Archive | BERLIN SERIES

RSS feed for this section

WHAT TO DO IN BERLIN FOR FUN

Romance blossoms in Paris, Rome is the Drama Queen and London oozes sophistication. But Berlin is cool. Berlin’s got edge. And it offers much as its capital city counterparts, even if it doesn’t receive the same billing. If you’re wondering what to do in Berlin, Europe’s most under-rated city, here are some recommendations.

BERLIN PASS

Buy The Berlin Pass if you’re staying at least three days (it’s my favorite museum city). For 82 Euros you’ll receive entry into greater than 45 museums and galleries and 10 additional attractions, public transport (to specific zones) and a 95-page guidebook of what to do in Berlin.

PROPELLER ISLAND CITY LODGE

If you like staying at unique properties, spend at least a night at the Propeller Island City Lodge for the thrill of it. You know it’s not your father’s hotel when there’s a sign in the display case at the front desk forbidding sex in the coffins. So much for THAT item on your bucket list.

They’re referring to the coffin beds (complete with lids) in the Gruft room, one of 30 habitable sculptures individually designed and custom-made by the artist Lars Strochen. The rooms range the gamut from kinky (Mirror Room) to creepy (Two Lions) to bizarre (Upside Down) to kitschy (Grandma’s) to minimal (Chicken Curry). I think if there’s one over-arching theme, it’s a sense of humor: if you take yourself too seriously, this may not be the best place for you.

I stayed in the peaceful Tempel, (one of the more sedate rooms, with a view of the tree-lined street below) because I’m worship-worthy.

Propeller Island City Lodge Berlin Tempel Room

KAUFHAUS DE WESTENS (KaDeWa) FOOD HALL

Kauhaus de Westens (Department Store of the West) is Europe’s second-largest department store, boasting a food hall rivaling Harrod’s. The 6th and 7th floors are entirely devoted to gourmet, and advertisements tout the place as having two football fields of food. The top floor includes a winter garden with a 1000-seat restaurant surrounded by windows. I had read that the herring sandwiches were to-die-for, but they looked pretty sterile and mass-produced to me. My grilled bratwurst, however, was heaven.

KaDeWe sandwiches

UNSICHT-BAR RESTAURANT

Dine in the dark at unsicht-Bar, Berlin’s “blind restaurant”. My NUMBER ONE recommendation for what to do in Berlin.

KAISER WILHELM MEMORIAL CHURCH

See the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church for contrasting architecture (it was originally built in 1890, and rebuilt in 1963 after suffering extensive damage in a WWII bombing raid).

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Berlin

WINNING WIENERS

Eat a currywurst, a fried pork sausage smothered in curry ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder, because everyone’s doing it.

SHOPPING

Shop the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood’s modish shops and galleries. Buy a Berlin Luxe City Guide before you leave home so you don’t miss a thing.

HEY YOU! Liked this post? Follow esme travels on bloglovin’, receive posts by email, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Read full story · Comments { 7 }

WHAT TO DO IN BERLIN FOR FUN (part two)

What to do in Berlin, you ask? Have fun, and don’t get caught! There’s visiting the Reichstag (and take some golf balls: I’ve got a dare for you), sneaking into an unassuming bank building that belies a suprise interior, a picnic in the Lustgarten and then some cathedral crashing.

The Reichstag

Home to Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag was opened in 1894, suffered damage and destruction for decades and was rebuilt in the 1990′s. Go early (it opens at 8:00 daily) to avoid the worst lines.

Once inside, you’ll walk a spiraled ramp hugging the perimeter of a glass dome (representing transparency in government) to be treated to an unparalleled 360-degree view of Berlin at the top.

Now here’s your mission, if you choose to accept it. GOLF BALLS! Oh, how I yearned to have a handful of golf balls to toss down the ramp to see if they’d roll all the way to the bottom. I asked one of the INFORMATION guys if anyone had ever attempted.

“Never,” he replied stoically, revealing all the gaity and sense of humor for which Germans are famous.

Reichstag Berlin

DZ BANK BUILDING

Once you’ve completed your Reichstag mission, head to Brandenburg Gate (an easy walk), check it out for a minute, then walk through to the Pariser Platz square, which usually teems with people, but no one pays attention to the innocuous DZ Bank building, number 3, rectangular and staid, blending innocently enough into the surroundings, easily overlooked. Act like you know what you’re doing and that you belong there, and sneak past the guards for a quick look inside.

Your reward: a towering, curvaceous carp formed from titanium and glass as only Frank O. Gehry can design. Now take you picture (mine below) and get the hell out!

Gehry Building Berlin

Lustgarten

You packed a gourmet lunch with your purchases from the KDW food hall yesterday, right? Well, walk to Museum Island and enjoy a picnic in the Lustgarten (Pleasure Garden). Nosh, watch Berliners at rest and play, and get in some good lusting.

BERLINER DOM

The Berliner Dom Cathedral is right there (I love its proximity to the Lustgarten’s LUST signs). The domed ceiling is stunning.

Viewing is allowed during scheduled hours, but not during services. But in the spirit of today’s adventures, why let that stop you?

Berliner Dom Berlin

Berliner Dom Berlin Ceiling

HEY YOU! Liked this post? Follow esme travels on bloglovin’, receive posts by email, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Read full story · Comments { 4 }

DINING IN THE DARK AT UNSICHT-BAR, BERLIN

I‘ve been fortunate to have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world (El Bulli, Noma) but I’ve never been to a restaurant where the dining room is pitch black. And I’ve been to an entirely dark experiential museum in Hong Kong. But tonight — tonight — I am dining in the dark.

DINING IN THE DARK AT UNSICHT-BAR, BERLIN

The bar at unsicht-Bar is nearly empty. The host greets me enthusiastically, escorts me to a table and asks if I’d like a drink.

Hell, yes.–

He hands me the menu. My choices: veal, poultry, fish, lamb, vegetarian, or surprise. The dish descriptions are writted in riddles so I have no idea I’m in for.

I’ve come this far; I might as go all the way.

“I’ll take the surprise.”

Harry, my server, comes into the bar to greet me and escort me to my table. He is sight-impaired. I stand behind him, place my hand on his shoulder, and follow him into the pitch-black dining room, as instructed. I’m grinning like an idiot out of nervousness, but that’s ok: it’s not like anyone can see me. Harry pulls out my chair and deposits me at my table.

Dining in the Dark at bar Unsicht in Berlin

The couple seated to my left overhear my exchange with Harry and introduce themselves: they are Folker and Ingrid, a married German couple visiting Berlin for the weekend. Ingrid is on the first course of the poultry menu and Folker has just begun the salad course of the suprise menu.

My salad arrives, Folker and I compare notes. We agree upon watercress, spiral-cut cucumbers, carrots, and lettuce. I reach into my purse, pat around for my cherished (humidty-proof) Swiss Spice Salt + Pepper shaker, and season with abandon. Crystals fly. No need for manners when you’re dining in the dark.

“I’m eating with my fingers,” Folker confesses. A lot of people are eating with their fingers. I know because I can hear them licking their digits like they’re starring in a KFC commercial. I don’t believe that dining in the dark has rendered my sense of taste any more acute, but I can hear like Superman. The slightest noise registers: servers snapping as they turn corners (to alert each other), 360 degrees of German banter (which is frustrating: not only am I deprived of people-watching here, but I’m unable to eavesdrop either), and a nose-blowing episode of disgusting/impressive strength and duration.

Folker and Ingrid talk in German, and then switch to English, my cue to join in. We chat for nearly two hours, good-naturedly comparing/contrasting and attacking/defending each other’s country and culture. I’m aware that, at times I become so engrossed in our conversation that I forget that I can’t see a damn thing. Folker states that public nose-blowing is an “American Thing” and I counter that I’m the only person in the dining room speaking English. He charges me/us of being addicted to ice (I am) and asks if I own an ice crusher (I do). They both want to know if I’m wearing socks with sandals. I tell them I’m not taking any more of this crap from the people who invented lederhosen. We call it a draw.

Folker, Ingrid, and I finish our dessert simultaneously and agree to meet in the bar for a drink/coffee.

DINING IN THE DARK TO DRINKING IN THE LIGHT

And…..they look like normal, thirty-something-year-old people! I request a copy of the actual menu in English from our server, remove the page from the jacket, fold it, and place it in my purse.

“That is SO American!” accuses Folker, who thinks Yanks are prone to petty theft.

“Whatever, dude.”

Folker and Ingrid treat me to a digestif, we talk awhile, and part with smiles and waves.

HEY YOU! Liked this post? Follow esme travels on bloglovin’, receive posts by email, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Read full story · Comments { 6 }