Friday 5 April – Tuesday 9 April 2019
Last year, my family had our first full family trip to Berlin. My Dad and one of my brothers was running the Berlin Half Marathon and my Mum, other brother and me would be cheering them on. For some crazy reason, they decided to do the same thing this year and my other brother decided to join them.
I arrived in Berlin before the rest of my family. My Mum doesn’t like flying so her and my Dad were driving. They’d left the day before and today got stuck in some very bad traffic so wouldn’t end up joining me until later and my brothers would be flying in that night. I landed in Berlin late in the morning and initially planned to spend my free hours napping thanks to a late night and early start but instead decided to find some activities that I knew would be hard to persuade my family to do.
I couldn’t remember off the top of my head the things left in Berlin that I really wanted to do so I scrolled through the posts I’d saved in my Instagram “Berlin” collection and found two – an elephant mural and a restaurant. My family and I were staying in Wilmersdorf and I wasn’t sure I could drag them across town to find street art and quirky eateries.
I took a couple of trains to Hallesches Tor in Kreuzberg and from there it was a short walk Wilhelmstrasse, 7. I found the elephant mural round the back of an apartment block, next to a deserted basketball court. The mural (painted by a French/Columbian artist from Berlin called Jadore Tong, aka S.Y.R.U.S) takes up the whole of the side of the building and shows a decorated elephant playing with a balloon that is also the globe. A group of boys soon ran over to play basketball so – not wanting to look like a weird spectator – I didn’t stay long before heading back to the station.
My next destination was Oranienburger. I’d found a restaurant called House of Small Wonder, which looked pretty so I thought it was worth checking out. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one as there was quite the queue on my arrival. It sounded like I would be facing quite the wait but here is where being a solo diner came in handy. I only had to wait 10 minutes or so before they found a stool for me to sit on and a space at a communal table.
It wasn’t until I looked at the menu that I realised the restaurant was Japanese-inspired. There was a lot on the menu that I wanted to eat and I ordered the kakuni (pork belly) sandwich with soup. The menu said this was “limited availability” so I thought this must be one of the most popular options and I can never turn down pork belly. Happily it was still available and I say happily because it was delicious. It was less like a sandwich and more like a croissant but, whatever it was, it worked.
I wasn’t planning on having a desert but it turned out that there was a €25 minimum if you wanted to pay on card and I had no cash. This didn’t turn out to be a bad thing because my chocolate tart was also excellent. During my meal, the people at my table left and an apologetic waitress came over and asked if I’d mind moving to another communal table so they could fit a bigger group at mine. I didn’t mind at all and was even rewarded with a couple of nice matcha biscuits as a thank you. At the end, my bill was still a little way off €25 but the staff had been so nice I didn’t mind leaving a slightly bigger tip. I left in a very good mood. Such a good mood that I completely forgot about my cabin bag which the staff had put out of the way under the till. Thankfully I had only made it a little way down the road before I remembered and ran back.
I spent the afternoon crashed out on the sofa, waiting for my parents to arrive. After they did, we went to a local Italian in Wilmsersdorf – Ars Vivendi – for dinner, where I had some very nice ravioli. My only complaint was that I wanted more of it.
By the next morning, my brothers had arrived in Berlin. They’d arrived late the night before so an early start was never on the cards. Instead, we left the house late and went for an egg-based brunch at Kerszberg’s Cafe. They weren’t the best eggs I’ve ever had but they were nice enough and I felt good for having gone for a healthy option. Afterwards, my Dad and brothers left to head over to the old airport at Tempelhof, where they’d collect their stuff for the race. My Mum and I instead went to find a local art gallery. At first we tried Contemporary Fine Arts but this turned out to be very (very) small so it wasn’t long before we needed to find somewhere else.
We ended up at the Käthe Kollwitz Museum. Käthe Kollwitz was a German artist whose art, including etchings and sculptures, addressed topics such as poverty, hunger and war. Her famous sculpture – Mother with her Dead Son – sits in the Neue Wache building near Museum Island as a memorial to victims of war and dictatorship. With such heavy subject matter, it won’t be surprising to hear that visiting the museum was somewhat of a somber experience but undeniably an interesting one.
Once we were finished, we went back outside into the sunshine on the hunt for some ice cream. There was a lovely looking cafe with outdoor seating at the Literaturhaus next door but there was no free seats and a small queue of people waiting so we decided to go and sit outside Reinhards at the Hotel Bristol (formerly the Kempinski) instead. We found a table but couldn’t find much in the way of ice cream on the menu so we decided again to try somewhere else. We knew there was a Haagen Dazs cafe down the road and we thought we’d get what we wanted there. We were wrong. The place was busy – there were no servers coming to our table and the queue inside for ice cream to go was long. We left and walked down towards the Europa Center. In the square outside, we finally found accessible ice cream.
That night we went for another Italian dinner at Franceso Forgione in Wilmersdorf. We’ve been to this place many times and it was the kind of carb-y comfort food my Dad and brothers needed the night before their race.
The next morning, my Dad and brothers were up and out. I was decidedly less so. We’d predicted what time they would start to pass the end of our road but I still had to run in order to get there in time. Thankfully I made it with just enough time to see the first of my brothers pass. All three of them started at a different time so we were there for a while before they’d all passed and we jumped on the U Bahn and headed over to their finish point at the Brandenburg Gate.
We got off the train at Potsdamer Platz which is close by but, with all the roads closed off, it wasn’t particularly easy getting across to the gate and then even harder to actually be able to get to my brother who’d finished when we arrived. We ended going in and out of the U Bahn stations at Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburger Tor, using the underpasses to cross the roads. Eventually we found him – exhausted – by the Reichstag and not long later my other brother and Dad showed up too. Together we hopped on the U Bahn and headed back to Wilmersdorf but home wasn’t our destination. Instead, it was Max und Moritz for – what was in their case – a very well deserved kebab. This place does my favourite kebabs. Ever.
Full of kebabs and chips, my Dad and brothers understandably just wanted to go back to the flat and sleep. I, however, had work I needed to do so instead wandered off and found a cafe on Uhlandstraße called Blueberry Coffee where I found some very nice chai lattes and a table to work outside for a few hours.
Work done (well work wasn’t done but I was), I went back to the flat to meet the family and we left for dinner at Nea Knosso – a Greek restaurant, with an extensive menu and which seems to be very popular with the locals. The feta salad comes with a whole slab of feta and the lamb cutlets are probably the best main you can order. We left satisfied, and not for the first time.
Having been to Berlin so often, we found ourselves spending more time trying to come up with things we wanted to do (other than eat) than actually doing things. On Monday, after agonising over a plan, we eventually all made our way over to Mitte. My Dad and brothers went off to the museum by Checkpoint Charlie and my Mum and I (having grabbed a sandwich from a Kamps bakery nearby) tried to go inside the cathedrals on Gendarmenmarkt. We’d been into the entrance of one before only to be told we couldn’t look around as it was closing. This time, it seemed they were already closed despite it being early in the afternoon.
Instead we made our way over to the Dom – another Berlin cathedral we’d never looked around. Thankfully, the Dom was open but sadly the viewing platform at the top was not. This was even more of a shame because we were still charged the same amount to go in, even though we were missing out on one of the place’s key features. Still, the interior design was beautiful and intricate, there was music being played and there was not too many people inside. There was also a crypt in the basement. Unfortunately a lot of the information was in German and we hadn’t picked up audioguides but it was still interesting to look around.
It wasn’t long before we met up again with the rest of the family. My brothers appeared looking smug. My Dad looking sheep-ish. It turned out that their excursions had involved currywurst – something I had kept suggesting during our trip. I was displeased. They didn’t end up completely in my bad books though because they still had some appetite so we could head into Rausch chocolatiers for a chocolate torte and hot chocolate (pretty much a tradition on my Berlin trips). We then caught the U Bahn back to Wilmersdorf. Our dinner destination that night was Weyers, where I had a very nice steak served with aubergine, red pepper and courgette. We usually end up at Weyers for breakfasts but it is a great all rounder and a good destination for my last dinner of the trip.
The next morning, I left with the family for one final Berlin activity – I was finally getting my currywurst. On my last trip to Berlin, one of the chefs at Rausch had told us her favourite place for currywurst in the city. She said it was a little way outside, near an area called “Blissestraße”. She must have meant outside the city centre (the city centre being Mitte) becausem, as it happens, Blissestraße is actually in Wilmersdorf, close to where we stay. The currywurst place itself was called Krasselts Imbiss. It was a little bit of a walk but the weather looked nice so I didn’t bring much in the way of warm clothing with me. Sadly, however, the temperature (so warm over the weekend) had dropped so I had to steal a jumper from my Dad en route.
It turned out to be worth the cold though. Normally, currywurst sauce tastes like curried ketchup. This time, it tasted more like curried HP sauce. I’m not sure if I would say that was better but I could certainly see why this currywurst came so highly rated. With that, my Berlin activities came to a close. My family was leaving later in the week so they went off and did their own thing. I went back to the flat and did some more work until it was time to head to the airport and fly back home to London.