Back from my 5th trip to Berlin, the first in summer and I'm still just as in love with the place as on my first visit!
Decided to try to take it easy this time, as this visit was intended as recovery following 5 days of festival going in Leipzig, plus an opportunity make the most of being there in the summer!
Arrived at our hotel Mercure Berlin City Ost on the Tuesday but were too wiped out to do anything, other than pop into the ludicrously cheap Italian restaurant across the road - La Palma - huge platefuls of yummy pasta from 4-6 euros! Then wandered down to Simon-Dach Strasse to introduce my travel companions to Pauls Metal Eck (heavy metal music is not really my thing but the decor here is something to be seen and the bar has such a great atmosphere)
Wednesday - Went to Jannowitz Brücke to check out the boat trips and got there just in time for the 3.5 hour Spree and Landwehrcanal tour. Bargain price of 8 Euros with the Welcome Card and the trip was well worth it - got to see so many sights that I hadn't seen before, particularly the Landwehrcanal stretch. I was very excited to pass by a block of flats that I remembered visiting on my first trip with college, 13 years ago, so when the tour ended I dragged my partner to Kreutzberg to revisit them, have a walk along the canal and sit outside a bar absorbing the atmosphere and remembering what made me fall for Berlin in the first place!
In the evening, met up with the rest of our party (they were visiting for the first time, so were doing the usual attractions and meeting up for the evenings) and headed to Schönhauser Allee for a meal at Cafe Courage then cocktails at the gothic bar Last Cathedral. The bar was empty, we were the only customers but my friends were very impressed with the place and the friendliness of the bar staff.
Thursday, lucky with the weather again, we caught the S-bahn to Potsdam where we hired bicycles to explore the city and gardens. Other than the slight frustration of having to wheel bikes around Sansoucci, cycling is an excellent way to see the area as there was so much ground to cover. Admittedly, we probably tried to see too much in the one day and will have to leave going into the palaces for another visit, it was very much a whistlestop tour but I particularly loved the Chinese house in Sansoucci grounds and loved the Neuer Garden, especially around the lakeside. I was especially excited to see my first red squirrel and took far too many photos of the poor little thing!!
Evening - decided not to have a meal in Potsdam as it all looked quite expensive and very much a tourist trap, so we headed back to our hotel and La Palma restaurant. An interesting experience - the owner was there and took a liking to us; very attentive service, complimentary garlic bread and at the end of the evening he pulled up a chair and five glasses and bottle of Ramazzotti and spent the next hour plying us with alcohol!! As a result, we were there until late at night and didn't make it anywhere else!
Friday, went to the Zoo. Got there just in time for a Knut viewing but was shocked by the crowds and queuing, so we decided against that and explored the rest of the zoo. I was so impressed - have to admit that I was a bit dubious about all the large animals kept there, how they were housed etc but the zoo, enclosures and surroundings are so spacious and beautiful, everything clean and the animals looking so well cared for. Still a bit dubious about the freak-show surrounding Knut but this is not the place to go into that.
Zoo visit took up more of the day than planned, so from there we headed to Tiergarten and Cafe am Neuen See for a well deserved beer and rest. Was surprised to see how many stag do's were at this place, the only part of Berlin where I've heard so many English voices! But the surroundings were beautiful and the atmosphere jovial, so I was happy to rest there - saw yet more red squirrels too!
Despite being weary of foot, we decided to visit Berlin Dom - we had never made it inside and our friends had been the day before and recommended we do so. We got there as Evensong was starting, so it was lovely to be up in the dome with the sound of organ music resounding. My breath was taken away by visiting the crypt however - I had never seen such the like, the history was fascinating and the design and detail on some of the tombs so beautiful - as you may guess from my name, I do have an interest in this sort of thing! :-)
For our final evening, we spent the night clubbing in my favourite nightspot (not just in Berlin but my favourite ever) K17 in Friedrichshain. It was hotter than hell on the dancefloor but the music excellent and the bar sold mead, so we didn't leave until daylight - it has been many years since I've last done that! Took a detour on the walk back to the hotel and discovered some of the back streets and beautiful architecture near our hotel, I can't believe I've stayed there so often and not seen what is practically on our doorstep.
Saturday, we had an evening flight but checked out of our hotel by 11am and recovered from the night before with a massive brunch breakfast on Simon Dach Str. Can't remember the bar's name (possibly Havana?) but it was the best brunch I have had yet. Lovely to be able to sit out side and watch the world go by after breakfast. Not sure what happened to the rest of the day but it consisted mostly of bars and ice cream!
Very sad to leave once again, I hope to talk the other half into another visit soon!