I went to Berlin in 2014, and had a great time, but Lady Hughes had never been and we were looking for an opportunity to go. So when my brother invited us to join him and his partner Ger, on his birthday trip, we jumped at the chance.
Berlin is a very cool city, it’s relaxed, modern, relatively cheap and there’s lots to see and do. If you’re a bit of a history buff, like me, then there’s a wealth of museums and sights.
We went a day earlier than Peter and Ger and stayed an extra day so we could cram as much in as possible. We stayed at the Sofitel Hotel (very nice hotel), just off Kurfurstendamm (Berlin’s main shopping district), in the west of the city. Just a few U-bahn stops from the centre.
After our (very) early flight, we dropped our bags off at the hotel and walked to the Wilhelm Memorial Church. This was bombed heavily during the war but it was decided to keep the ruins as a memorial and build a new church alongside it. Inside the old part you get a glimpse of how beautiful it was as well as how brutal the conflict had been to the people and city.
In the new part, you are surrounded by blue stained glass walls, giving it a very mystical, calming, feel.
Going out of the city, we visited the palace at Charlottenburg.
This was the official residence of Queen Sophie Charlotte. We strolled through the ornate rooms listening to the audio headsets, explaining everything. The effects of the war were not far away though, as a lot of the rooms had been destroyed and rebuilt afterwards.
We finished the day at a local restaurant – Dicke Wirtin (not as painful as it sounds). Where we had our fill of german food, beer and hazelnut brandies.
Day two. We walked though to the Tiergarten park to the Victoria Tower. We climbed up to the first gallery and Clare wanted to hike up to the top. I took one look up the staircase with its 200 hundred steps, and suddenly realised I couldn’t be arsed, so I stayed down and waited for her. Normally I would have seized the chance to get to the top, but the weather was wet and overcast and the view was pretty good from the balcony anyway, so I struggled to summon up the required motivation. When she came down again, she said I was probably right to do so.
We caught a pedal taxi to Brandenburg Gate, where we met up with Peter and Ger.
After a quick look at the Reichstag, and a coffee, we decided to walk to the Holocaust Memorial. It was about then that the rain started. The Holocaust Memorial is very haunting and serene, but when you’re dripping wet and starting to get cold, it’s very hard to feel the atmosphere, so we cut our losses and headed to the cover of Potsdamer Platz.
I won’t itemise every minute of the trip, but over the next couple of days, in no particular order, we visited the Topographie of Terrors (museum on the rise of the nazis), we did the bus tour (mainly to get out of the rain), admired Helmut Newton’s naked ladies at the Photography Museum (well I did anyway), ate Schwinebrauten, Brauwerschnitzel and Bratwurst, queued in the rain for the excellent Jewish Museum and struggled to lift steins of beer at the beer hall.
We visited Checkpoint Charlie and fell into the nearby Irish Pub.
Had a joke-telling competition with a couple from Chicago in beautiful Italian restaurant, where we celebrated Peter’s 40th.
Wandered around the University.
Did my knee in perusing the art at the East Side Gallery – I don’t know what happened, but it seems to be okay now.
Strolled through Friedrichshain.
Had our photos taken with Karl Marx and Frederick Engels near Alexanderplatz.
Decided not to queue for two hours to get into Pergamonmuseum (even though it is excellent).
If you’ve never been to Berlin, I would heartily recommend it and I hope we can return soon. It’s a great city and it was wonderful to spend time with Peter and Ger, especially on his 40th birthday – thanks bro.