I think one of the main overhangs from family holidays when I was younger is that I always think I can fit seeing a whole city into one day. When I was growing up, we often went on cruises. They’re a great way of seeing a completely different country without having to worry about travelling between them. It meant I got to see most of Europe before I was twenty. Having said that, you can’t fully experience a city in a day. I know that deep down. But life gets in the way of travelling so much. With only around 25 days of annual leave a year you really have to pick and choose what’s important to you. And you really can get a good sense of a city in one day even if you can’t explore it all. For example, I know you’d have to pay me to go back to Constanța and I’m so glad I didn’t waste annual leave on a longer trip. I like picking places in Europe to see quickly so you can make a decision on whether to go back. Berlin was one of those choices.
German trains can be late
Fitting this trip in around a day off work meant flying late. We only managed to arrive in Berlin in time to grab a few cocktails. There would have been more time, had we not managed to go the wrong way on the train from the airport. It was thanks to a mix up on guessing which train was going from where. We just picked the one that corresponded with the time it said on the board. This is where having any knowledge of the German language would have come in helpful. I did manage to vaguely communicate with one helpful German lady on the train who shouted “ALEX” and pointed a lot. I recommend double checking which way and also remembering that German trains can be late. Contrary to stereotypes.
We started our day in Berlin with a trip to the German Bundestag, in the Reichstag building. The aim was to go inside the Reichstag dome. As someone who spends their days booking trips to the Houses of Parliament at work, booking this visit was a little easier! You can go up to the Dome for free, book a choice of slots to visit and only need to give a small amount of security information beforehand. But once you’re up there, you get a great view of Berlin. You can work out where everything is in relation to everything else. We didn’t get the best view because the Dome was still basically defrosting, but it was a good start to the day.
Afterwards, we took a scary walk to the Brandenberg Gate. As one of the most iconic German landmarks, it would have been silly to have visited the city and not to have seen the gate, a proper touristy must do. Afterwards, we headed to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a monument made up of site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs on a sloping site, which according to the project text “are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason”. And I don’t usually go in for artistic interpretations or anything like that but at this one I got it. And it’s hard not to feel uneasy, and it really is quite thought provoking.
Then we took a walk around Berlin-Mitte. It also happened to be where we were staying to grab some lunch. We happened upon Sophieneck, a restaurant which served traditional German food. Believe me I was so cold I absolutely stuffed myself full of mashed potato and parsnip. It was pretty wonderful. I recommend. Afterwards, we came across Clärchens Ballhaus, a ballroom which first opened in 1913. Now it’s become a bit of a Berlin legend. We peeked inside and were transported back to the 1920s. Cracked mirrors and ornate ceilings and all.
Then, despite being absolutely fit to bursting with potato, we had to tick off a few more touristy things. We walked around the New Synagogue, saw Checkpoint Charlie, saw a bit of the Berlin wall at the Topography of Terror. When I felt like I couldn’t feel my feet anymore, we jumped on a train and headed to the East Side Gallery, which was definitely worth a visit. You can read a little more about that here. Afterwards, we grabbed some veal spare ribs at Markthalle Neun’s streetfood Thursday.
Surprisingly, I hadn’t managed to fit in enough food or drink into my gob that day. Also, Berlin is well known to be a city with absolutely great coffee. We walked to Röststätte for ours. They served what was honestly the nicest cup of coffee I have ever had in my life, in one of the nicest interiors of a coffee shop I’ve ever seen. I am aware it’s odd to be this enthusiastic about coffee, but it really was so nice. I am still thinking about it, a month later. I’m even thinking about importing their coffee to England.
Afterwards, we spent some time exploring some more Berlin landmarks including heading to the Alexanderplatz, the television tower, a wander around Museum Island, a walk along the River Spree and a look around Berlin Cathedral. We finished off with more potatoes at Schwarzwaldstuben, which I’d recommend if you don’t mind waiting and aren’t completely starving.
I think in terms of seeing a city in one day, we managed to fit in quite a lot. And as a taster mark – would I go back to Berlin? Unfortunately, I’m not too sure. I think I saw a lot of it, and I did love a lot of it, but it’s not my favourite city and I’m not enamoured with it. There’s a lot more of the world left to explore!