It’s a sure bet that every city we visit won’t be a favorite and unfortunately Berlin was one of those for both of us. We certainly could have spent more time exploring the countless neighborhoods, visiting museums and monuments but for us, Berlin was a pretty chill experience and we were thankful to have a cozy Airbnb apartment during our visit. After a 30 minute cab ride from the train station it was clear how vast the city was. Population-wise it’s similar to Madrid with over 3 million residents, but to us the sites felt more spread out and less walkable. Our apartment was off one of the main roads in Neukölln, a bohemian neighborhood with a melting pot of cultures, an artistic feel, and many affordable ethnic food options. In hindsight, we probably would have stayed a bit closer to Mitte, a neighborhood that included many of the historical sites with less of a train ride but we did come to enjoy the character of Neukölln as well as the inexpensive food options around us.
Although kebab shops can be found on virtually every street in Berlin, there was one that we (Jenn) had to wait in line for. We weren’t prepared for what ended up being the two hour wait (!) it would take to get our hands on the famous Mustafa’s Gemuse durum for under five bucks. We waited much to Jesse’s dismay, and although the kebab was delicious, we agreed that it wasn’t worth a wait that long – maybe half an hour max. There are too many other great spots to choose from including a stand in our neighborhood called Doner 44 – the bread was outstanding! The absolute highlight of the food we ate in Berlin was the dinner we had at Les Papilles on our last night. We started with warm and gooey camembert cheese topped with a house made pesto and served with toasty bread that was ridiculously good, followed by a steamed artichoke with grainy mustard sauce, and tender beef cheek on bitter radicchio. The experience and service was fantastic!
Our week wasn’t just chilling and eating. We visited some historical sites and monuments to include Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Holocaust Memorial, Berlin Wall and did a self-guided tour of the Topography of Terror site which was very well done. The Holocaust Memorial which contains rows and rows of uneven cement blocks in recognition of the estimated 6 million persecuted Jews was really moving. The site was designed for every visitor to form his or her own opinion which we quickly understood as we roamed the isolated and at times claustrophobic maze. One of the only remaining areas of the Berlin Wall that is still standing happened to be next to the Topography of Terror which seemed quite fitting. The self-guided tour required a lot of reading but we got through it within an hour and it was worth it. The long walk depicted, with representative pictures, newspaper articles, propaganda posters, etc. the rise and fall of Hitler.
One night we saw Roots at the intimate Chamaleon Theatre. The performance was a mixture of acrobatics, circus acts, and puppetry and was very unique and interactive. Jesse participated in the show by holding a performers brief case while he pulled some objects out of it for the crowd! We also spent an evening at a recommended Prachtwerk Music Cafe near our apartment that offered a very chill vibe and a great IPA. They regularly have live music, but not while we were there. We also had a few drinks at a great rooftop bar called Klunkerkranich, a fantastic recommendation from our Airbnb host. The view of Berlin was wonderful and luckily the sun was out which was much needed after a few cloudy days. Picture a beach bar complete with a sand pit, on top of a parking deck, in the back of a mall…yeah, a little different. There was some hesitation at first but once we trekked up the garage we were sold. It’s a must if you’re ever around Neukölln.