As the end of the year fast approaches and the realisation that I have not had a holiday begins to really hit home I got a call from my sister the other day with a very unexpected and tempting invite to Bali. As amazing and out of this world such a trip would be I was quickly shot back down to reality as the following day my first lot of bills were taken from the new joint bank account.
Having bought a house this summer I am certainly no longer in a position to take on-a-whim trips particularly in the price range of Bali though we have now come to a compromise of another three night city break later in the year following on from our trip to Berlin late November.
We travelled to Berlin just in time for opening of the famous Christmas Markets for a three night touristy visit. It was my first visit to German as well as my first ever official ‘city break’ having spent all of my holidays so far being lazy, laying on a beach and not really taking in any sights.
Thinking back on arrival at our hotel it really reminded me of some kind of old style boarding school. Breakfast was in a room on the very top floor with old, wooden, creaky flooring and very high ceilings. The tables were randomly spread around the room seating various number of tourist, student type groups. I’ve never been to boarding school but I imagine breakfast would be just along these lines.
We stayed at the Olivaer Apart Hotel which was a little out from the centre of Berlin so on our first day we got out walking shoes on and headed from West Berlin to East Berlin. It was a bit of a walk but was good in helping us to catch our bearings and check out the cute little shops around our hotel. A chocolate shop that had everything could you imagine, Willy Wonka eat your heart out! A fruit shop with freshly made smoothies from a whole variety of fruit and veg, some a little less appetising than others…beetroot yuck! And a little home store with lovely little Christmas trinkets.
On our walk we passed Madam Tussauds which, making myself seem like a deprived child I have never been to! We paid a visit and met Einstein, Anne Frank, the talleest man ever (some basketball player), M.J and E.T. Just your typical Madame Tussauds visit I am led to believe.
Berlin was cold…very cold! A really biting wind but nothing a little mulled wine couldn’t solve and this was exactly what we did when we arrived at our first Christmas Market, Welhnachts Zuber. It must also be said that this was the first mulled wine of many over three days.
Having grasped the city on day one, on day two we had plans for where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. Three days isn’t long so it was important that we made the most of it. An early start and we headed out on a walking tour of the city with The Original Insider Tour, it lasted around four hours and our tour guide Michael was fantastic (can’t say as much for the fellow participants who did a lot more talking than listening.). So many areas were covered off from the royal boulevard, Hitler’s bunker, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate.
With aching legs we headed for some lunch and had our sights set on Einstein’s right along from the Brandenburg Gate. We had done some research before our visit, coming across a blog with specific mention of Einstein breakfast and how good the food was. Based on that we decided it has to be on our to-do list. It was a really quaint little café with hanging newspapers and crammed with photos, you could tell it was a favourite with locals. Being way past breakfast time we opted for some ‘lunch’ in the form of Apple Strudle (got to keep your sugar up!) washed down with hot chocolate (we were on holiday afterall). I can say honestly and without a doubt that this was the best apple strudel I have ever had. Home made and so fresh I would travel back to Berlin for that alone.
Suitably stuffed and with a sugar buzz we decided to make out way back to the hotel and stop at any sights on the way. This included the church with the missing steeple or the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which has remained non-repaired since WWII as a stark reminder of the events. The inside is absolutely beautiful and a real example of a place that no photo could really do justice.
We followed this with a stop in to KaDeWa, a big famous German department store which on entry had a giant Christmas tree and some amazing decorations. Another Chrstmas market right across the road was a smaller version of the one we visited the night previously and we got a feel for what our tour guide had mentioned in some markets being seen as more ‘up-market’ than others. The one opposite KaDeWa was more of a carnival/fair as opposed to the Welhnachts Zuber which boasted a huge glittery, snow filled stage showcasting events and talent.
It had been a long day so after a quick trip to the hotel to get changed we headed to the Hard Rock Café for dinner, you know what to expect from the Hard Rock Café and it never really disappoints as well as my need to get a Berlin shot glass from the merchandise store. A couple of cocktails later and it was back to the hotel for an early night.
On our final day we wanted it to be a bit more chilled but re-capturing some things we had done over the previous days. An early morning stop at out local fruit shop for some freshly squeezed orange juice set us up nicely followed by that blogged about Einstein breakfast. Ok, we maybe should have been a bit more adventurous and tried a different location but we knew it wouldn’t disappoint.
With one of our five a day and plenty of continental breakfast and eggs we made our way on the U-Bahn to the Berlin Wall. We had visited on our walking tour but wanted to visit and have another look around as well as visit the Topography of Terrors exhibition.
The history of Berlin is stark, gruesome and upsetting but cannot be ignored, instead the city acknowledges the history it is known for and invites tourists to learn and understand more about the history as well as how much the city has developed, changed and over-come the past. The Topography of Terrors exhibition did just this. It was subdued, emotive and compassionate.
Our trip at Berlin had come to an end and following Caroline having a minor melt down on the U-Bahn back to the airport, all went smoothly, we didn’t get lost once and we had seen Berlin! I would certainly go back to visit again as I feel, though we managed to do a lot in three days, Berlin has so much to offer and there was much more we could have seen. An absolutely beautiful city! Auf Weidersein!