER handsome beareded Berlin boy, then scoffed at a ramshackle picnic table in the middle of the market as haggling and trading flew past our ears. For those who haven’t experienced currywurst, it’s a sheer culinary DELIGHT. It’s basically sliced up sausage, covered in curry sauce and served with chips. And you can get it EVERYWHERE. It’s like in London, you’re never more than ten feet away from a Pret a Manger and a rat, in Germany you’re never more than a stone’s throw from the currywurst.
With our minds focused on our ever-ravenous stomachs (hey, Tiergarten is massive. We’d earned the right to munch.) we headed that evening to a Vietnamese restaurant with the stagiest name around:
Oft featured in Berlin ‘Where to Eat’ guides, this tiny Vietnamese restaurant located in the heart of Kreuzberg is packed to the rafters with folk chowing down on huge bowls of noodle soup. Easy on the pocket, and utterly delicious on the stomach, Miss Saigon is well worth a visit- just make sure you book for dinner as it does get extremely busy and you will feel well mugged off if you get turned away once you’ve smelt the wares.
Following a slight incident in the restaurant involving some hair accidentally being set on fire over a candle (N.B THEY ARE NOT LYING, HAIRSPRAY IS REALLY FLAMMABLE) we picked up a couple of travelling beers and jumped back on the train, slightly delirious with laughter, on the hunt for somewhere to continue our evening. THEN SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPENED- a perfect stranger, a handsome chap (who else, we are in the city of BUFF TING after all) asked if we were okay and if we needed help working out where we were. Just off his own back. How lovely- if that happened to me in London, I’d assume I was being mugged.
However, we managed to shake off the giggles long enough to stumble across the King Size Bar. Don’t be fooled by the name, this tiny bar only made itself known to us by the throb of the music that seeped out from behind the door. With no sign, and a buzzer to get in, I knew this place was TOO COOL FOR US CHUMPS. But we ordered big strong gins which glowed in the glasses and perched up against some of Berlin’s hippest as they sat smoking (indoors- no smoking ban in der Berlin) under kooky works of art which were slung up against the peeling, chipped walls. Dalston and Hoxton- this bar was your cooler, more elusive older sibling.
Reeking of smoke and with stomachs sore from chuckling, guffawing (yeah okay, and eating) we fell back to bed ready for one more day to soak up as much Berlin as we could, and as my head hit the pillow I felt my heart swell a little bit for this city. London, you may have a strong competitor for my affections.