One crazy mysterious unknown flu (or ZIKA?) and a LOT of shuffling and rebooking of travel plans later, I was off to Berlin for work…one day late.
I landed at TXL, hopped off the airplane and LITCHRULLY 2 feet later was outside in the main lobby area. I was not expecting an airport this tiny. Berlin is just started to use UberX again, but you actually can use Uber to call official taxis which is very convenient. 25 minutes later I was at Potsdamer Platz, right near the Brabenburg Gate.
What I noticed throughout my stay here is that remnants of the wall are visible everywhere, whether it’s a small piece still standing or markings on the street that signify “this is where the Berlin Wall once stood.”
Just a few short blocks from here is Checkpoint Charlie, which was known as the main demarcation between the East and West. Today, the check point still stands but “guards” are present to take cheesy photos with tourists for a nominal “fee.” (Of course, a Maccas and a KFC!)
Typically, on a work trip I would have probably just stayed near the meeting and chosen a convenient hotel in the Potsdamer area, but thanks to some Samsung conference and Lollapalooza it was actually much cheaper to stay at Hotel Amano in Mitte – central, walkable area with a ton of shops and restaurants. Plus the hotel was very W-esque in the lobby – trendy boutique feel with a super popular rooftop bar with views of Berlin including the best known part of the Skyline – the TV tower.
The first night we went out as a group on a boat cruise arranged by our very lovely hosts. It was a Van Loon cruise – started on the Landwehr Canal, looped up to the Spree River and back down again to cover all of the great spots in Berlin- during sunset! The summer weather in Berlin was just perfect, not too chilly even for the part of the boat cruise after the sun went down.
Since I was still getting over some mysterious disease and had been surviving on nothing but ginger ale and club crackers, I made a point to note that I wasn’t in the mood for anything crazy (sushi, curries/spicy foods) and for once would just rather stick to more “plain food.” A friend told me “well you are in luck because everything in Berlin is plain – this isn’t the Michelin starred foodie city San Francisco is.”
2 restaurant recommendations well worth your time and money in Mitte:
Lokal- exactly that. A local restaurant with great food and a menu that changes daily. A surprisingly delicious mussels and sausage German version of paella (minus the pickles- moved those off my plate immediately!!) and a seasonal fresh pumpkin dessert later I did not believe the notion that Berlin wasn’t known for food! Or perhaps I only know people who know the best places!
Right off the skatepark in Mitte is this slightly hidden yet gem of a ramen shop. When you walk in, it feels like Tokyo. A small shop, bar seating at a chefs counter to watch them make the ramen bowls, and oh, everyone speaks Japanese. A bowl of piping hot tonkotsu came out – not too thick of a broth, just the perfect amount of flavor and melt in your mouth pork. To die for. And now I know, for good ramen fly to Tokyo or Berlin.
On my full free-ish day I decided to walk from the hotel to the East Side Gallery, which was only 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) and should take about 50 minutes. 3 hours later after a very, very slow stroll through Alexanderplatz, I finally arrived!
By Alexanderplatz I kept finding all these hidden walkways and couldn’t help but stop. For beer. And Pokemon. Oops.
Once you start hugging the river, the main road actually gets a bit industrial. It’s not exactly the cute German streets around Mitte and the Alexanderplatz area. The plus? Tons of poke stops and lots of Drowsees. On a side note, how am I still addicted to this?
The East gallery is the longest piece of wall still up, and is now covered with amazing art work (think Krog Street tunnel in Atlanta) on one side and exhibits describing the history of the wall on the other. Right behind the wall is also the Spree river, lined with boat establishments for refreshments along your wall walk.
My favorite is the last, but they really all speak for themselves. 😬
Things to note:
You need cash, EVERYWHERE in Berlin. Even the rooftop bar at Amano didn’t take card. Wtf?!
It’s a typical European city with a lack of air conditioning. Beware if you’re there during a heatwave. When I first checked into the Amano hotel I was quite disappointed in the lack of in-room amenities. There was no coffee machine, no small toiletries and barely any soap in the dispenser. My local friend then told me “if you have air conditioning, it’s considered top notch.” Ok then, fair enough.
3 weeks after I started this Pokemon thing, I hit level 21 in Berlin. 😳🤓