So I have a confession to make. I have been to Berlin twice in my life now, both for very different reasons, and I still feel like I don't know very much about the city. That's not to say I don't like it. Quite the opposite. I think, perhaps, my downfall has been that I have liked it a little too much. Particularly my trip there this weekend.
One of my best friends, Mrs G, suggested this trip with her and her husband. They planned to fly in from London whilst my other half and I would meet them on Friday evening having driven from Paderborn. We stayed with them at Cosmo Hotel which is part of the Design Hotel group. As such, the hotel was visually quite stunning with an industrial chic vibe pervading all areas. The husband and I were very grateful of the free upgrade we were given. Our room was extremely comfortable with a large bed, floor to ceiling windows and a bathroom that was larger than my first London flat. However, whilst the bellboy was helpful and very friendly, the gentleman on the front desk was a little brusque to put it kindly. Whilst he certainly ticked all the boxes of answering our questions as politely as possible, and even wishing us 'an enjoyable stay', his manner seemed forced at best, mildly pissed off having to serve clients at worst.
The rest of our own personal stay at the hotel was perfectly pleasant, bar the expensive car parking charges and breakfast. Some other people in our party were also lucky enough to be upgraded too. However, Mr and Mrs G were not so lucky to say the very least. Their non-upgraded room was a lot more economical on space, but most importantly Mrs G said that her sheets were dirty upon arrival, and the bathroom had a drainage problem that caused their room to smell permanently of sewerage. These standard rooms are not cheap at Hotel Cosmo, and whilst a lot of that is due to its excellent location, I would expect any four star hotel not to have such problems. Additionally, while these things can happen, Mr and Mrs G were only offered two drinks vouchers for the inconvenience of these issues. These two drinks vouchers did not even include cocktails. Essentially, for dirty sheets and a rank smelling room, they were offered a beer or house wine. It was only when they complained once more, were they given one of their two breakfasts for free. In my view, even this was not good enough.
That being said, the hotel was in a great location. It is really close to the U-Bahn station, Spitttelmarkt, but also walking distance to Alexanderplatz, Hackescher Markt and Friedrichstrasse - all major U-Bahn stops. On the first night we had there, my husband and I walked to Alexanderplatz itself to meet the rest of the party. I was in heels and it took under 15 minutes. Additionally, it was easy to find given thst Alexanderplatz has the huge TV Tower, Berliner Fernsehturm, as a navigable point that is visible most places in the city.
The area has seen a huge amount of development in the last twenty years or so, and I definitely saw a difference since the last time I visited. It remains incredibly touristy, however, and I wouldn't say that it was the best place to experience a true Berlin day or evening. That being said, I spent a great deal of my Friday night happily ensconced in a place called HofBrau. It's a beer house that does exactly what it says on the tin. After that, in search of something different, and girls for the single men in our party, we went to the outside of a club called WaterGarden. Mr & Mrs G, the husband and I were immediately put off this place (a local's recommendation). I was offered more drugs the moment I stepped out of the cab than I have ever been offered in my entire life put together. We queued for about 10 minutes, got offered more drugs (some I have never heard of), realised that the club we were queuing to enter looked like a squat, and hailed a cab.
Which I am glad we did, though the cab driver turned out to be the moodiest man I have ever had the displeasure to meet. We asked him to take us to an area with open bars to which we received a strong rebuttal. Apparently all bars in Berlin were closed. Somehow, five minutes later we were wrapped up in a bar that seemed typically Berlinesque to me. Incredibly 'edgy', with very dark lighting and heavy grafitti everywhere. Whilst not a place I would typically frequent, it was undeniably cool and had the added benefit of no one offering me crack.
The next morning, the husband and I woke up surprisingly sprightly and decided to walk five minutes to Checkpoint Charlie which was about a 7 minute walk from our hotel. Mr and Mrs G joined us, and the rest of our party went off in search of a lunch venue. The area surrounding Checkpoint Charlie is, understandably, swarmed with tourists. Usually this dampens my enjoyment of a place, but I found the sight to be interesting and a necessary stark reminder of just how recent this history is. For some reason, the last time I visited Berlin, I did not go to Checkpoint Charlie, which is a shame. I would definitely suggest going to anyone who is visiting Germany's capital.
So here is another confession. That is all the sight seeing I did that day. Or walking. After Checkpoint Charlie, we met up with the rest of our group with the good intentions of catching a river boat for a tour. They were sitting in a very nice bar/restaurant, Standige Vertretung, just by the river. It was warm and sunny and the beers/Riesling slipped down a little too well. It seemed to be a popular area with all the tables completely packed out and the food was yummy too. It had many types of one of Germany's national dishes, Flammkuchen, on offer which I would heartily recommend anyone to try.
The rest of the day I spent following our group around from bar to bar. I had a great time, despite my guilt at not getting to know the city. We got taxis most places (which were not expensive), but as a consequence I never really got my Berlin bearings. What I did realise though was that Berlin is full of cool little bars, boutique cafes and great restaurants. Even if I had taken a more proactive attitude to getting to know the city, I would have just scratched the surface - its offering is that broad and vast.
The next morning, out of stubbornness, I dragged a very hungover husband to the Brandenburg gate. It is quite a sight and very imposing. Surrounding it, the city of Berlin have put up placards that explain the monument's history and position in the capital. It kept the husband busy whilst I was able to take pictures on the camera platform that is erected there. I hope you enjoy those prints as well as the others I took from around Berlin. Whilst I didn't take as many as I would have liked, I loved the light in Berlin. Ever so slightly grey, it seemed to mimic its city's attitude - unmistakeably urban, steeped in history with a modern edge. Any of these pics are available in the usual canvas or framed print formats and sizes. Contact me with any requests!
PS Happy 30th Birthday to Mrs G. Hope you had a blast.