My 2022 blog of Berlin

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HOTEL BRISTOL, BERLIN
BERLIN MUSEUMS

Ein tag in Berlin

We started our tour at Café Einstein on Unter den Linden. Expecting a group of fellow tourists, we were pleasantly surprised to find we were the only ones signed up for the tour. Our guide was Dan Borden, a 60-year-old native of Houston, Texas who fell in love with Berlin as an architectural student back in 1987 and is now a long term resident with his German partner. We walked down Unter den Linden, in the warm September sunshine, admiring the linden (lime) trees that line this historic boulevard. Our first stop was to admire the 18th century Brandenburg Gate, commissioned by King Frederick William II and designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans. During the Cold War, the gate was located in the Soviet occupation zone, directly next to the border between East and West Berlin. Facing the Brandenburg Gate, is the DZ Bank, completed in 2000 and designed by Frank Gehry. Using his Texan charm, Dan negotiated our entry to the interior where we admired the atrium, which is covered by a stunning glass grid roof. Next up was the Adlon Hotel. Opened in 1907, it was one of the most famous hotels in Europe, hosting Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, Josephine Baker and Marlene Dietrich. Badly damaged by a fire in 1945, the building was demolished by the East Germans in 1984 and the current hotel was opened in 1997 in a unified Germany. The hotel was the one where Michael Jackson held his infant son out of one of its windows while visiting in 2002. We then visited the Holocaust Memorial. Opened in 2005, the monument is composed of 2,711 concrete blocks, laid out in a grid formation, resembling a graveyard or cemetery, and dedicated to the murdered Jews of Europe. Dan showed us the British Embassy, located on Wilhelmstrasse, opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000, it was festooned with flowers, following her recent death. We then entered the 520 acre Tiergarten to see the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism. Opened in 2012, it is dedicated to the memory of the more than 300,000 Roma and Sinti murdered by the Nazis. The memorial consists of a dark, circular pool of water at the centre of which is a triangular stone, representing the shape of the badges worn by concentration camp prisoners. The Reichstag was next on our itinerary. Completed in 1894 and reconstructed by Norman Foster in 1999 with a large glass dome, the building houses the lower house of the German parliament. We ventured underground for the next part of our tour, we travelled in a lift to the Reichstag U-Bahn station where we travelled three stops to Museumsinsel, before emerging back in the sunshine. We had travelled back to the old East Berlin and were surrounded by a series of stunning classical buildings. We admired the State Opera House, commissioned in 1741 by Frederick the Great, it was rebuilt in 1955 after being bombed in World War II. We also visited The Empty Library in Bebelplatz, a public memorial to the Nazi book burnings that took place in 1933. The memorial is set into the cobblestones of the plaza and contains a collection of empty subterranean bookcases. Nearby is the impressive Humboldt University, built in the Baroque style, opening in 1810. We then crossed Unter den Linden to admire Neue Wache.

Ein weiterer tag

A city break in Berlin booked with easyJet and flying from Bristol airport can only be described as ‘wunderbar‘– flights, hotel, food and hospitality all five star and at a competitive price.

Our original booking got cancelled and we had to reschedule which took some time but there were no delays at the airport and everything was plain sailing (flying) once we set off.

For us its door-to-door in under three hours.

My husband Rob and I had a red-carpet welcome arriving at the Hotel Berlin at Lützowplatz late on a Sunday afternoon with 1-2-1 attention.

It wasn’t very busy although it got manic midweek especially when the film crew arrived and took over two floors.

Our hotel formerly known as hotel Kempinski was rebuilt in the early 1950s having been destroyed by bombing in 1944.

Its art décor style is charming if a little dated.

Hotel Bristol is in the centre of the shopping area off a busy thoroughfare.

Read its history HERE and note the list of VIP which have stayed there does not (yet) include us!

What it lacks in wall hangings of say the Lowry hotel (the hangout of footballers) in Manchester it makes up for in its ‘Park Lane’ setting and glass displays of expensive jewellery and small china Berlin bears sold as souvenirs.

The large glitzy reception, plush bar with comfy seating and restaurant with its panoramic windows on the world all deserve top rating but it was the staff for us who made our stay outstanding.

We did a lot of sightseeing and lots of walking although we also travelled by train and taxis. We saw many memorials and museums.

Monday began with a walking tour.

Our US guide Dan Borden was exceptional (for further reading go to his articles on https://www.exberliner.com/).

Architect turned teacher the US born filmmaker has, much to his surprise, acquired 20+ children from his sperm donation student days in Manhattan.

The first aged 28 only made contact last year and the others including several grandchildren followed - quickly!

He also does a David Bowie tour which travels back to 1970s Berlin a time when the city was split in two.

This is a glimpse of the city which inspired Bowie’s seminal Berlin Trilogy.

To learn more and/or book with the company we used for the introduction tour go to https://www.insightcities.com/tour/david-bowie-and-the-end-of-the-world/.

On Tuesday at the museum complex at Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg we saw a medieval art exhibition by Donatella, old porcelain crockery in pristine condition, ancient beer steins and Dior clothing of yesteryear.

On Wednesday at Potsdam, we saw the home of Frederick the Great, former King of Prussia.

The palaces and parks of Potsdam cover approximately 500 hectares with 150 buildings dating from 1730 to 1916.

The site was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1990.

Chandeliers and seashells is lasting memory but the buildings are lacking in much furniture. More freedom to wander than Blenheim Palace but even more grand, if that's possible.

Top tip: Don’t try to see Potsdam all in one day.

Berlin is stylish in a Barcelona meets Paris sort of way although few fashionistas were spotted on the street scene.

People watching is a local pastime which involves sitting in a pavement café on a table with chairs pointing to the street and doing just that watching – very odd.

It is a German ‘thing’ hotel staff told us.

Berlin has an underbelly on the East Side where we saw food queues and homeless people near the stretch of wall.

The East Side Gallery memorial in Berlin-Friedrichshain is a permanent open-air gallery on the longest surviving section of the Berlin Wall in Mühlenstraße between the Berlin Ostbahnhof and the Oberbaumbrücke along the Spree.

We ended this walkabout with an unplanned visit to the oldest pub in Berlin, the Zur Letzten Instanz. It claims to have been serving customers since 1621 including Napoleon, Beethoven and Angela Merkel!

I sat in a green glazed seat which was once the oven and ate an apple pudding washed down with a small beer. The bar was full of Japanese tourists and I am sure an English conservation officer would have made a better job of the restoration.

We booked this easyJet five-day city break from Bristol and paid a bargain £1,200 for two in November 2022 which included breakfast and airport transfers.

The pre-booked airport run wasn’t ideal as the Uber company couldn’t use the official taxi stand so it involved an exchange of several texts to find out where they had parked. The return journey wasn’t without issues either – their text with return details arrived after we landed home in Bristol!

On the strength of TripAdvisor reviews, we upgraded the moment we arrived at the hotel and loved our newly refurbished 6th floor executive room. This cost an extra £30 per night plus city taxes and we had a few currency charges (pence as opposed to pounds) on our bank statement.

Hotel concierge, reception and bar staff couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly although breakfast was a little find-your-own help-your-self experience.

The buffet was everything you could wish for, the cold sweet porridge made with apple flakes, a new taste, every version of boiled (brown and white eggs in separate baskets), poached, fried egg plus omelettes with German sausages, salmon, herrings, different salads and variety of bread and pastries were on offer.The white fluffy bathroom robes are the biggest we have experienced – can’t say that for the towels - and joy of joy this hotel doesn’t have pipped music everywhere unlike the Sea Containers in London.

SAUSAGES AND SAUERKRAUT (not)