Shake out your winter coat, grab a scarf and gloves and you’re set for a few chilly days in Europe. After 10 trips to Berlin, it’s time for a tribute to one of Europe’s coolest cities – and I’m not talking about the weather! From my 1st trip to ITB in 2002 to my 10th trip in 2014, Berlin has lodged its place in this traveller’s heart.
With the uniquely complex history that Berlin has endured, the natural assumption is that its people could be guarded and unfriendly. Yet, when we walk into our little pension hotel in Charlottenburg, our ‘boarder mistress’ Ms Haiss greets us like family. Throw in a smattering of broken German with your taxi driver or the lady making your coffee and you’re rewarded with someone’s life story.
Berlin in winter is an underground city; you have to know where to go if you want to find the right spots. There is an awesome night scene and over the years, we’ve stumbled into a subterranean ‘church’ with 2000 people, a club in an old bank vault and a club next to a squatter camp that had different styles of music on each of the five levels. My best live concert ever was in Berlin – us, 10,000 Germans and The Killers in a huge boxing arena so far into East Berlin we were practically on the Polish border!
Whether you’re into museums or not, you want to pick a couple of the mind-blowing experiences in Berlin to help you understand what it feels like to be in a real WW2 nuclear bunker, or a holocaust gas chamber, or in a 1950s lounge in Socialist East Berlin.
From punks to prostitutes, Turkish taxi drivers to Prussian restaurant owners, Berlin has developed into one of the most progressive and funky European cities. If you’ve never taken time to explore this incredible city, make a plan to book an extra couple days after ITB next year. It was only when I played tourist a few years ago that I truly developed a crush on the city. You just can’t do it justice being stuck inside the Messe and only seeing it by night.
Here are some of my personal highlights…
Lindenbrau in Sony Center for some leberkase and haxen.
Work your way through the menu at The Haus of 100 Biere in Mommsenstrasse or Potsdamer Platz (just make sure you know which one your friends are meeting you at).
Try Marjchellen in Mommsenstrasse where the big burly owner will instruct you on what to eat and regale you with her stories of West Berlin.
Solar, trendy evening sky bar near Potsdamer Platz with communal couches that your whole party can sit on.
Advice – hook up with someone who knows where they’re going.
The infamous Klo Bar (make sure you’ve had enough drinks beforehand to appreciate the hanging bedpans and urinal glasses).
There’s only one really! At the Irish Pub in the Europa Center, you’re sure to find Botswana, South Africa and Namibia dominating the bar and dance floor.
The Typography of Terror is the most shocking museum telling the rise of the Nazis and the holocaust. You’ll need a cosy hot chocolate afterwards!
Go to the DDR Museum to see, touch and feel that life was like behind the wall in Socialist East Berlin.
The funky boutique shops in Alexanderplatz and Hackesher Markt are the perfect place to pick up some new winter boots on sale.
Vapiano – self service pizza/pasta spot off Ku’damm where you choose your ingredients and watch the chefs make your dinner. Imagine how cool it would be to have one of these in your home town!
Blue Man Groupwhich originated in Berlin – they’re just a little bit off balance, sort of like the city itself!