Alright, the title sounds more dramatic than it needs to be, but I had to ctach your attention in some way or another, right?
Back in December, my sister, Mother and I headed to Berlin for the Christmas markets. A short, frustrating but sweet stay, that I will hold on to the memories of forever. This was the first time I had travelled with family and definitely not the first time I argued with them.
Three women on a trip together, what could you expect? There was no fighting for a spot over the mirror believe it or not, but there was some minor meltdowns over language barriers, poor navigation and getting on the wrong transport. Have any of you British, non German speaking people actually managed to navigate your way around Berlin and the underground system with ease?? When it got to it, we made the wrong tram stops, got lost down residential streets and found ourself bickering and hangry down at the underground.
Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, right? Maybe so, but getting lost in Berlin and having to fork out for a small fortune on transport fees and strange taxis, merry doesn’t really come to mind.
Anyway, now that I’ve got to it, minus about 13 lost hours, we had approximately 35 hours in Berlin, minus some time for sleep. We stayed at the comfort hotel which believe it or not, was comfortable but didn’t serve dinner on a Monday when we arrived – we didn’t know this and after a busy day of travel, walked and mulled wines, we went to bed hungry. Otherwise, it was a fine enough hotel for a bath and bed but I’d not stay there again as the location was around 40 minutes from the Alexanderplatz which was the heart of the city.
When we arrived on Monday we dived into five guys, not the most cultural of a first meal but hungry, tired and annoyed at ourselves for not knowing German, we had given up a little and needed to refuel. Hotdog and twenty euro down, we embarked on our exploring. Am I selling this to you? Please bear with me as I talk you through my short time in the city as I have so much to sell, I promise.
First we had come across the main square, Alexanderplatz which was where one of the most popular markets had set up for the festive period. A carousel, ferris wheel and stalls galore it was a little slice of Christmas heaven. Christmas music played, the bustle was very real and the smell of bratwurst hit you hard, so much so, you didn’t need to buy a bratwurst to taste it.
We didn’t first explore the market as we wanted to do so in the evening, a quick blast around we decided to keep walking and work out way to the Bradenberg gate. You know, the famous one, right? We first stumbled across a rather magnificent TV tower and right across the road, the cathedral which we payed to enter and had an explore of.
The Catherdral was beautiful from the outside in, so royal, so pristine and just the right amount of eerie. It was breathtaking, we explored each room, lit a candle In respect and while Mum quivered at the thought of heights, my sister and I climbed out to the top of the Catherdral roof and headed out to take in the view of the City. Hundreds of steps and shaking legs later we made it and I can only wish my Mum would have pushed aside her fears to take it all in with us.
Wow, theres not any other feeling quite like the one where you feel you are literally on top of the world. If you are lucky enough to take a trip to Berlin, please visit the Catherdral to see the wonders for yourself. We also visited the crypt by mistake but I found this quite unsettling and we promptly left and headed for the exit, out to inhale the open winter air of Berlin.
It was a cold but beautiful day. The weather didn’t let us down and we were free to explore comfortably, we headed on to the Bradenberg gate which was quite the walk from the Catherdral. Stopped for a mulled wine break just by the gate where a massive Christmas tree had taken over the plaza. I’ll tell you, they don’t do Christmas trees like that back home, Aberdeen, take note!
The tree itself was worth the walking distance but to have the view of the Bradenberg behind the tree and Christmas in the air, it was quite magical and I felt a little fuzzy, something that had always been on my bucket list to visit was the gate and to see it in all of its true glory at Christmas with the two strongest women by my side was something very special.
After mooching around the gate and getting some photographs, we headed out past to the holocaust memorial which changed the tone indefinitely. Even after all these years, the holocaust is such a harrowing experience and always will be, it brings a lump to your throat, a tear to the eye and you can almost feel the fear of Europe during that period of history.
For me, the memorial was a must see no matter how hard hitting or the memories that it brought. The war is a part of history that nobody likes to reminisce but we must remember and we must remember those who had fallen. The memorial was just as you would expect, grey harsh and hard hitting but placed around a community estate, it wasn’t as I had expected. It was dark and powerful but the setting didn’t add up.
It was strange to see the memorial so close to a community where children played and families collected groceries. From previous images I had seen, it always looked so secluded. Here we were, in the midst of a busy road and housing estate at a haunting memorial, it was quite surreal.
Having spent some time taking in the memorial deep in thoughts, we went on a hunt for a coffee break and a phone charge station to refuel for the evening. I was beginning to get tired and my abilities for walking, shopping and talking were failing me so it was time for a stop. Half an hour later and we walked back to the Alexanderplatz with a little shopping along the way, only a little.
When we got back to the markets, it was all stations go. The lights were shining bright, the music even louder and the streets busier. We spent time barging our way through for Nutella crepes, stall hunting and more mulled wine. For some reason, the mulled wine tastes better fresh from a market stall rather than out of the bottle. The smell itself is like Christmas and if anything was going to get us feeling festive, this was the night.
Once we arrived at the hotel, as mentioned prior, there was no food to be served so we each had a bath and hit the hay for a good snooze, ready for an early wake up call so we could get up and out on the last day of our trip. Sadly, a third day would have been ideal, but we didn’t have the luxury and made do with the two days, packing in as much as we could.
When the morning come, we got ourselves going a little later than planned due to a cheeky lie in but nonetheless we were down for a hotel breakfast of bratwurst, bread and cereal at 9am and out the door by 945am. As we now knew where we had to catch the tram and a rough idea of bearings, this made life a little easier. We headed back to Alexanderplatz, first up was a coffee stop at dunkin donuts followed by a trip to sephora and topshop.
A little mooch around, we decided to walk to the Berlin Wall and outdoor gallery. On the way we dipped in shops and browsed around, taking in the sites and scenery. Again the weather was perfect for exploring, crisp and dry. Blissful really. There’s nothing I love more than a slow mull around with a coffee to start off the day.
When we worked our way to the wall, it was around an hour and a half walk, the wall itself was around a forty minute walk but we went the distance and caught some of the famous artwork, snapped pictures. It was busy for the duration of the gallery, people were taking photos no matter where you walked, you just had to hope you didn’t get caught in the background of any, pulling a funny face or picking your nose (I’m kidding).
When we hit the end of the wall, we began to walk back for a lunch stop as our feet were tired and tummies rumbling. We wanted a traditional meal and had come across a restaurant direct across from the wall that had curry wurst and schnitzel up for grabs. A done deal. We enjoyed lunch in a quiet spot, just what we needed to get ourselves back on track for the walk back to the market and the evening activities.
Following lunch, we walked back to Alexander platz where we went into a massive shopping centre which name I don’t recall. We spent the afternoon browsing, shopping and just enjoying the company of one another without having to worry about the time, or rushing home to family. It was care free and enjoyable, besides, shopping centres are our natural habitat.
When the dark had come, we went back to the market to get stocked up on mulled wines, I believe I had three and last minute gift grabbing. We spent time taking it all in, every stall, every passer by, every move. It was a lovely evening and just cold enough to see your breath.
I didn’t buy much of anything but my mum picked up some baubles, and little gifts for taking home. Personally, I just enjoy seeing everything and taking it all in. One mulled cider for the road and we called it quits, heading back for the 9pm tram with tired eyes and aching legs. I was dreaming of a hot bubble bath the whole duration of the tram, and missing my baby back home of course. One more sleep, a flight and a megabus journey until I would be reunited with my own little family.
We got back and settled in for the night, ordered some deep dish pizza down at the hotel bar and an aperol spritz as they looked so delicious on the menu. I couldn’t have been more disgusted by the aperol spritz, I took one sip and looked at my Mum who shared the same expression. Eugh, what is this? This was our first ever aperol and I’ll never have a second, definitely didn’t live to the hype for me and I had to pass it to Mum who grudgingly polished off as much as she could for moneys worth. Wow, that was rough.
Anyway, fed and watered (kind of), we got ourselves up to the room to pack for morning and get ready. A big bubble bath for me followed by a poor attempt at eating a donut and falling into bed with the alarm ready to go at 4am..ouch. An early start, but a long day ahead of us, the home stretch was drawing on us. Sadly just a little too soon, a third day in Berlin would have been just right.
Closing in on our trip to Berlin, I’ll always remember this with happy memories, despite the travel system being particularly tough to navigate and getting lost no matter how hard we planned travel in advance, I’d definitely recommend a City break to Berlin. As you know, I was there for the Christmas markets as the sole reason to visit, however if I was to return with my Husband, I would hope to return in a Summer, to experience the wonderful City in a different season.
There’s things to see and do all around when you get to the heart of the City, you don’t have to walk far to stumble across a hidden gem. Perhaps it be a piece of street art that catches the eye, a little cafe on the corner or a world known monument, there truly is colour and life all around the city. Berlin was clean, it was just the right kind of busy and it eye opening.
If I choose to return, I’d like a little longer to explore and would suggest a break no shorter than four full days with a central hotel which is of walking distance to the monuments and museums as like I say, the transport system is very difficult to navigate, or at least we found it to be.
Another activity I would have liked to made time for was the Berlin zoo as I’ve heard good reviews of the zoo and that the animals are well cared for. As this would take near a full day to get around, we just sadly didn’t have the time. Berlin is also supposed to be the party capital of Europe with under ground clubs galore and fetish club delight. The party scene isn’t for me, but if you like to party, I’m sure you wouldn’t have to venture far at night to find a club fit for you. Regardless, our stay was short and sweet and we had seen the areas and sights that we had first intended to when booking our trip.
It was successful overall, the travel was smooth and the City was definitely full of delights, maybe it was the mulled wine on every corner, maybe it was the aurora of Christmas in the air. Whatever it was I fell a little bit in love with another part of Europe and can only hope to return.
Have you ever been to visit Berlin? How did you find it?