Hallo! So this post is a bit different as it’s written by one of my best friends, Grace. I will get round to sharing my own Berlin story, but for now, as she has travelled twice with me to Berlin, I’d like to offer her thoughts about the magical city. Grace is a writer and professional from London.
Graces’s experiences: both summer and wintertime
Since my first jaunt there in October 2015, a little stamp of Germany has been imprinted, not on my passport, but rather on my heart. Nestled amongst post-communist architecture and graffiti, there is an unexpected soul to East Berlin; for anyone that has ever visited the city, they’ll know it is a hard place to shake. The decision to go was made on a whim, whilst out at dinner in London with Ms Wading Wade herself, and one (ridiculously) cheap Ryanair flight booked and a few short weeks later, we were off on what would become one of the most magical trips I’ve ever experienced.
In the way of many modern travellers, we rented a beautiful Airbnb in an ideal location (Alt-Treptow), with the kind of interior a twenty-something from London can only dream about. As chance would have it, the already perfect flat came with transportation in the form of two bikes waiting for us in the courtyard, so on an October weekend that felt decidedly more like July, we cycled around the city sampling the food, people and culture in equal measure.
Chance and serendipity were regular companions of ours during the trip, weaving a wonderful spell that left us entirely enchanted by the end of our short stay. Locals met in cafes; the melodious sounds of a saxophone drifting over to us as we peddled freely down the runway of Tempelhofer Feld; discovering the best DJ imaginable in the most unlikely place (I’m a woman of eclectic tastes, but I usually draw the line at heavy metal clubs, thankfully this time I was persuaded), are all experiences difficult to capture with mere words. And that is only a fraction of the excitement Berlin has to offer.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2016 and having decided we simply had to return to our beloved city (for me, this would be my fourth visit in twelve months), we were once again back in the land of beer, bratwurst and unexpected beauty. I stayed in a stunning apartment in Friedrichshain, a trendy area of East Berlin that boasts fantastic restaurants bars and cafes. With the city already beginning to feel so much like home, I settled in quickly and knew precisely where my first stop would be: naturally, this involved food.
Eating well (and gluten free) in Berlin
I will begin by saying that I am gluten-intolerant, which often makes dining in or out while travelling more than a little tricky. While I am not coeliac, I do my utmost to avoid gluten and wheat entirely (let’s just say it doesn’t agree with me). Berlin is a pretty good city if you’re a gluten-free gastronome. With most of the large supermarkets well-stocked with free from products and more than a few organic stores and ‘Biomarkts’ around, I’ve found dining-in a breeze.
Eating out is sometimes a minefield rife with miscommunication, mistakes and an eternal hope that what you’re about to eat won’t make you sick for the rest of the trip. But the fact that the word ‘gluten’ is the same in English as it is in German (phew!) certainly makes things easier, and finding out whether something is gluten free is as simple as asking “ist das glutenfrei?”. There are also some helpful online resources if you are coeliac and concerned about eating whilst overseas: http://www.celiactravel.com/cards/.
4 places you must eat while in Berlin
Transit a tapas-style southeast Asian restaurant close to Ostkreuz station. The food is quite simply glorious and with pork belly, duck, prawns, squid and other delights on the menu, there is ample choice for even the most discerning diner. Cost: roughly 4 euro per tapas.
Right around the corner from Transit is a delightful Vietnamese restaurant, Glory Duck. With plates abound with vegetables, this restaurant offers fresh, satisfying dishes of goodness (the music is pretty on trend too). More info here.
On my last night in the city, I ate at a lovely French bistro, Entrecote, in Mitte. In an unlikely side street a short walk from Checkpoint Charlie, a glowing neon sign outside a bistro-style storefront awaits. Here, you step through a curtain into a Parisian delight and get the opportunity to sample some of the joys that French cuisine in Berlin has to offer. Cost: 50 € for two three course meals with a glass of wine each.
Milja und Schafa
My enduring favourite place to eat/drink/dine/relax [delete as appropriate] is Milja und Schafa in Ostkreuz. I could talk forever about why I love this place, but simply, it is an idyll masquerading as a café/restaurant that serves up both delicious food and delightful staff. The décor, with wooden tables chair and benches, multi-coloured cushions and candles, achieves that cool rustic/artistic feel that I love. But the star of the show for me is easily the atmosphere. Perfect place for brunch with friends, to grab your laptop and sit for hours or visit for dinner and drinks. More info here.
3 bars you must visit in Berlin
Berlin is notorious for its nightlife and we made sure to visit quite a few bars during this trip:
Hoschen is a new bar in Prenzlauer Berg, with the kind of cool, smoky place you come to expect from the city of the endless weekend. The bar staff are relaxed and friendly, the drinks come cold and quickly and the place stays open until the early hours, providing ample time to soak up the atmosphere and mix with the locals. This is a great spot for a midweek or weekend drink. We spent NYE here and with a great DJ line-up, this versatile bar turned out to be the ideal place to ring in the New Year.
Fitcher’s Vogel, bizarrely named after a Grimm Brothers fairytale in an apparent nod to that famed German humour, is a short walk from lively Warschauer Strase. This is a long, narrow, well stocked bar where students mingle with locals and everyone is supremely trendy.
Mano Café is the type of bar you wish you owned. It has great elevated seating which makes you feel as though you’re in a very adult treehouse and is great for groups. Yet littered with nooks and hidden corners too, this spot manages the kind of intimacy that would make it an equally great place for a more romantic setting.
We reclaimed culture during this trip, with a visit to the Berlinscher Gallery. Unlike London, many of the galleries here charge for entry, but this is certainly worth it if you have an appreciation for art – though it’s worth checking ahead to see what works are being exhibited when you visit.
Why Visit Berlin?
I’ve noticed very recently, that each time I return home from a trip to Berlin, I feel as though I’ve left a small but vital part of myself in the city. I’m not sure whether it’s the relaxed atmosphere that pervades everywhere and stands at such a stark contrast to the constant bustle of London, or if it’s meeting some of the friendliest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. It could also be the ridiculously cheap cost of eating out! Whatever it is, Berlin lives up to its moniker for being “poor but sexy”; in much the same way that the seemingly derelict buildings hide beautiful, sprawling homes, in the gruffest locals can be found the warmest welcomes. Berlin may be a place of hidden beauty, but I’ve found that unearthing it provides ample reward.
Like this story from Grace? Add her on Facebook to follow her future travels. And good luck with your trip to Berlin! I hope you found this useful, as ever.