Berlin - well, what to say ......the place of all my Techno Underground parties, Love Parades, crazy nights in abandoned industrial buildings - basically I could name it the city of my wild years. More than 20 years later I am coming now yearly to Berlin for business visiting the famous ITB tourism fair and in search for that Berlin nostalgia. Its hard to describe to foreigners the feelings of that time and when I start to put out all my crazy memories people rather look at me as I might had too much of something - so nowadays I sit in chic restaurants with a bottle of wine eluding into my dreams.
Although these days have gone I still like Berlin a lot and my favorite activity there is to walk in the streets of East Berlin in search of some hidden treasures of that time.
Berlin is of course a tourist magnet and has so much to offer for every liking - so on this short Blog I will not talk about the common tourist sights. Here is more a small loose collection of what I have come across in my last Berlin visit and which you might be interested to include in your next trip to our capital. And no, I will not discuss our neverending airport problem here - what a shame for our capital, but at least you can enjoy a real retro feeling while landing in Tegel or get some countryfeeling if landing in Schoenefeld :-)
In Berlin for me the motto is always Go East! So I mainly spend my free time in these areas. A lot to explore you have around Oranienburger Strasse - still I can find some of my old nostalgia there with a building called Tacheles, which is under the protection of the city. It used to be the meeting place of all people who were a bit different - punks, artists, musicians creating there a morbid atmosphere of eastern flair. When I came this time I sadly had to find out that all the workshop rooms were closed and some parts of the building have been converted into a hotel and restaurant - quite sad to loose an iconic place like that.
Opposite Tacheles close to Friedenstrasse you find a lot of cheap ethnic eateries like for example the Thai Cuisine (www.thaicuisne-restaurant.com) or Amrit (www.amrit.de)- last one is a long time favorite from me when it comes to Indian food - the restaurant has grown over the years and ticks all the cliches of a Bollywood movie and also food is super good there and the atmosphere is lively.
So if you walk Oranienburger Strasse further down, you will find some other hidden treasures like the historic courtyard within the Heckmann Hoefe (www.heckmannhoefe.de). Nestled away from the main street around a peaceful courtyard you have a selection of restaurants, design shops, galleries and even a small candy factory the Bon Bon Macher (www.bonbonmacherei.de).
A famous historical monument in Oranienburger Strasse is the Jewish Synagoge with its golden roof.
My new find in the street was the Tadshikische Teestube (www.tadshikische-teestube.de) - an originally rebuilt tea room from Tadschikistan. You sit here in the traditional way on the floor (few normal tables are also available) and can indulge in a tea feast. It is fun to come here with a group of friends and order your tea in a traditional Samovar round and try out some delicious specialties, also a Vodka can't be missed during a visit. Have a look on their website as on few evenings in the month they do special reading events with fairy tales from 1001 night accompanied with tea and snacks.
At the lower end of the Oranienburger Strasse close to the S-Bahn Station Hackerscher Markt you find a couple of nice independent clothing stores as well as some curiosity shops like for example the Maskworld (www.maskworld.com) where you can get your next party outfit. Every Saturday from 10.00- 18.00 hrs you can also find a nice farmer market at Hackscher Markt (www.hackeschermarkt.de) where you can try out some regional food and get some handmade crafts.
Also very popular in this area are the Hackesche Hoefe (www.hackesche-hoefe.de) - a conglomerate of courtyards which used to be totally runned down, but are now in a complete new look and completely renovated. Parts of them are residential, but in most of them you can find shops, restaurants and also a small theater with interesting performances - Chamaeleon Theater (www.chamaeleonberlin.com). For your sweet tooth I can recommend to stop by the Waffel oder Becher (www.waffeloderbecher.de) for some home-made ice cream or divine waffles.
If you stand in front of Hackesche Hoefe facing the main entrance you can see on your right hand side a smaller not so nice looking entrance which will lead you to some other courtyards - these courtyards are actually a remain of my old Nostalgia Berlin - with graffiti on the walls, small cool alternative shops, an industrial styled bar and even an independent old fashioned cinema. It is worth to have a look behind every open door and climb up the stairs to find some hidden shops and ateliers. Explore what is left from the Wild East!
What else? I also came across a real nice place for breakfast The House of Small Wonder (www.houseofsmallwonder.de) - originally from Brooklyn you can find here a hip young crowd munching on organic food with some Japanese twist and all organic - I liked it! Downstairs you have from the same owners some modern Japanese Brasserie Zenkichi (www.zenkichi.de).
Then as the weather was really nice this time I took a walk around Museumsinsel and I am always impressed from the stunning monuments over there.
On my walk down memory lane I also visited the DDR Museum (www.ddr-museum.de), which offers a a travel back to the old days when Germany was still divided into the East and West. You can see here all details about the life in the communistic East - they have even built a full replica of a flat in one of the typical communistic highrise apartment ghettos of the East or you can see some of the funny food and cloth brand that were only available in the East. I really enjoyed the museum, but I think it is mainly interesting for Germans who are familiar with the history - for foreigners they might not get that connection to the past.
Some more suggestions for Berlin:
- Out of curiosity I went also to the Berlin Dungeon (www.thedungeons.com/Berlin) with a friend. Long time ago I was in the London version and I had it a bit bigger and better in mind than the one in Berlin, but it was still fun although it is not really a must do. First advice would be to book your ticket already online as otherwise you can end up in a real long queue and as they are forming groups to go inside that can take quite a long time if some school groups etc. show up in between. How to describe this if somebody never was in a Dungeon version in another city: well, I would call it a mixture between an interactive museum and a Haunted House. It has real actors inside - some of them really funny and of course they try to scare you in unexpected moments, although they are not allowed to touch you and more important YOU are not as well - as otherwise I guess they would have already got some slaps in their faces. You are walked through in your group from room to room each showcasing a different aspect of Berlins darkside of history - all in all I would not say it was very scary but rather funny, nevertheless I would not recommend it for smaller children, claustrophobic people and people that are scared in the dark, as they will occasionally switch the lights completely off for some seconds. At the end of the tour you have the possibility of a ride with a freefall tower, but that is optional.
- Another recommended interactive museum if you are interested in Berlin's history as a Capital of Spies would be the Deutsches Spionage Museum (www.deutsches-spionagemuseum.de). Hundreds of historical artefacts bring history to life here and you will get an insight into the method of the different secret services. 200 HD-Screens and 3D glasses enable you to immerse yourself in the world of spies and secret agents.
- If you are interested in the history of the city in general from past to present then The Story of Berlin museum is something for you (www.story-of-berlin.de). In this multimedia exhibition you will travel through 800 years of history from the era of a small trading city of the Middle Ages to the Fall of the Berlin Wall. One highlight of the tour is a guided walk through a nuclear bomb shelter from the Cold War.
- A fun way to explore the city is to join a tour of Trabant Berlin - they will drive you around in the old Trabant cars or you can rent these legends for a self-drive (www.trabantberlin.de). Another company that offers tours away from the common trails would be East Side Seeing (www.eastsidesseing.com) - here you can experience authentic tours lead by two real locals.
- For warmer month a scooter rental can be another fun way to explore the German capital and maybe also do some excursions to the lakes and forests around. Have a look on www.scooter2go.de
- For clubbing I am not really up to date anymore and as I have said a lot of my oldtime favorites have closed down. Still legendary is the Berghain/Pamorama Bar (www.berghain.de) located in a former power plant - very wild. It emerged from an underground club, but is nowadays mentioned in every travel guide and also earned international fame. It is "The place to be" for the best Techno music in the city and the sounds system is awesome. Legendary are also the hardcore bouncers with their tattoos and piercings - long are the queues here and it is never certain if they let you in or not - but if you get in welcome to a kinky, crazy place - explore it yourself. Other famous clubs at the moment are Kater Blau (www.katerblau.de) which is another add to Berlins diverse club scene - funny and very special location.If you like to have your party in a bizarre labyrinth then Salon zur Wilden Renate is something for you (www.renate.cc). If you are prepared for some weird and unexpected adventure the Kitkat Club (www.kitkatclub.org) has it all - be warned we are talking here about a Fetish Club where you will be asked to leave your cloth in the cloakroom - be ready for a bizarre experience - KitKat belongs to some of the long time famous clubs in town. Back to legendary Techno Clubs, two that survived until to date are Tresor (www.tresorberlin.com) and Watergate (www.water-gate.de) - both clubs are only recommended for hardcore techno lovers.
Berlin nights in general are wild, long and free. Expect long queues and unfriendly bouncers - it is in all venues a good advice not to show up in big groups or drunk. In the club scene in Berlin it is also recommended to dress more down than up (with the exception of a few posh venues) and it is always helpful to speak some German - as some of the clubs seem not to be too much fond of tourists.
That's it for this time - Berlin Berlin I'll see you back soon!