And how the seasons have changed. As it was here, Berlin was a snowy one, Germany was embedded in the thick white flakes.
We visited sights new and revisited others changed by winter. There were laughs, pains and very cold fingers, but hand warmers, ear muffs and gluhwein helped to stave off the most part. I hobbled around like a limp dog, as I had injured my knee, whilst Adam proved a shoulder to lean on.
We stayed in Berlin this time for 9 nights, the memories are too many to recall and this is my recount in a whistle stop tour of the highs and low, places to visit and to avoid, and drinks to indulge and deny.
We had a tight connection as our first plane was delayed so with 5 minutes me and Adam legged it through Munich’s terminal, it turned out we had time for a double espresso (provided free in the Lufthansa suite, as the plane was delayed. Arrival in Berlin to snow, Warsteiner, Augustiner, and en route to the Magnet club to see Best Coast supported by Sky Larkin.
A good gig, though it made me realise I’m not that into indie pop at the minute. We had fun though tanked up on Berliner pilsner and bopping in Germany.
Our first full day and we started as we continued, cramming in the city. This was marketing out day, as we visited too many Christmas markets. We started out with breakfast from the Netto next door, still quality and so inexpensively priced. Off to the Museum für Film und Fernsehen, which was a new museum for us. As with all the exhibitions in Berlin it was a real treat, done to a quality that makes them a sensory indulgence. We entered through a chamber of infinity, which was dozens of mirrors placed so that you went on forever, I could have stayed with my head hung upside down all day. We then went on to be guided through the film history of Berlin, visiting the classics such as Metropolis and Wings of Desire. We had already visited market one before this point at Potsdamer Platz, which actually turned out to be the worst one, it’s a strange place and reminds me of the feeling I get in Spinningfields, Manchester. We went on to market number two, Gendarmenmarkt, which cost one euro to enter. We mulled up at €3.50 a pop, and sat inside to watch some sort of dancing, a little warmer we made our way to Prenzlauer Berg to get a decent beer, where Adam spotted Brew Dog fly posters in the urinals. Next, to an Indian tea washed down with mango liqueur. We finished our day tiddly at the Lucia Christmas markets, which by far were the most fun and set in the cool Kollwitzplatz Kultur Brauerei, which used to be an old brewery. As the temperature collapsed me and Adam were delighted to warm our bums by sitting on a radiator with fur coats suspended overhead. The end to a lovely -10 °C day.
In search of the freebies before we purchased our 3 day museum pass, off we head back to Prenzlauer Berg. First call of day, Americano from one of the many bistros of the area. We visited the Prenzlauer Berg Museum about its history, which is all in German, but worth a look round for the heating and the building, again like no other you go to. We visited the oldest water tower in Berlin, Wasserturm, and saw the post lady delivering to the flats below the tower, which is adjacent to what used be a machine hall used as the first concentration camp in Nazi Germany in the first half of 1933. Off for a bizarre African inspired lunch at one of the many independents, at €8 for us both we couldn’t grumble. We then went to the spectacle of Zeiss Gross Planetarium – Prenzlauer Allee, but it was shut bar the entrance, so we stayed in there until it became apparent that it was mull-o-clock. So off we trotted via the H-bahn to Charlottenburg Christmas Markets, and that’s when it hit us that we didn’t want to see another German Christmas market again on this trip. Fatigue kicked in and so we returned to the City Ost Hotel before recapturing our passion for the city and finding the Hausbrauerei Hops and Barley, which was in walking distance from our hotel. It was reviewed in this month’s Ex-Berliner and was a real treat, the house special, Spezialbier was excellent and only €2.80 for 0.5L.
Start of the museum pass extravaganza. Served by the same old stroppy tourist office man as last time we bought our passes for €19 each and headed off for Berlinisches Galerie, but this time round without the yellow lettered front entrance that was instead snow filled. I was convinced from an article in the local paper that there was an elevator bed you could pay to go on, this exhibit does not exist . . . The article was for the Soma exhibition that we viewed from the non paying side of the fence in the Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery, which contains reindeers and an elevated bed which you can pay €1000 a night to stay and trip out on reindeer urine. We found a cafe that became a highlight of the trip Taz Prezzo, and I ate a chicken noodle and kneidel soup for €3, followed by a coffee and accompanying dark chocolate bean (always a nice added touch.) Off to Märkisches Museum, which was a new and hidden gem, as me and Adam trawled its vastness with nobody else in the building except from the suspect staff. For dessert we finished with a trip back to the awesome Jewish Museum, mainly to see the building than revisit the exhibits. Then for the two treats of the evening Hirsch bar, where we dined had 2 beers each and an espresso for €26, 0.5L of their own house lager is €2.50 and really good, then back to resample Hops and Barley.
First new treat of the day Neue Nationalgalerie, which I hadn’t realised existed last time. Wonderful permanent collections of 20th century art span the basement, and the new exhibit shown on ground level. Back to Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery to peek at the reindeer from the stairs, it smelt like reindeer and looked a typical German set up, in being an excellently constructed piece. To the Neues Museum, which blew us away in its scale and its strength in combining old and new architecture. Each and every building lends to a particular uniqueness, and that is what is so exceptional about the utilisation of form and function in this city. For dinner we decided to sample a bizarre place called Dr.Eckstuck – Kreuzberg, again located in Ex-Berliner, but reviewed by the nurse with a short uniform, so maybe I should have guessed the sort of vibe it would have. The boys toilets were splattered in porn and the staff looked like they were from Lock Stock, but the food was really good, we were the only people in there. Well it was Saturday night in Berlin so we felt it our duty to find a club, and we located West Germany as recommended by Hey Manchester Chris. Bizarrely, seen as every club in Germany doesn’t get going until 3am this one was winding up as they had a gig night on and it was the last night for them this year. The venue is apparently owned by the brother of the guy who owns Islington Mill, so it was cool to have that connection and dance to Four Tet. Whilst being a bit merry and thinking I was being smooth, I asked for a cocktail of what the beaker was, only to be ripped off with cheap vodka and rola cola for €4.
An awesome start to the day by visiting the Helmut Newton Photography Exhibition, which was the perfect start to a Sunday and the perfect antidote to a hangover, especially as I had purchased a gluhwein for €1.50 from the pizza place across the road from our hotel – mit schluss as well of all things! A lovely Thai lunch of ramen and green tea before visiting the Kulturforum, which had a cool typography exhibition and many galleries to explore. We decided on a tamer evening with a couple of beers and a Netto tea, no schluss for me as in the morning we were going on the 7.54am train to Leipzig, to visit where mine and Adam’s friend Thea was born.
Leipzig, the trip I had been hoping to do, but had proved rather more expensive than anticipated at nearly €80 for a 2 way ticket, me and Adam found Interconnex, a German semi-budget website where we purchased set times at €19 each way. We set off early, which was a fun but a confusing start to the day, which caused us to somehow succumb to Kamps coffee. The train ride was magical as we travelled through the snowy countryside of Germany and watched as the bright orange in the sky came up. We arrived at Leipzig Bahnhof (Europe’s largest railway station), which has 3 floor shopping mall, and garish decorations to adorn it’s beautiful construction. We limped out to try to find the tourist info which had moved, but eventually found it and to our delight saw that everything on the map was walkable. Our first stop was to find the Neuroorthopädisches Zentrum für Physiotherapie Leipzig to see Teddy Hurst’s art. We found it easily and saw the pieces Thea’s husband had produced when he lost his ability to speak after suffering a stroke and art became his means of communicating. Me and Adam were moved by the strength of his pieces, though we felt bizarre to be walking around looking at them whilst patients were in rehabilitation. The next stop was to see the Schul Museum, where we saw the memories of Thea’s school days in a room with a reconstruction of the original school floor that was used to help Thea remember the names of her class mates. It was a really moving place for me to visit and we went on to find the street where she had been evacuated from in the war, only to not find the house as the paving stone tribute to her father was covered under the thick snow. For lunch with a worthy Augustiner and then to the Coffee Baum Museum. A couple of coffees later and we headed back to the peculiar train station to purchase goods for our outbound journey. Tired but pleased we had achieved this voyage we rewarded ourselves with drinks in a side street off Mitte, before we went in pursuit of, the no one goes there in Winter, Tacheles Gallery. We wondered where the prostitutes that had lined the streets in summer had gone to, but as we looked with closer inspection at the furry bomber jackets and patent thigh fur boots, we realised a valuable lesson that prostitutes too feel the cold, much to our amusement we went happily to bed.
This day resembled 28 days later as we started the day by visiting Stix Gallery, which is an abandoned brewery that houses a gallery. Me and Adam crept about the dilapidated building half expecting the ceiling to crumble in and the gallery was closed. The start of the plane worry that we might not make it home for Christmas, as Adam watched on the sleeping bundles at Heathrow airport. I cried in to my coffee about not getting home for Christmas where as Adam the voice of reason showed me the way back and we visited the old airfield of Tempelhof Airport left as it was, but not a soul to be seen. The Topograpie des Terrors put it all into perspective as we looked on the different levels of reality. Another lovely Thai meal 12 pieces of sushi and miso soup for €5, Taz Presso for coffee, then to Knoblauchaus one of the few 18th century houses left in Berlin, this was a freebie and a very different space to see. I wanted to squeeze in one more, but we thought sod it and went for an amazing Greek meal at Knofi, a bottle of red and 5 dishes for €25, we got exceptionally drunk and slept heavily.
Last day of the trip and we started it well with the “WeltWissen – World Knowledge” – 300 Years of Science in Berlin exhibition, at Martin-Gropias Bau. The wonderful periodic table exhibit and shadow play was a magnificent start to the day. We went for another truly satisfying lunch at Taz Prezzo, whilst Adam creamed his off with an apfel and quark strudel. We had 3 more places we wished to go Galleries Lafyette for a joke and warmth, the war memorial near Museum Island, and the Temporary Kunsthalle. Galleries Lafyette kept us amused for 5 minutes, the war memorial brought all the cold stinging sensations into real perspective as the statue lay their covered in snow and the Temporary Kunsthalle proved very temporary, as it no longer existed. Our decision was made for a delightful evening of a revisit to Intimes cinema bar, which we had visited on our first evening here in Berlin last time. The food was even bigger than we remembered and you couldn’t get bigger in our eyes. Adam’s chicken Schnitzler and chips came with a side salad to accompany his side salad and mine came with a full filed loaf of sun-dried tomato bread, quality indeed and that was what our entire experience of Berlin was filled with.
The memories of Berlin are so many and this is just a snapshot of what I have written down, kept, and can recall. To follow a rundown of where to go and where the places are, until then Happy New Year everyone and Happy New Year Berlin.