Berlin, Du Bist Wunderbar

BERLIN, GERMANY

This, readers, is the best heiße Schokolade and Apfelstrudel I have ever tasted. Beyond the the fact that German apple strudel is simply not the same as the dish anywhere else in the world, this one was savoured whilst watching the German-Ghana World Cup game.

Berlin - Mary Sol Apfelstrudel

This was our first night in Berlin and we had booked a tour from boat which had proved to be a mixed bag. No, it wasn’t in English as we had booked, but the tour guide did give us a book and tried his hardest to translate some of his commentary into English. Yes, we were fed but no, it was nowhere near the other Berliner küche we would try later. No, we couldn’t speak German conversationally (I’m limited to phrases and context clues and slowly teaching hubby more of the phrases) but this didn’t stop us knowing when a goal was scored. I cannot describe the sound or the feeling when it seemed the whole city roared at a goal or groaned at a miss. We could be a block from any restaurant, bar or group of fußball-fans and the voices would be no quieter. As we sailed past other boats hosting World Cup dinners and the like, frantic German was exchanged and the response: 0-0. Towards the end of the tour, iPads came out with the streamed live games. Australians – we have nothing on the fan culture the Germans have in football.

We left our boat tour (after a bit of a giggle at the below Google translation. Hint: they mean dynasty)

They meant "dynasty" (woops)
They meant “dynasty” (woops)

and were walking back towards our hotel when; goal for goal 2-2. We decided we had to sit and join in with the crowd. Although we only saw about the last 20 minutes once we were seated, it was nail-biting. Whilst my football/soccer knowledge is limited, I knew enough to be excited.

Of course, there is so much to see and do in Berlin. Franzsaid it took him 18 months to see most of it. Here’s what we discovered:

The Architecture
Berlin’s iconic green copper roofs are famous world wide but there is absolutely no comparison to seeing them in person. Imposing buildings like the Berlin Dome would dominate the landscape in any other city but here it is just another incredible building within walking distance of each other. Museum Island, even if you don’t enjoy museums, is worth it just for the visual and potential “in the pool room” photos. Statues, grotesques, gargoyles and beautiful stonework surrounds the city and whilst, like Frankfurt many were lost in World War 2, many are still genuine historic buildings. The absolute must-visit sites for me are relatively cliche but for a reason – they are impressive

Berlin Dome:
The largest Protestant church in Germany

The Berlin Dome from outside
The Berlin Dome from outside
The Berlin Dome from the river at sunset
The Berlin Dome from the river at sunset
Queen Tiye from the Armana Period in the Neues Museum
Queen Tiye from the Armana Period in the Neues Museum
A recreation of an Armana Period Wall carving. Notice the strange proportions of the figures.
A recreation of an Armana Period Wall carving. Notice the strange proportions of the figures.

Reichstag:
This original old building has been the centre for political change in Germany from the Weimar Republic, the pivotal Reichstag Fire which led to Hitler’s total control of Germany, and the storming of the Reichstag by Russian troops. That’s just before the Cold War.

Outside the Reichstag
Outside the Reichstag

The Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie:
Obviously one of the most politically significant symbols of the Cold War. It is worth it to see the history that led to and sustained the wall. Relics displayed at museums show the incredible escape attempts from East Germans braving machine gun fire and imprisonment or a messy death if caught.

Checkpoint Charlie still guarded.
Checkpoint Charlie still guarded.
Through a crack in the replica Berlin Wall showing what it would have looked like in the Cold War.
Through a crack in the replica Berlin Wall showing what it would have looked like in the Cold War.
The reconstructed Berlin Wall
The reconstructed Berlin Wall

Potsdam:
Here amongst days worth of beautiful grounds and Renaissance buildings, I admit to the Lukeness and I did pretend to walk regally down more than one giant staircase. Very romantic, impossibly beautiful and well worth your time.

False ruins through a gilded gate at Sansouci Palace
False ruins through a gilded gate at Sansouci Palace
Statues of Roman gods and goddesses line the gardens
Statues of Roman gods and goddesses line the gardens
Sansouci Palace from the entrance
Sansouci Palace from the entrance
From the gardens you can see the vineyards and the beautiful Sansouci palace
From the gardens you can see the vineyards and the beautiful Sansouci palace

The People
German people consistently redeem my belief in humanity – they are both social and helpful. Once in Paris with my significantly better French was met with rude comments, exasperation or simply being ignored. In Germany (and especially Berlin) my “Deutche ist nicht gut” german was often met with a giggle or an “Ah!” and then continuing the conversation with english. While I’m not proud of my german, the german people often supported my butchering of their mother tongue. I can’t express how much easier this made my confidence in stumbling through german. It was also in Berlin that Lukeness and I met the worlds most jolly customer service assistant on the trains. He met us with a smile and mistook my husbands equally-atrocious-accent with a dutch one (which, as I understand it would normally be an insult). He started cheering “Nederland! Nederland! Holland!” with a huge grin on his face. After a hurried explaination that we were Australian and going for Germany in their pool he got even more excited. The train arrives, we get a meaty handshake and a vigorous wave paired with the same friendly grin on his face.

He looked almost exactly like this:
20140627-212701-77221665.jpg
but with a walrus moustache

The Food
Oh mein gott! The food! Berlin food, unlike, say, Bavarian food, is not as easily defined. Generally popular german food such as pork knuckle, every kind of wurst, sauerkraut etc are all here but it seems that the prevailing fashion is fresh, high quality ingredients cooked well. Our favourite restaurant was Englebecken. For starters, they booked us a table over email weeks before without any hoo-hah and gave us a great warm welcome when we arrived. Secondly, Lukeness has now crossed off an item on his bucket list which was added from too much exposure to Asterix and Obelix. Yes, he has now consumed wild boar. I had a veal meatloaf which makes it seem quite dull. Both dishes were not. Mouth-watering, tender, juicy meat done to perfection. We also enjoyed what seemed to pop up from place to place – boiled beef marinated in pumpkin seed oil. Almost like a mild mustard minus all the creaminess which just enhanced all the natural flavours of the beef. Finally, fresh strawberries with elderflower icecream and apfelstrudel. The strawberries in Berlin are everywhere and they are so fresh and sweet. The apfelstrudel cannot be compared to anywhere else in the world. The World Cup apfelstrudel was enjoyed just down the road from the hotel at Mary Sol – a tapas restaurant. We returned there and enjoyed Lamb Knuckle, Beef medallion and roasted chorizo. Again, not typical german fare but high quality and excellent service.

Berlin, in short, is a fascinating city that is a must see, for all types of experiences ranging from the classically touristy to the deeply authentic Germany.

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