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Berlin Vol 4.3: Christmas Markets, cafes and family history

27 November 2016

On our second morning in Berlin, my Dad and I learnt from our mistakes the day before. We were planning on hitting up more Christmas markets today and this time we knew not to load up on breakfast before we went. We were going to want food there. So, after a yoghurt and some OJ, we headed out into the cold in the direction of Alexanderplatz.

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We emerged from the U Bahn station into the square and immediately spotted the Christmas market stalls. These weren’t quite so pretty as the ones by the Charlottenburg Palace or Gendarmenmarkt and the items on sale weren’t quite so nice. Some of the food stalls did smell good but we didn’t really want to stick around at this one for too long. Thankfully, however, both my Dad and I had read about another market nearby that came highly recommended.

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We walked in the direction of the Fernsehturm (i.e. the TV Tower), passed some fantastic Christmas singers, and towards the Rathaus. There we found a really cute Christmas market. The bits and pieces on sale were quite similar to those at the Charlottenburg Palace but the vibe was quite different. This felt more like Disneyland, with ice skating, a ferris wheel and music playing. We started doing a bit of shopping but by this point all we really wanted was food.

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Whilst at Charlottenburg yesterday, we had spotted some incredible looking roast pork that we were sadly too full to eat so that’s what we were looking for today. We were convinced we’d find it but we had no such luck. Then we spotted some delicious looking gammon – served with bread or sauerkraut and/or potatoes. We both splashed out on the sauerkraut AND potatoes option. We were going to do market food properly this time. I’m not usually a sauerkraut person (and admittedly I didn’t eat it all this time as I was given loads) but here it did go really well. However, the highlight was the meat. It basically fell apart when you cut into it, it was so tender and delicious. As we knew we would, once we’d finished we did then spot some roast pork but it didn’t look as good as the stuff yesterday anyway (or our gammon) so I’d still say we got a result.

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Happily full, we were now ready to focus on shopping and I managed to get a few more bits: pretty Christmas dollies for my grandparents (they won’t read this so I can say what I bought), a wooden train for my friend’s new baby and a magnet for The Flatmate (she likes to collect them). I was loath to leave the market but since I was flying back to London that night we didn’t have time to dawdle and we had more Christmas markets to go to.

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We had a bit of a stroll in the direction of Gendarmenmarkt where we planned to hop on the U Bahn at Stadtmitte. En route, we passed a little Christmas market around St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale. This one was much smaller and quieter than the others and we didn’t actually buy anything (I did spot stuff I would have wanted to eat if I hadn’t been so full of gammon) but it was nice to wander round.

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With another Christmas market marked on our tally, we left and got on the U Bahn to Potsdam Platz. I’d heard there was a good Christmas market there but, to be honest, we were both a bit disappointed by it. There was much less atmosphere here and the stalls lining the street weren’t quite as good. We walked up and down and then stopped so that I could buy some iced gingerbread before we decided to call time on our Christmas Market Tour. This was number six – we’d done good.

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Instead of more shopping, we again got back on the U Bahn and took a ride over to Bayerischer Platz. Next to the station, there’s a cafe called Cafe Haberland, which is named after two of my distant relatives, whose company was responsible for a lot of pre-war construction in the area.

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When you walk in, there’s information on the walls and interactive screens where you can listen to information about some prominent former residents of the area – including Albert Einstein and the Haberlands. It was all very interesting and the tasty cake was a delicious bonus.

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From there, we went to discover more family history at Schoneberg Town Hall, which hosts an exhibition called “Wir waren Nachbarn – Biografien jüdischer Zeitzeugen” which contains albums with biographical information about Jewish families and individuals from the areas of Schoneberg and Tempelhof before the Second World War as well as what happened to them following the Holocaust and up until the present day. The exhibition offered a unique perspective on the lives of the people whose biographies are on display and even gave me an opportunity to learn more about my own family’s history.

By the time we were finished, it was late afternoon so we headed back so that I could gather my things ready for my flight that night. After a long day, I was pretty exhausted and so had a bit of a sleep before we headed out for an early dinner.

At about 5.30pm we went to a local Italian restaurant called Franceso Forgione. Considering the fact it was still quite early for food, the place was surprisingly busy. Thankfully we were still able to get seated immediately.

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I had eaten a lot that day and so wasn’t particularly hungry but I knew I would be later if I didn’t eat now and Schonefeld airport is not rife with food options (quite the opposite actually) so I ordered a pizza. It was huge. I strategically left the crusts and managed to eat the rest – minus one slice which I gave to my Dad. It was too good to waste.

After a coffee (and a complimentary shot of sambuca), it was time for me to hop on the U Bahn and head to the airport. It had been an amazing weekend but gone way too quickly. At least this time my plane wasn’t delayed.

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