Last week Gerry and I left London for a pretty spontaneous trip to Berlin. We had been planning on going for a long time, but never really managed to fit it in. In June we decided to just book the tickets and go. Our main goal was to take enough photos for Gerry to do his next series of prints from Berlin. We’ve come back with a couple of thousand pictures so I think we did pretty well.
I didn’t have high expectations. I had visited once before, in 2004, when I travelled over with my university to look at media organisations in the city. It was early spring and all I can remember is everything being grey, grey and more grey. This time was completely different. I was quite gobsmacked by how much I liked the place. It took me about a night to warm to it and after that I was in full on Berlin-crush-mode. Everything about the city was great.
Berlin felt a bit like London’s bohemian little brother. This is what London must have been like ten/twenty years ago when the city was still cheap and full of artists. We visited some really cool neighbourhoods with graffiti covered walls and chilled out cafés. The pace was slower, the people seemed more relaxed and it was all so (oh so) cheap compared to London. It was difficult not to fall a little bit in love with the place. Both of us left feeling we would like to go back and perhaps stay a little bit longer next time.
Day 1 Kreuzberg
We were staying pretty close to Kreuzberg and as I’d heard good things about the area that was one of the first places we started exploring. It didn’t take me long to start snapping away at pretty buildings, graffiti and cool tiles.
We were pretty exhausted after our flight (6am from Stansted) and didn’t do too much else than some gentle exploring, eating and drinking.
Day 2 Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg
Day 2 was when the fun really started. We hadn’t realised that Berlin is a pretty big place so we (foolishly) decided to walk almost everywhere. We started in Mitte where Gerry had been in 2008. He remembered the area being full of squats and artists, today it felt like walking around Notting Hill, expensive boutiques and trendy cafés everywhere.
Some left over graffiti from the olden days.
The quite strange Karl Marx Allee.
We were slightly disappointed but continued on, walking up to Prenzlauer Berg and then back south continuing east along the spooky Karl Marx Allee.
This is my it’s hot and I’m hungry face.
I’m not sure if London comparisons really work with Berlin but Prenzlauer Berg felt a bit like Islington and Mitte was more like Clerkenwell/Notting Hill.
We had to stop to refuel and hydrate pretty often. Yes that is a tomato not a strawberry in my lemonade.
We got back to our hotel and later that evening we realised the lampshade was making an interesting pattern on the wall paper.
We stayed in Ostel a DDR design hotel, where every room is seemingly inspired by the 70s in East Germany. It was quite cheap and we didn’t spend much time there.
Day 3 Neukölln
Oh my god did we fall in love with this area!
First we visited the closed down Tempelhof airport, which was pretty spooky. The wind was howling through the empty building (once one of the largest in Europe). It was very strange standing on the tarmac, knowing this place had once been filled with planes and people.
It was a really hot day and in order to avoid heatstroke we hurried to get some shade. Being from Finland I tend to struggle if it gets any warmer than 25 degrees. A friendly lady in a gallery in Mitte had told us Neukölln was the best place to find artistic people so we headed there not really knowing where we were going.
We stopped in a café so Gerry could sketch some ideas for his prints and I could cool down and drink coffee (not mutually exclusive).
A helpful guy in the café told us about Weserstrasse, which we walked up and down for a while, admiring all the small bars and independent shops. We were also told to check out the Klunkerkranich roof top bar, which was exactly what we needed after three days of non-stop walking.
We spent the rest of the day there plotting our return to the city. Then we went looking for food and ended up in Das Gift, a Scottish bar with excellent music and a Twin Peaks-vibe. We had some haggis and whisky and didn’t want to leave.
Day 4 Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg again
On our final day we revisited some areas, taking a couple of photos of things we had missed. We also met up with Kugge and then Amie, who was unexpectedly in town.
- The food – so much lovely sushi, which you just don’t get here in London.
- The buildings – the architecture reminded me of Helsinki, but a sort of post-apocalyptic Helsinki where kids with spray cans have been allowed to run wild.
- The bars – relaxed and funky without trying too hard, cheap booze. What’s not to like.
- Public transport – easy to use and not always underground. Definite plus.
- Independence – lots of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Nowhere near as many big brands and chains as in London. Fewer people wearing overtly branded clothing. Refreshing.
- Safety – I felt safe enough to walk around dark parks at night. Not sure if this is advisable. It did feel like one of the safer cities I have ever visited, but this probably depends on the areas you stick to.