The last part of my story ended with a visit to Kater Holzig.
Happily, the next day marked the return of the sun. We had been holding out for a sunny day to go to the lakes- a typically German exercise- so after we glanced out the window and saw that it was a lovely day we dashed across Berlin to Krumme Lanke.
Admittedly, it took us a little while to find it- of course, when have we ever not taken the opportunity to get lost? If you are looking to go there then take a right at the crossroads in front of the U Bahn station and keep on going down a residential street, until you see signs. Alternatively, come with a map.
We were delighted when we finally saw it but our happy faces stopped in their tracks when we discovered it was a nudist lake. Well I say a nudist lake, it could have just been a regular lake and that is the standard thing. I don’t really have a problem with such activities but it is a shock when it suddenly appears without warning, so I thought I would give you a heads up! Anyway, we had a lovely day sleeping in the sun and eating ice cream. We ventured into the water as far as our knees but it was cold so we quickly hopped back out.
As the evening came, it was time to leave the waterside as my father was arriving in Berlin for a visit. I found him in his hotel and I was pleasantly surprised to see my little brother alongside him. On their first night, I showed them where I was living in Kreuzberg, before finding a tasty and well priced dinner at Paglia Italian, down the road. We had a lovely weekend together, taking a free walking tour with New Europe Tours the next day. We were taken around some of the tourist sites in the city, seeing the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, some cathedrals, one of the university buildings, Checkpoint Charlie, parts of the Berlin Wall and the site of the book burning. These tours work on tips so you can afford them whatever your budget and they are a great way of getting introduced to any city. Our guide was very bright, cheerful and informative, so I felt as if I learned something, whilst wandering around Berlin on the sunny afternoon.
Afterward our excursion, we needed to find food. My family used to own a construction company in Berlin before the Second World War and the original HQ has now been turned into a chocolatiers and a restaurant: Fassbender and Rausch. We had no choice but to go for lunch in the chocolate restaurant. My meal consisted of a wafer bowl lined with dark chocolate, filled with stracciatella ice cream and topped off with whipped cream. To add insult to injury, I also had a giant mocha. Such a hard life.
In the afternoon, we visited the Topography of Terror– a museum about the SS and the Gestapo- and the Holocaust Memorial museum. Both were interesting but also very hard-hitting. It may have been a sobering afternoon but I would recommend these museums to everyone- you cannot come to Germany without learning about its history.
The following day was my birthday and it started with a massive breakfast at Reinhard’s im Kempinski Hotel. I’d had the best steak of my life there the night before and breakfast was just as good, consisting of everything you could possibly imagine you’d want for breakfast. We then ventured off to the Olympic Stadium. It was interesting to look around and compare it to the one in London from which I watched the Paralympics 2012, however the best part was the bell tower, from which you had fantastic views of the city- even on the grey day we were there.
Berlin’s Olympic Stadium
London’s Olympic Stadium
As you may recall from a few paragraphs ago, my family owned a construction company in Berlin. They set up two squares called Viktoria-Luise Platz and Bayerischer Platz. They also have a street named after them. So we went on a little tour of these in the Schoneburg district. Much to our surprise, as we entered the U-Bahn station at the latter Platz, lo and behold, there was a picture and mini-bio of my great-great-great grandfather smiling at us from the wall. It was quite a surprise but nice to know that people walk by and see him everyday.
Sadly, my old age means that I feel less up for partying and more in the mood for napping and so that is how I spent my birthday afternoon. To be fair, I was also a tad ill. As evening came, it was time for dinner, so I set out with my flatmate to find the Europa Center where my family were waiting for us. I had been to the Japanese restaurant before but I had no idea what it was called or where it was in the centre. I vaguely recalled going up an escalator, so that is what we tried and thankfully we soon spotted a likely candidate which turned out to be the right place.
The inside of the restaurant was amazing. There was a little stream trickling through, complete with real life fish. The waitresses wore kimono and the chefs cooked the food at the table. Our six course meal included fish, duck, sushi, chicken and ice cream that was set on fire but didn’t melt. It was really something to watch the chefs work. It seemed like art: dinner and a show.
The following day was painful. School started at 9am and I felt heavy headed, slow witted, tired and as though I should be sitting with my head in the toilet. In other words, I was suffering from a serious food hangover, caused by the sheer quantity I had consumed the night before. I don’t think I have ever eaten so much and it was worth every bite. There was no denying it, I had eaten well that weekend.
Needless to say, Monday was a slow day. After lunch and book-shopping at the massive Ka De We department store, I sadly had to wave goodbye to the family and then crash out at home until the next guest arrived. My current flatmate and I had lived at university together and another of our old household decided to come and visit us. Sadly, my U Bahn directions were somewhat faulty, so we had to go and track her down in a station but we found her easily enough in the end.