Berlin: The Final Day

Berliner Tagebuch: Sonntag 10 Juni 2023 / Berlin Diary: Sunday 10 June 2023

 

 

Another bright day in Berlin and a lovely mid-morning walk around some imposing buildings after breakfast. I realise I feel physically smaller in Berlin than when I am in London. London has its share of grand buildings but the narrow streets somehow contrive to mitigate their grandeur.

Before you read on, please see here for details of the transport and museum passes we used for this Berlin trip. All information correct as of June 2023.

 

Frühstück / Breakfast

We started the day with local walk, passing by a reconstructed Checkpoint Charlie (touristy and slightly pointless taken out of context) and then to Bonanza Coffee Roasters.

 

Bonanza does coffee, of course, but their pastries are really excellent too

 

Morgenaktivität/ Morning Activity

Berlin has unique pedestrian traffic lights that feature a charming red and green ampelmännchen/ little traffic light man, with a hat on

The Ampelmann shop sells any type of souvenir you can think of, which makes it a fun visit

 

 

Ampelmännchen had its own Google Doodle to celebrate its 56th anniversary on 13 October 2017

56th Anniversary of the Traffic Light Man

 

Towards Bebelplatz: like so many large institutions undergoing renovation, St Hedwig’s Cathedral (top) is currently closed. The juristisch fakultät / law faculty of Humbolt University (bottom)

 

We stared for a long time at the facade of the Humbolt Forum, curious as to whether it was a new building designed to look old, or an old building newly restored. Its history is complicated and here is an insightful article from The Guardian. I should like to see the views from its rooftop terrace (closed on Tuesdays, ticket required).

 

Front and side of the Humbolt Forum

 

Courtyard and rear of the forum

 

We returned to the Nicholas Quarter / Nikolaiviertel (see previous post) to visit the Knoblauchhaus, which was the family home of Carl Knoblauch and his family

 

The interior reminded me of visiting National Trust houses here in the UK. There was a lot of furniture and portraits, but what stood out for me was this painting of the New Synagogue (which we spotted on our first evening in Berlin)

 

We had a few minutes in the Museum Ephraim-Palais before returning to our hotel for a late check-out. Entrance (top) and interior staircase (bottom) of the museum

 

When walking around Berlin, do look down at the pavements and roads from time to time. The border between East and West Berlin, where the wall once stood, is marked out so you can see what lay each side of the divide

 

BERLIN NEXT TRIP

This was a busy trip but not exhausting, as we stopped for sit-down meals and had some rest stops factored into the day. Although I did quite a lot of background reading to prepare for the trip, there are still interesting facts that come up each time I return to articles or the guidebook. This is to be expected, as Berlin is a large city! If I were to go again in a group I would consider hiring a professional tour guide so we could have a history lesson whilst walking. Find a suitable guide and tour here or here.

Here are some the places we did not get round to trying or visiting:

44 Brekkie for breakfast/ brunch/ lunch.

Five Elephant for coffee and cake. Their branch in KaDeWe serves cakes by French patisserie Lenôtre and an apple strudel which I did not have space for after lunch.

 

Apfelstrudel

 

If I had not been so absorbed with museums I might have found time to do some eating and food shopping at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. As it was, I did not go anywhere near Kreuzberg. So this is a definite must for the next trip.

Another must if the weather is hot and if it still exists (shops open and shut all the time): Korean bingsu / shaved ice at Cafe Gong Gan, located in Manifesto Food Court, The Playce, Alte Potsdamer Str. 7, 10785 Berlin

 

A walk around Gendarmenmarkt was high on my list but the entire site is currently off limits due to ongoing renovation works

 

KPM (Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur / Royal Porcelain Manufactory) has hand-made their porcelain in Berlin for over 280 years. I am not in the market for a whole new dinner service, but I should like to tour their manufactory.

I would still like to visit more museums and art galleries. Top of my list would be the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM / German Historical Museum) which is currently closed.

Many rooftop terraces with views were recommended but we ran out of time. Maybe next time: a drink on the rooftop terrace at the Hotel de Rome.

Finally, for a person who much prefers tea to coffee, I still look out for cafes because that’s where I would find the thing I love most for breakfast, which is croissants. If they do cakes that’s a bonus. Here is a comprehensive list of coffee places in Berlin from European Coffee Trip which currently lists 550 roasters and 3715 cafes across Europe. I searched for Berlin and it returned 249 entries. I downloaded their App immediately on my mobile phone.

What I did not do: eat currywurst, doner kebab or Brammibal’s vegan donuts (the point of donuts is that they are an unhealthy occasional treat). I left the Birkenstock shop well alone because I am now much older and need to wear sensible shoes that lessen the chance of tripping

 

Let’s learn some German words!

I love ice cream but did not have the space to try any from the Rosa Canina pop up shop near KaDeWe department store (see previous post). Some flavours are descriptions (e.g. Mozartkugel and Stracciatella) but for straightforward flavours here is a word list:

zitrone / lemon,

erdbeere / strawberry

butterkaramell mit steinsalz / butter caramel with rock salt

walnuts karamellisiert / caramelized walnuts

bourbon Vanille aus madagaskar / bourbon vanilla from madagascar

schokoladensorbet esmeralda / chocolate sorbet esmeralda (not sure who Esmeralda is)

Apfel Butterstreusel mit tonka / Apple butter crumble with tonka (bean)

himbeer mit basilikum / raspberry with basil

sicilianische blutorange / Sicilian blood orange

tonkabohne mit sesamkrokant / tonka bean with sesame brittle

joghurt mit Heidelbeere / yogurt with blueberries

 

 

Post Script

Not very important, but here is my opinion of Berlin Airport:

Some airports are too big e.g. you could easily spend three hours in Singapore’s Changi Airport eating and shopping. Berlin Brandenburg Airport is quite the opposite. There are not enough departure gates and seats within these areas to accommodate the passengers. The one business lounge in Terminal 1 (Lounge Tempelhof) is shared by over 20 airlines. Two things made the experience bearable: this was the first time in the whole trip I came across currywurst (don’t waist your calories) and also, they served some magnificent pretzels. These were pretzels so fresh, with just the right amount of saltiness and chewiness, that I had to stash some in a ziplock bag to bring back to London. They were still good three days later.

 

Berlin: Day 3

Berliner Tagebuch: Freitag 9 Juni 2023 / Berlin Diary: Friday 9 June 2023

 

 

There is a general realisation that in any skiing trip, the third day is the hardest. I am wondering if this also applies to any short holiday. The spanner in the works today was a visit to the Reichstag at 4.15 pm, which had no in-built flexibility whatsoever. Whilst I understood the rigidity of the arrangements, I did not appreciate it. It was hard to hang around waiting for something to happen, as I will explain later.

Before you read on, please see here for details of the transport and museum passes we used for this Berlin trip. All information correct as of June 2023.

 

Frühstück und Morgenaktivität / Breakfast and Morning Activity

It was my birthday so I had some cake for breakfast at The Barn’s other location on the north side of Potsdamer Platz (Bellevuestraße 1, 10785 Berlin) near the Sony Centre. Compared to yesterday’s location, this was calmer with no building works.

 

Looking up at the unique open roof of the Sony Centre in Potsdamer Platz

 

No croissants, but carrot cake and green tea made a good start to the day

 

 

This morning we revisited the Kulturforum complex, to spend a little time in the Kunstgewerbemuseum. This is one of the less featured museums but I found it very interesting, and a bit like the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

On the lower ground floor there are some rare hand-crafted objects. The Cupola Reliquary is part of the Guelph Treasure. Reliquaries held reminders of long-dead saints, and were meant to inspire awe from those who would feel closer to their saints. Today, our awe comes from knowing that the Guelph collection in the museum is valued at around €250 million.

 

The Cupola (Dome) Reliquary

 

The other significant collection on the lower ground floor is the Lüneburger Ratssilber / Lüneburg Council Silver. These pieces were made between the middle of the 15th and the beginning of the 17th century, and financed from money made through the town’s salt production. At that time salt was a vital ingredient for preserving herring caught in the Baltic Sea and the waters around Norway. During religious periods of fasting meat was not permitted, so pickled or salted fish was the only ‘meat’ available in inland areas.

 

A display case featuring some pieces from the Lüneburg Council Silver

 

 

Besides other decorative arts e.g. glasswork and cabinetry, the museum has an extensive collection of fashion clothing and accessories from the 18th to 20th centuries. There are many fine examples but I only really looked at the shoes.

 

Shoes made by Ferragamo, from the 1940s and 1950s

 

From past to present: after seeing so many historic domestic and fashion items at the museum I went to Galeries Lafayette to see its modern equivalent. As you can imagine, shopping at this French department store is very pleasurable, with many brands under its wing. In the household department, I especially liked looking at the colourful tea towels from Garnier-Thiebaut.

On a mission to look for one thing only i.e. pepper mills for my friend Shoe Lady, I discovered a whole new universe of pepper mills. On the three display units were (counting front and back) 30 shelves of every conceivable shape, size, material and colour of pepper mill you could ever want. This was pepper mill heaven. All the mills come from Peugeot, and I was surprised to learn that the company made hand tools, kitchen equipment and bicycles before they even thought of making cars.

 

 

Mittagessen / Lunch

Bocca di Bacco (literally, Bacchus’ mouth): despite an address in Friedrichstraße, near to Galeries Lafayette and Gendarmenmarkt, I found the restaurant refreshingly unstuffy and welcoming. One of my pet fears when dining out in a foreign city is not being considered a proper paying customer, rather a tourist they might never see again and treat disdainfully. In fact, we had very good food and service throughout our Berlin trip.

 

A very satisfying lunch, from the bread basket to the Alessi salt and pepper table set which we also use at our home

 

Nachmittagsaktivität/ Afternoon Activity

There was enough time to visit another museum at the Museumsinsel / Museum Island before heading to the Reichstag. The Alte Nationalgalerie houses sculptures as well as paintings, and they are all significant. By now my head was a bit tired of thinking about how valuable these pieces of art were.

 

The entrance to the Alte Nationalgalerie

 

Besides the Pergamon Museum, the other visit that has to be booked in advance is a visit to the dome of the Reichstag Building. There are extensive views from the top and for most people that would suffice, but I also think it is worth reflecting on Germany’s tumultuous political history and how democracy is an ideal worth fighting for and preserving.

 

Dome of the Reichstag Building

 

Looking up at the dome

 

One of the many views from the top

 

I hate being late for anything. Before the strict appointment at the Reichstag, there was some time to fill and we visited first the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and then the Brandenburg Gate. This did not take long. What could we do to use up some spare time? Pariser Platz, the square in front of the Gate, was busy and noisy with tourists. The Tiergarten Park behind the Gate was just a vast and dry space with no seating. This created a perfect storm with frustration and weariness setting in to turn me into a monster.

It’s not that I would not do this again. If I were to visit with someone else, I would be smarter and plant myself at the Hotel Adlon whilst waiting. My advice would be to plan the Reichstag visit as your first activity of the day. The entry and security arrangements are so rigid you would otherwise be hanging around or running so as to not miss your slot.

 

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

 

The Brandenburg Gate

 

Abendessen / Dinner

Katz Orange has one dish every non-vegetarian should try, which is called Candy on Bone. This is either lamb or pork slow-roasted at a low temperature for 12 hours. Served in a miniature Staub roasting dish, the small hunk of meat belies how filling it is. Second helpings are offered if you are still hungry, and I think some teenagers or young adults would happily entertain this challenge.

 

 

Let’s learn some German words!

Some German words appear to be very long. It would be easier to comprehend if the compound words were split into its component parts, with a space in between. Unless I move to Berlin (that would be quite fun for a month or two) I don’t think I would have the capacity to learn German, but here is a mini list of some long words I found interesting during my day.

Alles / everything
Gute / good
zum / for the (your)
Geburtstag / birthday
Alles Gute zum Geburtstag = Happy Birthday

Kunst / art
Gewerbe / business
Kunstgewerbemuseum = Arts and Crafts Museum or Museum of Decorative Arts

Ersatz / substitute
Haltestelle / bus stop
Ersatzhaltestelle = replacement bus stop

Ersatzverkehr / replacement traffic
Richtung / direction
Ersatzverkehr Richtung Ruhleben = Replacement service towards Ruhleben

 

 

After living for such a long time in England, the best birthday present I can ask for is a sunny day and this is what I had the entire day

 

A Berlin Primer

 

I have been thinking a lot about our forthcoming four-day trip to Berlin. We are squeezing this in between visits from overseas friends, and regular work and family commitments. From the reading I have done there is so much, maybe too much, to see and do in Germany’s capital. I naturally made a spreadsheet (thinking of you, LSE Boy) to help split the days into manageable chunks, with sit down dinners at the end of the day.

I am still figuring out whether to try Berlin’s famous Currywurst because I am not keen on street food and sauces dripping down onto my clothes. My back up plan, if I miss this, is to have it at German Gymnasium back in London.

There are various transport and sightseeing discount cards, and this is an excellent article explaining the differences between the Berlin Welcome Card and the EasyCityPass Berlin. We are using the former for our trip (only for the transport element).

The only timed tickets we needed to book ahead were to the Reichstag, home to the Bundestag (German Parliament).

This is a summary of the resources I used. I want a holiday with plenty of history, walking and eating, and thought I should make a list for any future trip, as well as a go-to guide when I am in Berlin itself.

 

Useful tourist information websites:

German National Tourist Board

Visit Berlin

Citymapper Berlin to get you from A to B by public transport

Original Berlin Walks

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin State Museums). Berlin’s national museums are closed on Mondays. Every first Sunday of the month is Museum Sunday in Berlin, and most museums have free admission then. I found a museum that had free entry on Thursday afternoons courtesy of a corporate sponsor, so do look out for such information on individual museum websites. Some of the exhibits and rooms might be closed for restoration work, and it’s best to take a chilled attitude to this.

We cannot see every museum and have decided to limit ourselves to the ones covered by the Museum Pass Berlin. Download and print the list here before you travel, as it has opening times and transport information. At-a-glance list of the 30 museums covered.

I am big fan of Rick Steves and here is his suggested itinerary of Berlin.

The Michelin food guide currently lists 80 recommendations in Berlin. How many days do you have?

For young people i.e. those under 30 years of age, Gina Goes To is right up your street. I am using the list in Gina’s Berlin City Guide for breakfast and cafe recommendations.

 

Guidebooks I used to plan this trip:

If you live in London, Stanfords in Covent Garden specialises in maps and travel books. Otherwise, their website lists a wide selection of books and maps for any country you can think of.

500 Hidden Secrets of Berlin by Nathalie Dewalhens, published by Luster, ISBN 978 9460583087

Rick Steve’s Berlin by Rick Steves, published by Avalon Travel, ISBN 978 1641714754

DK Eyewitness Berlin, published by Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978 0241612712

 

 

Maps, which came before Apps:

Everyman Mapguides Berlin, published by Everyman Citymap Guides, ISBN 978-1841595696. I have several maps from this series as they are easy to fold out page-by-page and mark with the places you want to visit.

comfort! map Berlin Map, published by ExpressMap, ISBN 978-8380464117. Useful because of the laminated finish and the line showing the demarcation between (the previous) East and West Berlin.

 

 

A personal reading list to enhance your visit to Berlin and to engage with some aspects of Germany in World War II (in order of publication date):

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré, published in 1963 and still available in various formats.

Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel by James B. Donovan, published in 1964 and still available in various formats.

Munich and Fatherland by Robert Harris.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is out of print but used copies are available. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it covered topics I could engage with: world recession, rowing, education, dedication to a craft, family ties and how to overcome poverty with determination and vision.

 

 

A selected list of films set in Berlin or on aspects of Germany in World War II, some based on the books above (in chronological order of the the time it is set in):

Munich – The Edge of War

Never Look Away is inspired by the life of contemporary German artist Gerhard Richter, whose exhibition of 100 works is in Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie until 2026.

Schindler’s List

The Bridge of Spies

The Lives of Others

Good Bye, Lenin!

 

Selected reading on the Protestant Reformation:

Wittenberg lies 88 kms south of Berlin, about 45 minutes by direct train from Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (Central Station). Officially known as Lutherstadt Wittenberg to mark its association with Martin Luther, this is where the Protestant Reformation began in 1517.

Each year the town hosts two Luther-themed festivals: Reformation Day on October 31 and Luther’s Wedding. The latter is held on the second weekend in June, when we will be in Berlin. We may not have time for a side trip and if we do, it should be to Potsdam, where the Potsdam Conference of 1945 was held. The background reading to the Reformation is very interesting because it effectively split Christian religious practices in Europe into Protestant North and Catholic South.

The Unquenchable Flame: Introducing the Reformation by Michael Reeves, published by Inter-Varsity Press, ISBN 978 1 84474 3858

Rick Steve’s Berlin (see above) has a very readable section on Luther, Wittenberg and the Reformation (pages 348 – 373)

A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch has a scholarly chapter on Luther, the Reformation and Reformed Reformation (sometimes called Calvinism). Published by Allen Lane, ISBN 978 0713 998696 (chapter 17, A House Divided, pages 604 – 654).

 

Mind your Language:

Finally, a German phrase book to learn some basic words. However I really am glad that English is widely spoken in Berlin. Most of the websites have pages in English. DK Eyewitness German Phrase Book, published by Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978 0241289372. I have mainly been reading the Menu section so far…