Berlin: Living like a local

The Wall

The Wall

In my experience, city “breaks” are rarely that – they’re the sort of jaunt that spits out a happy traveller nursing sore feet from three days of extreme sightseeing.

I was determined therefore to make this trip – my second experience of Germany’s capital city – a relaxed one, with ‘living like a local’ at the top of my agenda.

But I was quickly to be reminded that Berlin is not a city of rest.

Of all the airports I’ve experienced, Leeds Bradford is one of my favourites for its nonexistent baggage queues and swift security checks.

Add to that the Teutonic reputation for efficiency and we were on our Jet2 flight to Berlin quicker than you can say “zwei Bier bitte.”

With the aircraft pretty much to ourselves, we were given free reign of the seats which made for a very comfortable flight and we were greeted by the warm evening sun at Schoenfeld airport just over 90 minutes.

Taking a German-speaking partner on holiday ensured we were whizzing across the city on Berlin’s excellent metro service in no time to our first night’s destination, The Regent Hotel, in the borough of Mitte.

Considered by some as one of the best places to stay in the world, the five star luxury hotel boasts 156 rooms and 39 suites, priding itself on giving its guests a top notch stay in opulent surroundings.

Our superior double room boasted an en-suite bigger than my bedroom at home and more delights were to greet us in the morning with a silver service breakfast buffet, complete with continental cheese and meat served on three-tier stands.

Leaving well fed, we took a short taxi ride to the hip district of Kreuzberg, where we met our host, Eric, and his chocolate labrador, who showed us around our home for the next few days – a light, airy and spotless studio rented through online accommodation service,  Airbnb.
View from Kreuzberg

View from Kreuzberg

From there, it was straight out to explore our neighbourhood, a quirky mix of bars, shops and eateries just 25 minutes’ walk from the remains of the Berlin Wall.

We ambled further afield to examine what’s left of the city’s former dividing line (my graffiti scrawl of 2007 sadly erased by a 2009 paint job), before ducking into one of the city’s infamous beach bars, Yaam, for a beverage or three.

With the sun going down, it was time to consider the evening’s entertainment and we ended up dancing the night away to The Chromatics Cat Kreuzberg’s premier music venue, The Lido.

Nursing sore heads the next day, we picnicked in the shadow of Templehof Airport’s former look-out tower.

Once one of Europe’s three iconic pre-World War II airports, its closure in 2008 saw its grounds transformed into a public park and its interior into a premier dance venue for rave fiends.

Templehof Airport

Templehof Airport

Satisfying our curiosity with a closer peek, we then wiled away the afternoon rambling around Neukoln, nipping into renowned buy-by-weight vintage shop, Colours, and vinyl collectors’ heaven, Space Hall.

Dinner was a trip to Burgermeister – a converted toilet under Schlesisches Tor station – where we sampled some fine grilled meat washed down with hipster drink of choice, Club Mate and vodka.

Our final day saw the rain pour down and between posing in old style photo booths for a strip of four photos and popping into a backerei for a slice of apple cake, we squeezed in a trip up the Fernsehtrum.

Standing 1,200 feet in the east’s hub at Alexanderplatz, the TV tower is a former symbol of the DDR which offers sweeping panoramic views of Berlin.

On a clear day the architectural differences between the city’s once segregated halves are stark – the “new” pre-fab apartment blocks of the east contrasting with the “old” style buildings of the west.

A three day trip will never be enough to soak up all Berlin has to offer, but even a second trip to the country’s capital offered a multitude of new nooks and crannies to explore.

Just remember to pack an umbrella – even in May.