Guest blogger Alvina Labsvirs attended one of The Quirky Traveller Blogging Workshops. As a result she is now pursuing her love of writing and travel on ‘Reasons To Go North‘ site. In her very first guest post, she shares her enjoyment of one of Europe’s most vibrant and exciting cities.
Where would you choose to meet up with a Texan, a New Yorker, two from the UK and a Berliner? Berlin is the ideal place! With our friend and guide Linda in charge, we had a weekend packed with interesting history, fantastic entertainment and wonderful food. Seeing everything in three days was to prove impossible but with little sleep and Linda’s help we packed in a lot of the main tourist attractions and sampled some slightly off the beaten track.
The Wall is high on the agenda for any tourist. But little remains, with only a line of bricks snaking through the city at ground level. The East side gallery is a stretch of 1.3k along Muhlenstrasse, decorated by artists from around the world. The images resonate with the message that the division of East and West should never reoccur.
East – West history is abundant and being of partial Eastern European descent, this was something I was keen to see. The Topogrphie Des Terrors was the site of the former headquarters of the Secret State Police, now a harrowing information centre on the persecution and terror of the ‘Third Reich’. The grey sarcophagi of the Holocaust Memorial are a perfect representation of coffins of those who had had their dignity stolen, even in death.
At the Brandenburg Gate, the symbolic end to the cold war when the wall came down, Linda recounted was how scared she was on that day. Two days after the crossing was opened she ventured to the west, but was terrified. In her world no one had left the East and returned.
So from the sobriety of the SS, Check Point Charlie, an altogether lighter experience. No longer manned by armed guards willing to shoot at the slightest misdemeanour, actors man the post in somewhat questionable, period uniforms and will invite you to pose with them, for a fee, of course.
Berlin is a melting pot of cultures and so eating can be as diverse. If you don’t mind queuing for your supper and enjoy the company of others, the long wooden tables at the Cafe am Neuen See, in the Tiergarten, are a good place to relax and meet other travellers. After a sobering glimpse into all too recent history of the city, the option of beer and pizza can be a perfect antidote. Alternatively Oraienburger Strasse is an area of restored communists’ residential blocks. Previously run down and dilapidated inner city housing; now expensive apartments, with wonderful gardens and seductive restaurants. We ate in a Turkish cafe, Hasir, which did delicious lamb and not so delicious chardonnay.
Less known are the ‘beach bars’ along the Spree, complete with sand and deckchairs. A place to linger over a beer on a hot summer’s afternoon, or sample the bohemian nightlife.
A trip out to The Potsdam palaces and gardens, left by the Kissers of Germany, and now the summer playground of Berliners, is worth a day. Try a bike trip with Fat Bike Tours. A bike on trains and escalators has its challenges but the charm and beauty of the gardens will overcome that problem, and the hunky guides are adept and carrying a couple of bikes at a time up and down stairs.
Insider knowledge produced an unexpected last night. The Berlin summer music festival builds a temporary concert hall between the two cathedrals and this was the last night with the London philharmonic playing. By a stroke of luck, for us, the wind blew the rain off a canopy and caused a table’s occupants to flee and we secured a restaurant table. A somewhat expensive meal, but with the opera thrown in who could complain? Even for an uneducated non-opera listener this was an exquisite treat.
The Berlin experience is one of juxtapositions. Glass bridges across the Spree sit uneasily with communist blocks and magnificent museums. Outside a brightly lit synagogue you will find hookers legally plying their trade, and on the next street eat the best ice cream in town. You can dance most of the night on riverside dance floors and drink cocktails till dawn. Don’t worry too much about your hotel. You won’t be there for long …
Alvina Labsvirs says, “With my photographs and blog site Reasons to go North developed from my love of The Lakes, walking and travel, I hope to inspire visitor and residents to enjoy the Lakes, to get out and appreciate all that it has to offer.”
You can also find Alvina on Face Book