April 2013. My six-night stay in Berlin was a memorable one for a few reasons. I rarely treat myself to fancy hotels, but when S and I booked this city break we decided to get a swanky place right on Alexanderplatz, Berlin’s mammoth public square. It was a great central location, just a four-minute walk from Berliner Fernsehturm (The TV Tower). Climbing up to its lofty top floor, we were met with menacing grey skies, which rendered the resulting views pleasingly moody. I can still recall standing there gazing out across Germany’s capital, excited by the prospect of all the places we’d yet to discover. It was the first day of our trip and neither of us had any idea it would be our final adventure together.
April 2013. From Hitler’s Bunker and the Topography of Terror to Brandenburg Gate and The Reichstag, Berlin stands as a fascinating legacy of The Second World War. There are countless museums, a hatful of memorials and several excellent walking tours. And yet few of these experiences prove as sobering as the simplicity of The Holocaust Memorial (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe). A 4.7-acre complex of concrete slabs unveiled in 2004; construction took eighteen months and came at a cost of twenty five million Euros. For me, a wander through its narrow alleys was a strange and disconcerting experience, dwarfed as I was by endless rows of what felt like unmarked gravestones. For many it’s a detached and vague affair, so those seeking context and clarity can pay a visit to the site’s underground information centre.
April 2013. In wild contrast to the thought-provoking oddness of The Holocaust Memorial, an altogether different vibe prevails at the tourist-infested cheekiness of Checkpoint Charlie. Hordes of visitors descend on this former Berlin Wall crossing point daily, to the point where many proclaim to be sorely disappointed with what they find. Grinning families pay to have their photo taken with mock guards, while more economically minded folk block the view with a skyline of evil selfie sticks. Still, a little imagination and it is possible to get a sense of the area’s Cold War history. To really lose yourself in all those escape attempts and learn more about the infamous 1961 standoff between US and Soviet tanks, duck into the nearby Berlin Wall Museum and battle the crowds for a serious dose of information overload.
April 2013. The museum options in Berlin can feel pretty infinite at times. For something different you should definitely give Museum The Kennedys a try. It’s an intimate little exhibition that tells the story of America’s famous family and naturally there is a special focus on JFK’s visit to the German capital in 1963 and his iconic “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. For the most part the narrative is strung together with a series of gorgeous black and white photographs, though you’ll also get to see a selection of personal items and some projected images of JFK out and about in Berlin. The museum, located at Auguststraße 11-13, is open from Tuesday to Friday (10:00-18:00) and Saturday, Sunday (11:00-18:00). Admission is 5 Euros.
April 2013. Much like British food, German cuisine seems to have an undeservedly bad reputation. In a week spent in the German capital I had no culinary complaints at all. In fact the standout meal, by quite some distance, came at this traditional German restaurant and beer garden complex. Situated in the northeast district of Pankow, Pratergarten is a Berlin institution known for its efficient, friendly service and top-notch German chow. Washed down with giant mugs of Prater Pils, we opted for the incredibly tasty Wiener Schnitzel with potato salad and cucumber, alongside an equally divine bowl of Beef Goulash with bread dumplings. While by no means cheap (the bill came to around 50 Euros), with food and drink this good you’ll feel it was money well spent. The restaurant boasts an informal beer-hall vibe, while its garden is chock-a-block with tables and chairs nestled among the chestnut trees.
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