The first thing we did in Berlin was have a domestic on a residential street because Mark was adamant we weren’t lost, despite having also assured me it was only 3 blocks walk from the S Bahn to our hotel. Turns out we had come out an exit he hadn’t expected, so had gone completely the wrong way. We both took a nap as soon as we were checked in.
The weird thing for us about Berlin is that we went there without any real purpose. We had 8 days between leaving one tour in Rome and joining another in St Petersburg, so we needed to be somewhere that had direct flights to St Petersburg for a couple of days, and Berlin it was.
The hardest part of being in Berlin was that everything (and I mean everything) touristy was to do with the war or the Soviet Occupation. It felt really morbid, and almost as if the city has achieved nothing worth celebrating since the wall came down in the 80’s?
An unexpected highlight was breakfast at our hotel – the Mercure Checkpoint Charlie. The breakfast was immense, and we sat each morning for a solid hour, grazing our way through it. Who needs lunch beyond a bretzel and a piece of fruit when you’ve had a 6-course breakfast, including cereal, fruit, toast, croissant, juice, yoghurt…
Our most abiding memory of Berlin would have to be our day trip out to Sachsenhausen. Our free local guide was exceptionally knowledgeable and made the site come alive. While it was no Auschwitz (being a work camp, rather than a death camp), the stories were still miserable, and being able to walk around the site definitely gives you a much stronger appreciation for just how tough things were.
Our worst experience was probably going up the old TV tower at Alexanderplatz. The line was long, the views were average and the ticket price was expensive. Later the same day we discovered a lookout (slightly lower, but still with great views) at Potsdamer Platz that was half the price, no queues, and a café at the top.
The last thing we did in Berlin was probably the best part of our stay – dinner at UnSicht, a dine-in-the-dark restaurant. Really yummy food, and a really enchanting experience. Not kid-friendly, so please don’t ruin other diners experience by bringing in your kids like someone did while we were there!