Ich Bin Ein Berliner

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

There seems to be two translations of this popular German phrase, one is 'I am a Berliner' a statement of local pride, the other is 'I am a Donut'. Having just got back from a long weekend in East Berlin I don't know what camp we fell into. Probably a bit of both.

Having now had the opportunity to reflect on my first weekend in the German capital I can say that it is truly an amazing city. The people are warm and friendly and are happy to make European tourists speaking bad GCSE German feel welcome and at home.

Michelberger

We spent all of our four days and nights in and around the Eastern areas of Mitte, Kreuzberg and Freidrichschain. Our home for the stay was the Michelberger Hotel, a newly-opened architect-designed hotel with loft beds, a bar/cafe that seemed to be modelled on the Dalston Jazz Bar, and The Big Lebowski showing on a constant loop on screens in all the corridors - my kind of place.

Upon arrival, we first had a walk along one of the last remaining sections of the Wall, before heading to a far more important local attraction - a currywurst restaurant. Afterwards, we decided to head to Kreuzberg to see the Museum Of Things - which literally is just that, a museum packed with things. The things are organised into types: toys, cameras, electricals etc. and also colour and have been painstakingly collected and displayed to illustrate the Werkbund movement that attempted to unify German manufacture, product design and consumer aspirations.

Londoners On Tour

With our cultural experience for the day over we headed back to the hotel for a much needed nap followed by a wander north onto Simon-Dach-Straße for dinner. The cobbled streets, bars and trees gave the area a relaxed feel that must be great during the summer months when the sun is shining and the evenings are long. After dinner we made our way West to join the other Londoners on tour at their apartment. By this time the rain was pouring and the walk was much longer than we thought but well worth it for the fun we had.

On the second day we had our first taste of a traditional German breakfast, which mainly consisted of cheese, meat and sausages. I stuffed myself with more bratwurst than can possibly be healthy and had to be dragged away.

Checkpoint Charlie

Another day another museum, this time we visited Checkpoint Charlie where we found out all about the occuptaion and division of the city and the many ingenious escapes from homemade hot air balloons and hollowed out surf boards to modified VW Beetles and DiY zip lines. Aside from the wacky inventions the tales of extreme hardship, oppression and sacrifice were pretty sombering and the museum stands as a tribute to the human ability to fight injustice no matter what the cost.

After taking in the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag buildings and enjoying a spot of coffee and cake it was back home to meet Chris and Ruth for dinner. On our way to the restaurant we did the one touristy thing of the whole weekend and had our photos taken in one of the many black and white Photomat booths. After dinner it was time for another nap in preparation for our big night out at Watergate.

Watergate

Kate dragged me out of bed kicking and grumbling at around midnight - yes, midnight, bedtime in my book but in Berlin that's when things are just getting started. A few Veltins in the hotel bar and some extremely strong rum and cokes at a nearby pub perked me up, and at 4am it was finally time to hit the club. Watergate is an impressive venue, the best feature being the ten foot wide strip of lights that travelled the entire length of the ceiling from the bar to the DJ booth. I don't know who the first DJ we saw was but he was followed by Anje Schneider who reminded me why I used to like minimal techno so much. Awesome. By early morning we were all danced out, but at the cloakroom we seemed to be the only people leaving - everyone else was just arriving...

Day three didn't start until sometime in the afternoon and was mostly spent lounging in the hotel drinking coffee and watching Eurosport. By the evening we were ready to venture out and took an evening stroll through Kreuzberg and then dinner at Schneeweiss for what the guide book called alpine cuisine, which for me included what seemed to be the best part of an entire deer.

Tiergarten

On our last day we checked out early and wandered up to a nearby cafe for breakfast before hopping on the S-Bahn and heading West to visit the sprawling paths and gardens of Tiergarten and take in the holocaust memorial nearby. Finally, it was time to collect our luggage and boarded the double-decker express train back to Schönefeld airport. After one last meal at traditional German eatery "Bürger King" we boarded the plane and left Berlin behind after a hectic but brilliant stay.