New Berlin

I have wanted to visit Berlin for such a long time. Berlin is one of those cities that seems to have it all – an awe of cool, a gritty cultural scene, great architecture, an emerging modern food scene and of course its fascinating, and often heart-wrenching, history. This all comes together to make this a city to remember and left me wanting more.

I set my sights upon Berlin as a destination for my 30th birthday weekend which happened to fall on Easter weekend this year. With just 3 days to explore this vibrant city, before heading south to Prague, I carefully planned our time with a big focus on exploring Berlin’s food scene.

We started the trip off right with lunch at Lebensmittel in Mitte, a great German bistro serving traditional rustique but well-executed food Southern German food. I opted for the bbq duck with two kinds of potatoes, while Andrew tackled a schnitzel bigger than his head – both were simply delicious. That afternoon we wandered about Mitte and Museum Island before meeting our walking tour with Sandemans. I’ve mentioned before that I’m quite a fan of these walking tours, especially if you’re short on time, they are a great introduction to your new surroundings. We started at the Brandenburg Gate and ticked off a few of the main tourist sights, including Checkpoint Charlie, Memorial to the Murdered Jews and of course the Berlin Wall.

Being a Thursday night I had read about the Thursday Night Street Food Market at Markthalle Neun. This particular market hall is over 125 years old and is a historic monument as it belongs to the last three of the former fourteen historic market halls in Berlin. After an afternoon snack of Currywurst we weren’t particularly hungry but headed along anyway and opted for some yummy smoky ribs and sweet treats from Aunt Benny’s – and yes, as mentioned by other blogs, the carrot cake is to die for!

On Good Friday we set off to Silo Coffee which I had noted down for excellent coffee and breakfasts on my trusty Google Map. This Aussie cafe really knows how to do breakfast right, serving local, top-quality produce, and quite possibly the tastiest bacon I’ve ever had. Andrew and I timed our visit perfectly taking up the last two stools before a steady stream of people popped in to be told the wait would be 20, 30 then 45 minutes. Many looked defeated and went elsewhere but most were happy to wait – and I’m sure they were stoked they did.

With our bellies full and happy we stumbled across the graffiti filled area around Urban Spree where there is a mix of nightclubs, art galleries, a skate hall and rock climbing walls. I love street art and Berlin has such an eclectic display across the city – this is definitely a great place to wander around. It was pretty dead when we were there but wonder if that was because of Good Friday and the time of year but there seemed to be a number of closed food stalls and open spaces for drinking so the potential to be a great hangout place in the summer months.

Next we headed to the famous East Side Gallery which is the longest open air gallery in the world – over 1km long. Over 100 murals are painted onto this stretch of the Berlin Wall as a monument to the fall of the wall back in 1989. Little is left of the Wall at its original site, which was destroyed almost in its entirety – the East Side Gallery is one of the three longer sections which are still in place.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring more sides of this expansive city, spotting street art at every turn and then visiting another section of the Berlin Wall at the Topography of Terror. This exhibition sits on the site of the former SS headquarters and documents the history of repression under the Nazis. It was quite a sombre experience but definitely recommend a visit to gain an insight into the brutality of the Nazi regime.

A few months back Andrew and I watched the Rick Stein’s Long Weekend in Berlin. In the episode he met up with a Berlin food blogger called Per who is the man behind Berlin Food Stories. When I started to plan our trip I looked to this website for inspiration and was happy to find that Per had recently started to do food tours. Lo and behold the upcoming date coincided with our trip so I booked us in as a birthday gift to myself. We met Per in the Markthalle Neun on our third morning and with a small group of other food enthusiasts we visited some of Per’s favourite spots. It was such an insightful experience and Per’s passion for Berlin and its food definitely comes naturally.

The weather in the afternoon was a bit too miserable to do much so we decided to hit up the German Historical Museum which presents Germany’s history in a clear timeline from its beginnings to the present day. After a few hours walking around it was time for more food and beer!

Berlin surprised me at every turn – it has such a different feel to some other European cities, which start to feel same-same after a while. Berlin has something else, something that goes deeper and feels special.

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