Then we take Berlin
You'll need more than a long weekend to explore the dynamic and diverse cityscape that is Berlin
Appeared in Australian Doctor, 23rd September 2011
History and modernity sit side by side in any European city, but especially in Berlin. On any given day, visitors can wonder at the grandeur of historical structures like the Brandenburg Tor (Brandenburg Gate) and the Reichstag, gain insight into the devastating impact of World Wars I and II at numerous museums and memorials, and immerse themselves in the city's internationally renowned art and design scene.
Berlin is a cyclist's city, so we make the locals and begin our day by renting bikes and cycling to the Eastside Gallery, where a 1.3km long memorial stretch of the art-strewn Berlin Wall still stands. Like Berlin itself, the Eastside Gallery is a work in progress, and is repainted regularly by both local and international artists.
We meander through the charming and creative borough of Freidrichshain, stopping in at various small galleries to absorb the vibrant arts scene, and indulge in some impulse art buying at Strychnin Gallery on Boxhagenstrasse (which has sister galleries in New York and London), which the staff happily wrap and ship home for me.
Later we take the underground to the Bahnhof Zoo station (which inspired U2's song, Zoo Station, on 1991's Achtung Baby), and visit the Bauhaus Archive. It boasts the world’s most comprehensive collection of design objects from this seminal, clean-edged movement of 1919-1933, and is a must for all modern design fans.
We dose up on history and art all over again the next day, with a visit to the Jewish Museum in Kreuzberg, designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in 2001. The gallery blurs the lines between architecture and sculpture, creating spaces that tell the story of the Jewish people in Germany. It’s modern, unique and profoundly sobering, and we spend hours poring over the exhibits.
After a fortifying cup of coffee, it's off to the nearby Berlinische Galerie -- an exhibition of Berlin-made art and design in a former glass warehouse. The work of up and coming local talent is shown alongside the permanent collection of famous Berliners like illustrator and photographer Heinrich Zille, and Dadaist painter George Grosz. A diverse array of film and music events are also on offer.
But Berlin is not all about history, or art and design. With 13 Michelin stars in 12 restaurants, Berlin is also a foodie's paradise. We treat ourselves to dinner at Die Quadriga at the stunning Brandenburger Hof, a luxury five-star boutique hotel in Charlottenburg. Finnish-born chef Sauli Kemppainen's seasonal new Nordic menu is a delightful blend of modern and traditional flavors - my mouth still waters when I think of the truffle-infused veal and fresh vegetables I chose from the summer menu.
Another night we dine at the Clarchens Ballhaus in Kreuzberg. Here, locals take advantage of the long, mild summer nights by dining al fresco under trees strung with fairy lights, before heading inside to boogie until the early hours to the zoot-suited blues band in the ballroom.
There was only one thing lacking on our trip to Berlin, and that was time; with so much on the menu, it's a destination that deserves a very, very long weekend.
Getting there: Several airlines offer flights from Australia to Berlin via London, Munich or Frankfurt. Otherwise, travel from other destinations in Europe by air, train or bus is readily available.
Staying there: With more than 700 hotels in Berlin, you're spoilt for choice. Reside in 5-star luxury as European royalty do at the Brandenburger Hof (rooms from €180/night for two, www.brandenburger-hof.com), tick the sustainability box at midrange SCANDIC (children under 13 stay for free; rooms from €90/night, www.scandichotels.com), or channel your inner rock god and order a Gibson guitar to your room at nhow, a music and lifestyle hotel in funky Friedrichshain (rooms from €115/night, www.nhow-hotels.com/berlin/).
Practicalities: The currency in Germany is the Euro; money machines are located around the city. Credit card is accepted in most places. In peak season (July-August), it pays to book accommodation well in advance, especially if you have somewhere in particular in mind. To make the most of your time, consider a guided tour.
More information: www.visitberlin.de, www.eastsidegallery.com, www.bauhaus.de, www.jmberlin.de, www.berlinischegalerie.de, www.ballhaus.de, www.strychnin.com