Breaking in Berlin

Can I just jump a few steps forward and start with our accommodation in Berlin? Holy freaking wow. Even if it rained all week or there was only two hours of sunlight a day, I would be happy at The Provocateur. The entrance, framed in lights, directed you to the theatrics inside. Deep red velvet covered the lounges and walls of the lobby, and marble led the way to a glass lift encased in gold frame in the center. It smelt sweet and spicy at the same time and the air was filled with jazz. And then there was our room. Gold mirror in the shower, chandelier over the bed, and a switch we discovered on the last night that dimmed our lights and turned our artwork into a movie. Everything oozed the sort of elegance I didn’t even know I was attracted to. ‘See you next time,’ the receptionist said as we left. Oh, you will.

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Okay, back to it. Whenever you mention Berlin to someone, they always use the work ‘grunge’ to describe it. I’m going to try and be a bit more creative than that. Berlin is cool, and it knows it, but it doesn’t want to brag about it, because…well, it’s cool. They don’t need fancy and expensive stuff, and they’re more than happy to dig around at flea markets like we did at Mauerpark, finding myself a vintage gold lighter that had my bag opened and searched at the airport later that week. Eeek. 

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They draw artworks on walls, like the big one that split their city in half from 1961 to 1989 which we walked along the standing reminder at the East Side Gallery. They even have old analogue photobooths, or photoautomat, dotted around the city where for a few spare euro you can capture a moment that will last 100 years.

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They’re confident enough to know the importance of history, and the importance of sharing it at museums and exhibitions such as the Typography of Terror, the Stasi Museum at Hohenschönhausen (where some of the guides are former prisoners), and the exhibition underneath the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – all of which are a must do. They make you stop, they make you think. Of the incredible level of fear, and rightfully so, that existed in Berlin. But not only the fear of the people, but the clear fear of the leaders that ultimately resulted in a incomprehensible exercise of prejudice and injustice against those deemed ‘other’. It was enough to make my lawyer-side itch. Really itch.

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They know how to eat well in Berlin and don’t make a fuss of it, with 3euro kebaps being a regular go-to, but definitely without the same connotations as a 3am kebab in Sydney, and cafe-vibes that could have you thinking you’d woken up in Melbourne. A few we liked were Silo Coffee, which, for fellow Aussie travelers, sells jars of Vegemite, and Distrikt, where we tried the ‘fattiest pastry in Europe’, and most of the staff are from somewhere other than Berlin. Avo on toast looked pretty smashing though, I wonder if it costs more than a mortgage in Berlin?

And just like the cool kids at school, they know how to party. Between the Christmas markets scattered across the city and the biergartens, we barely felt the cold at night. We went to WeihnactsZauber Gendarmenmarket and the Christmas markets at Alexanderplatz where we warmed ourselves with alcoholic hot chocolates, glühwein and feigling shots and watched people, most likely still better than me, stack it on the ice skating rink, and then to the Hofbräu Wirtshaus where he managed to convince me to drink at least a litre of beer (okay, it may have been a radler) while he drank three to himself as well as ingesting his weight in pork knuckle all while dancing to a live band with about three hundred other guests.

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So Berlin, I’d describe you as colourful, approachable, exciting, jam-packed, boisterous, engaging, and a place I hope to call home at some point in my life. But I guess you’re pretty grunge too. In the best of ways.

E x

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