I can’t believe it’s almost two months since our European summer holiday – the time has flown by and so did our trip! I felt like I hit the ground running as soon as we got back so I’m only now finally getting to document our trip.
The first stop on our adventure was Berlin and this city truly captivated me from it’s rich history, stark contrasts of east and west and of course its bears! Since our time was limited, we tried to see as much a possible but rather than set off with a plan, we walked – for miles, topping 25km on day one – but it meant that we saw so much of this beautiful city. Our hotel was located in Mitte, the heart of Berlin which boasts the majority of the city’s must-see sights as well as restaurants and shops. On our first night we decided we needed to experience some traditional ‘Berlinerish’ cuisine and after meandering the streets for a while (I found it was so easy to lose track of time, especially as it stays light until 10pm) we settled on Die Berliner Republik which is located right on the banks of the Spree river and runs a “beer market” like a stock market where the prices are based on the most popular beer at the time – lots of fun! As a vegetarian, I did struggle with the food in Germany but this menu had meat-free variations of their traditional ‘Braatworst’ – a surprisingly delicious feast!
We kick-started day one with a Starbucks coffee and the most phenomenal double chocolate chip cookie to fuel our day ahead. I LOVE history so we headed down to the longest standing piece of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery. 1.3km of wall still stands and is now the longest open air gallery in the world with art work from all over the world painted along the wall. Since this was a seriously long walk from our hotel, we took a slow meander back and enjoyed the architecture and city sights.
A real highlight for me was Checkpoint Charlie! This was just 300m from our hotel and the original allied checkpoint during the cold war. Here there stands a replica of the original guardhouse complete with ‘guards’ where you can play ultimate tourists and have your photo taken with them. Worth noting though – I thought it was 3 euros to have your photo taken (with your own camera), but in fact 3 euros per person – oh the love of fine print! But it did make for a very cool memento and we definitely could not have left without our photo 🙂 There is also a huge museum right at the guardhouse which hosts memorabilia and explores the story of the Berlin wall and those affected by it. Sadly we didn’t have time to do this but it’s definitely on my list if we ever go back!
If you are keen to shop you are definitely in the right city but be sure to check out Mall of Berlin (Leipziger Platz 1210117 Berlin) With over 270 shops in the centre, from fashion, shoes, sports, gift shops, there is something for everyone – dare I say, there are almost too many shops and the sheer size is quite overwhelming. Despite the amazing sales (when shops in Europe say SALE, they mean a serious sales on literally everything), our time was quite limited so it was mostly window shopping. We were hoping to pop back on our return later in the week but in Germany on a Sunday, ALL shops are closed so unfortunately we didn’t make it back.
We were very unadventurous with dinner on our second night and grabbed Thai takeaways (I absolutely love Thai food so this is always a win for me) before heading out to watch the UEFA cup semi-final where Germany played France. We had past cha cha – Thai Street Kitchen (Friedrichstraße 63, 10117 Berlin) earlier in the day and it did not disappoint! The vibe in the city was amazing that night and there were vendors selling fan gear all over the city – half a mojito later and I had purchased us two football jerseys so we fit the part (I did have to question my impulsive purchase afterwards though when Germany lost and we were mutilpyling the Euro by 17 against our dismal Rand…)
The next morning after the obligatory Starbucks stop, we got to experience the fantastic underground as we headed off to Lychen for the wedding weekend. Although slightly challenging to figure out when everything is in German, the whole railway system just works so well and runs like clockwork! Just 2 hours later we arrived in the small town of Lychen in the Lake District of East Germany. More on that to come!
PS. If you are wondering about my reference to the Berlin bears, this was something that struck me straight away! Throughout the city are brightly painted and patterned statues of bears, standing with their hands in the air. The symbol of Berlin is a bear but these statues were inspired by the cow parade in Zurich and New York and artists Klaus and Eva Herlitz started this street art project which now boasts around 140, 2 metre high fiberglass bears painted by artists from all over the world. I am still kicking myself that I forgot to take a photo with these ‘Buddy Bears’ as there were two (Captain Bears) outside the entrance to our hotel (and I commented on the fact every single time we went in or out of the hotel!!!) If you want to read more about this amazing project, go to www.buddy-baer.com.