21-22 April 2016
Having caught a flight after work on a Thursday night from London, I didn’t arrive in Berlin at 10.30ish. Since I then had to queue through passport control (as there were only two people on duty), it wasn’t until 11.15pm that I actually caught the X7 bus to Rudow U Bahn station and from there took a relatively long train ride over to Wilmersdorf. By the time I actually go to where I wanted to go to, I was hungry and most places were closed but after two years I was finally back in Berlin so I couldn’t have cared less.
I was walking along with my Dad, as we passed a kebab shop called Max und Moritz, which was still open. My Dad commented that he had regularly seen queues of people waiting there but now it was relatively quiet, with only a few people eating and playing on the fruit machines inside. This had to be sign. We each grabbed a doner kebab and the first beer of our Berlin trip and settled down for a midnight snack. It was amazing – and not just because I was tired and hungry. Berlin does some good kebabs. Instead of a pita bread, my delicious meat, salad and garlic mayonnaise was wrapped in what seemed to be a small, crusty loaf, with the bread taken out. This was it. I was officially home.
The next morning, we ventured out for more food. We headed over to Ludwigkirchplatz – an area which is meant to have some good restaurants and passed a restaurant called Weyers. It seemed quite quiet but my Dad commented that this was another place that he’d seen was quite busy when passing by so we headed in. The place reminded me of the breakfast room of a hotel. The walls were painted brick and there were lots of tables covered in white table cloths. The staff were friendly and brought over a big menu, sandwiched in between the hardback covers of old Vogue magazines. We both ordered coffees, fresh orange juice and two fried eggs, with runny yolks, crispy bacon and bread rolls. It was exactly what we needed to start our first day in Berlin.
Breakfast was followed by a few hours of shopping around the nearby Kurfurstendamm and Tauentzienstrasse (basically Berlin’s answer to London’s Oxford Street and Bond Street). This is where you’ll find the KaDeWe – Berlin’s famous and luxurious department store. I didn’t make it there on this occasion but I did end up in the slightly less expensive Karstadt (which has a pretty impressive food and wine section) where I treated myself to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets auf Deutsch. I’d bought the first one during my summer in Berlin in 2013, when I was trying to learn German. I know the story so well that I can pretty much remember the exact phrasing, helping me to workout what the words mean. It worked but I’m lazy and three years later, I’m still on Chapter 4. But being back in Berlin made me want to give it another go.
By the time we’d finished shopping, we were starting to get peckish again and we ended up at Reinhard’s – a restaurant in the Kempinski Hotel. This place is pretty expensive but they do offer lighter options for lunch. Since the weather was sunny and quite mild – and since it seems to be a typically Berlin thing to just sit and have coffee at a table on the street, watching the world go by – we pulled up seats outside. We both settled on coffees, grapefruit juices (which we both basically downed in one) and mozzarella, pesto and tomato on brown bread. I spotted a lot of people ordering this. At €6.50, it wasn’t that expensive and it was quite a refreshing choice.
After lunch, my Dad and I went our separate ways for the afternoon. He headed off to some more shops, while I headed over to Charlottenburg Palace, which didn’t take me too long from the Kurfurstendamm. I’d seen the Charlottenburg Palace from afar on my first ever trip to Berlin, when my Dad and I were on the hunt for the Egyptian Museum, only to arrive and find that its contents had been moved over to Museum Island. It looked nice from the outside and I do love a good palace/castle but I’ve never made it inside. However, since I had some sightseeing time on my hands, I figured now was my chance. Also, I’d heard the palace had nice gardens and today was the right kind of weather to enjoy them.
I arrived to find that entry to all the palaces in the Charlottenburg Park cost €12, but entry just to the new wing was only €10. I didn’t really know what that meant. I didn’t just want to see something modern and I had no clue what else there was in the area but the girl at reception assured me that €10 got me into the Charlottenburg Palace so that’s what I went with. She also told me that if I wanted to take photos inside, I’d have to get permission – for another €3. I didn’t really understand that so I declined… and I almost immediately regretted it because the Charlottenburg Palace is ridiculously beautiful. The state rooms are done in the rococo style, with light, pastel colours and intricate golden patterns, the most ornate of which was the Golden Gallery. That room was basically asking to be Instagram-med. Dammit.
The Charlottenburg Palace was built by the first Queen of Prussia, Sophie Charlotte, in the early 1700s, with the new wing being added by Frederick the Great in 1742. I started off with an audioguide but found it was taking ages so I gave up with it, only listening to a few odd sections. The royal family’s apartments were less lavish than the state rooms but were still interesting to look at, with pieces of furniture, decorative wallpaper, portraits and silver dining services dotted around.
After a while exploring, I left the palace and went into the gardens. Everything was very green and there were beds of very strongly scented, brightly coloured flowers and lines of trees that made me think of a dark enchanted forest. I also came across a lake with at least one swan before I turned to leave and headed back to Wilmersdorf.
A bit later, after a bit of a read, Dad and I went over to Gendarmenmarkt in Mitte for some food. We stopped by Newton’s bar for a quick drink, which was pretty quiet when we arrived at about 7.30pm. I had a pretty expensive gin and tonic while my Dad helped himself to a couple of much cheaper beers then we headed over to Borchardt around the corner.
From what I could tell Borchardt is quite a famous restaurant in Berlin – which is reflected in the prices. We had a table booked for 8pm when the place wasn’t too full but it wasn’t long before the place became packed out and a long queue formed. As it was so popular, the tables were packed very closely together, unless you were in a big enough party to get a booth. We made friends with the guy at the table next to us who pointed out the palace had the feel of a Parisian brasserie and I agreed. The lights were low, there was a loud sound of chatter and the booths were lined with red seating and golden poles.
My Dad and I both ordered the caesar salad to start. This came in two varieties – one just with parmesan and the other with chicken. The latter was basically double the price so we both went with the first, basic choice. It was still really tasty. I then went for the half grilled lobster. I know this wasn’t a particularly German option but I’ve never really properly tried lobster (unless you count the lobster pieces and spaghetti I had before my university graduation ball – which I don’t) and this seemed like the kind of snazzy place that would do it well. Although I’m not sure lobster is really my thing, it was quite nice and I was disappointed there wasn’t more. It came with a sauce and some green leaves but I could have done with a whole lobster. I was left pretty hungry and none of the dessert options really took my fancy. Plus the service had slowed down as the place got busier. It was a shame but it had still been a nice dinner and I get the feeling Borchardt is somewhere everyone in Berlin needs to try.
The night ended with both of us falling asleep in front of the second Lord of the Rings movie and munching on some chocolate brioche Dad had picked up earlier. God I was happy to be back in Berlin.