Friday 6th – Monday 9th April 2018
Day One: Friday
As my flight from Bucharest touched down in Berlin (where I was spending my Orthodox Easter weekend), I flicked open my Citymapper app to check train times. My usual route into town from Schonefeld airport is to get the S Bahn to Neukoln and then change onto the U Bahn but since the bus to Rudow seemed a quicker route today I decided to mix things up. Annoyingly, whether it was me or the ticket machine, I couldn’t seem to get the thing to work but thankfully it turned out you could buy tickets on the bus and these would cover me when I got on the U Bahn at Rudow (or at least I assumed it did).
My Citymapper was telling me the U7 had some works going on between some of the stations but since it was still advising that as the quickest route I ignored the alerts and hoped for the best. Unfortunately at Rudow I realised that Citymapper wasn’t quite as helpful in Berlin as it is in London. In London, when a route is down Citymapper suggests an alternative. In Berlin, it tells you the route is down but tells you to use it anyway, meaning I now needed to get my U Bahn map out and figure it out myself. I managed to spot a route that would mean getting two additional U Bahn trains. This sounded like a faff but one of the stations was Kottbussor Tor, where I had lived for a month a few years ago, and I knew there was a burger place next to the station which (despite thinking it’s a bit overrated) I had been craving for actual years.
I quickly Googled how long single journey tickets were valid for and figured I had time to duck out of the U Bahn, grab a burger, and pick up my journey without worrying about getting caught by a ticket inspector travelling on an expired ticket. Yes, I know I am paranoid.
I arrived at Kottbussor Tor and nipped across the road to Burgermeister. This used to only be located a few U Bahn stops down, under the train line, but, since my time in Kotty, it has set up shop here as well. I was so hungry by this point I didn’t even look properly at the menu and ordered a simple cheeseburger for about 4.80 Euros. There is a lot of hype over Burgermeister and, once I got my burger after a bit of a wait, I did once again feel it was overrated but it is still undoubtedly a decent burger and I left feeling much better than I had when I had entered the joint in a hangry state.
Back on the train, I headed to the Kurfurstendamm to find my parents. I spotted them in the Karstadt and we spent a little while doing some shopping before heading to the flat. I have been trying to find new tops for ages but even in the fancy KaDeWe I couldn’t find anything I actually wanted. That was probably a good thing because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it anyway.
The sun was out but we didn’t plan to do much else with the day. My brothers were due to arrive that night a bit before midnight so our only plan before then was dinner. After a bit of a Google, we booked a table at a local Peruvian restaurant called Serrano and after crashing out for a bit we headed off to eat. After having been sent a picture of a friend at the restaurant where I’d had one of the greatest meals of my life in Peru, I had massively been craving this.
We arrived to find a few tables filled, with the rest being filled as the night went on. The place felt like a fine dining restaurant with a Peruvian twist and I spotted fabrics matching the cushion I currently have buried at my parents house, along with the rest of the contents from my old flat in London. It turned out to be priced very differently to the restaurants I had visited when I was actually in Peru (by which I mean it was not cheap) but the food was delicious. My parents and I each started with a selection of 9 little plates of Peruvian tapas (I finally tried cerviche, something I had not managed during 3 weeks in South America) and my Dad and I each topped this up with a Pisco Sour as well. For my main I went for Lomo Saltado – a dish comprising of beef, onions, chips and rice – and, for dessert, chocolate cake with foamed cream. If I could use the drooling face emoji here I would.
I almost felt guilty that my brothers were missing out on this feast. I felt properly guilty when they announced their plane was delayed by 3 hours and they ended up arriving at 2/3am. I’m not entirely sure when they walked through the door as, needless to say, I was asleep.
Day Two: Saturday
The next day we had an unsurprisingly slow start, given the late night. My Dad and I were getting itchy feet and so snuck out without waking the rest of the family. It was a lovely day and so we walked to Ludwigkirchplatz and went to the cute Aux Délices Normands bakery, sat in their wooden seats suspended from the wall, which I was convinced wouldn’t take our weight (thankfully they did), drank coffee and ate croissants. Then having had no word from the rest of the family, we walked in the sun to another place – BioBackHaus – for another coffee. From the outside this place didn’t look like it had much character but inside the counters were full of treats and there was a constant stream of people coming in. My Dad and I set up at one of the tables outside and sat in the sun until we decided we should go back to wake up the rest of the family.
Back at the flat, we found that my Mum and brothers had been up for a while but hadn’t been checking their phones. We hung out for a little while before my Dad and one of my brothers headed out to pick up their registration stuff for the half marathon they were doing the next day – the reason for our first full family trip to Berlin. This left my Mum, other brother and me to explore. We had initially planned to find a museum but since it was now getting late in the afternoon and was a lovely day we decided to just explore instead.
We got the U Bahn to the Brandenburg Gate and walked to the Holocaust Memorial nearby. Exploring this place is an interesting experience. On the one hand, once inside, the sound from the road outside gets cut out and as you walk around people pop up and then disappear from behind the high stone blocks. On the other, around the outskirts people sit and lounge around on the stones and inside children run around playing tag and hide and seek. Personally I like the fact people interact with the stones and treat them as part of the city.
From the memorial, we walked back under the Brandenburg Gate and up Unter den Linden. There we found Cafe Einstein and stopped for ice cream before walking onto Gendarmenmarkt and going into the German cathedral. I’ve been to this square many, many times but it has never occurred to me to actually go inside the cathedrals. It really wasn’t what I was expecting. Inside it didn’t feel like a church and instead reminded me more of a lighthouse, with a circular staircase and window in the ceiling – although the stripped brick walls were less lighthouse-y. Unfortunately it seemed we had arrived just before closing so all we could do was stand in the lobby and look up. We’d have to save the tour for another visit.
Instead we headed into Fassbender & Rausch to grab some chocolates. I bought some caramel chocolate biscuit balls for my new work colleagues in Bucharest. Unfortunately I must have caught them on a diet day because most of them didn’t get eaten and the cleaner ended up throwing them away. This was a massive shame because I tested them (in fact I probably had more than anybody else) and can safely confirm they were delicious.
Loaded up with sweet treats, we went back to meet up with the rest of the family. We had dinner at our local Italian – Franceso Forgione – which I now go to without fail on every Berlin visit, it’s a classic – and then crashed out back home in front of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Day Three: Sunday
The next morning I rolled over and went back to sleep as my Dad and brother left for their half marathon. I left it as late as possible until I had to move. The route would take the runners along the Kurfurstendamm and passed the end of our road so my Mum, other brother and I walked up to catch them as they ran passed. At first we were worried we’d missed them but after 15 minutes or so my brother ran by, throwing the lightweight jacket he didn’t need at my mother to catch. 5-10 minutes later my Dad ran by, waving and grimacing as he went. Once out of sight, we wandered down to where a live band was playing. We watched them for a short while before I left the family and headed off to see if any shops were open. They weren’t. Even on one of the main shopping streets in the city, even the biggest shops are closed on a Sunday. Instead I set up shop at a table outside Starbucks and read until my Mum and brother were done watching the last of the runners pass.
We got word that the boys had successfully finished before my Mum and I headed to the Museum of Photography/ Helmut Newton Foundation and my brother wandered off for more on foot explorings. He ended up meeting up with my Dad and other brothers and the three of them went for kebabs at my favourite kebab place – Max & Moritz. If two out of three of them hadn’t just run 13 miles I wouldn’t have forgiven them for going without me. Still my Mum and I had a nice afternoon wandering around the photography exhibitions (the one on Helmut Newton’s life was my favourite, the others showing some of his work and that of some of his contemporaries I’ll admit I didn’t find as interesting, nor the one on nature and architecture – surprising really as I usually love this sort of stuff) and stopping at Dean & David for a healthier (but still tasty) lunch of chicken caesar wraps.
Afterwards we met the boys back at the flat and didn’t emerge again until dinner. Tonight we ended up at a place I have only ever been to for breakfast (although breakfast here I have had often) – Weyers. As in the mornings, the place was busy but we managed to get a table and I had a fantastic steak dinner. Turns out this place is a good all rounder.
Day Four: Monday
All too soon it was our last day in Berlin. The sun was still shining and in the morning we headed back to our haunt from the night before – Weyers. Deciding to go for something different from my usual orders of eggs and bacon or breads with meats and cheeses, I ordered what I thought sounded like a big cooked breakfast but which turned out to be more like a frittata. I’ll admit I wasn’t too much of a fan of this – it’s not what I was in the mood for – but it was still the perfect place to be sitting outside, soaking up some more Vitamin D before I had to return to work in the great indoors.
We weren’t flying until later so we spent a little while wandering around the area. We walked up to an old building where my grandfather had lived before the Second World War (which miraculously had survived) and then popped into the Haagen Dazs on the Kurfurstendamm for an ice cream to go before my brothers and I bid farewell to our parents and headed to the airport.