B E R L I N
Part 1 | Part 2
We last visited Berlin in 2002
as part of our 40th wedding anniversary 40-day trip. We
were intrigued and knew we would return. Now was the time.
KLM offered the best flights and
fare from Toronto. The ground and in-flight staff on all
segments were exceptionally welcoming, caring and helpful.
The planes were very well appointed and clean. The
economy seating was comfortable and the food and beverage
service was as good as, if not better, than we have had
in this class of airline travel. We changed planes in
Amsterdam both ways and arrived in Berlin and back home
in Toronto right on schedule.
Since we cleared EU passport
control in Amsterdam between flights and we only had
carry-on baggage we were on our way into the city in the
blink of an eye. We took bus #109 just outside the
The standard fare (2.10 euro) for
inner city zones A&B is good for two hours throughout
the system, i.e., on buses, U-Bahn (underground), S-Bahn
(surface) and trams. Ticket machines are available 24/7
at all stops and are easy to use in 5 languages. Tickets
can also be purchased from bus drivers or if taking a
tram they can be bought at an on-board machine. Tickets
must be validated at a machine on the platform or on the
bus or tram with the exception of tickets purchased from
a bus driver, which are pre-validated.
It was a 20 minute ride to our stop
at Olivear Platz which is on KurfurstendammStr at the
corner of KonstanzeStr. We crossed "Ku' Damm"
to LeibnizStr and proceeded north a few blocks to number
59, a lovely historic apartment building and home to the Hotel-Pension Art Nouveau. Located in beautiful, historic
Charlottenburg, the hotel is perfectly situated for great
shopping and dining with easy access to everywhere in the
city by public transportation.
We were buzzed in and took the
splendid ancient birdcage elevator (with benches for the
weary) to the fourth floor reception where Gerd and
Christine warmly welcomed us to their Art Nouveau gem.
The high stucco ceilings, tall
windows and shiny wooden floors have graciously stood the
test of time. Each soft color themed guest room is
decorated with an eclectic mix of furnishings, restored
antiques, and art.
The guest rooms are on the fourth
and second floors. Ours was on the second, in the rear,
overlooking the garden. Under the bedspread were comfy
duvets, pillows and firm mattresses. Our bathroom, though
compact, had a window. There was direct dial telephone,
wi-fi connection, which was more dependable on the fourth
floor, and flat screen cable TV. The hotel is non-smoking,
which we always appreciate.
The bright yellow breakfast room is
on the fourth floor. The ample buffet features those
wonderful German breads, rolls, cheeses and meats. Smoked
salmon is offered some days. Plates of tomato, cucumber
and mozzarella are a nice addition. Hot coffee and teas
are always on hand and espresso is available on request.
A fine selection of fresh fruit, cereals, juices and jams
rounds out the choices.
Christine and Gerd are always on
hand along with friendly, efficient Marion to make sure
everyone is happy. Their guests' comfort is their primary
concern, which is why the Art Nouveau has such devoted
clients. They are happy to offer suggestions and answer
inquiries on museums, art galleries, itineraries,
transportation, dining options, etc.
Afternoons, the room transforms to
a social center with an honor bar, complimentary snacks,
coffee, tea, etc. Wi-fi is available, and there is an
Internet point for guests to use free of charge.
After settling in we headed out for a walk
around the immediate neighborhood. We walked east on the
lovely MommenStr and at the corner of SchluterStr saw
folks standing at high tables outside the restaurant
Klemke seemingly enjoying the delicious smelling,
appetizing plates of food before them. Who are we to miss
an opportunity? It was packed inside, many standing and
eating, and a long line waiting to place an order. Like
good soldiers we joined the throngs.
There was a blackboard behind the
counter with a list of the daily offerings. The prices
were extremely reasonable (between 5.50 and 6.50 euros).
We are pretty good at menu language and Linda ordered (in
German of course) grilled liver with mashed potatoes and
salad and I, seelachs (a local fresh water fish) with
boiled potatoes and salad. The portions were ample and
everything was fresh and delicious. We found the only two
high stools in the place and enjoyed our feast in comfort
Our long time friends Pierrette and
Louis have a home in Berlin which gave us added incentive
to return. They live within walking distance of our hotel
and were on hand Saturday late morning to begin a long
week-end of reuniting and touring.
They led us west on MommsenStr to
the wide shopping boulevard WilmersdorferStr where we
proceeded north to PestalozziStr. Turning east we came to
Karl-August Platz home of a Saturday and Wednesday market
where they do their shopping. Being Fall the farmers'
stands were loaded with root vegetables, squash, pumpkin
(pumpkin soup was every menu), carrots, turnip etc. The
aroma of fresh herbs and freshly baked breads filled the
air. Fish, seafood, meats and cheese were in abundance.
Our friends have their favorite stands and soon, with
their knapsacks overflowing, they were ready to move on.
Berlin is an exciting and vibrant city, but
at the same time is relaxing and peaceful. It's possible
to find tranquility at its many parks and gardens, along
the banks of the River Spree or at the lovely lake
Lientzensee in the middle of Charlottenburg where we
found ourselves after walking west of PestalozziStr.
Our friends had made reservations
at Gusto, a small trattoria at DusseldorferStr which is
deservingly one of their favorite restaurants. Linda and
I started with a hearty pumpkin soup followed by
perfectly grilled and seasoned branzino, crisp outside,
moist inside. The sides of fresh steamed vegetables and
roasted potatoes were excellent. A good value fun spot.
There are 12 city districts, each
with its distinct personality. Today our friends guided
us to Prenzlauer Berg just north of Mitte. A combination
of U- and S-Bahn took us to the Schonhauser Allee station
to begin our visit. An attractive old iron bridge led us
on our way and we were immediately immersed in a parade
of baby carriages and strollers.
This district was not bombed during the war
and the original buildings have been well maintained with
ongoing renovations preserving their beauty along narrow
tree lined streets. Young couples and families patronized
the restaurants, cafes and shops. As we strolled the
streets we sensed a contented buzz - life is good here.
At the corner of Schonhauser Allee
and DanzigerStr we found comfort at Manolo, a charming
cafe that makes sensual hot chocolate, from real
chocolate, topped with rich whipped cream.
The green Kollwitz Platz seemed to
be the hub of social activity. The large patios of the
numerous cafes facing the park are people-watching
central. Adjacent to the Kollwitz Platz is the Judischer
Friedhof, a Jewish cemetery. The main entrance is on
Kruezberg, just south of Mitte, is
the most densely populated district in the city.
Historically it has been home to 1st and 2nd generation
immigrants, many of whom are Turkish. As the Mitte
district developed, young artists, writers, musicians,
and designers migrated south where rents were much
cheaper and they were able to establish galleries,
studios, cafes and restaurants. Today there is a strong
multicultural and creative mix living in harmony.
Pierrette led us on what turned out
to be a brief tour because of the rain. We took the U-Bahn
to the Mehringdamn station and patrolled the streets in
the southwest corner of the district. BergmannStr was a
picturesque mix of Turkish and Asian shops and
restaurants. At the corner of ZossenerStr adjacent to
Matheineke Platz is a Market Halle, which is a large food
court. I finally had my first matjes herring sandwich
while the girls nibbled on sesame bread sticks. At the
east end there is a café-restaurant where the hot
chocolate and cappuccinos were excellent.
Smart buildings, shops and restaurants along
the pretty tree lined GrimmStr from which we continued
north on GraefeStr to Kottbusser-Damm and the
Landwehkanal, the waterway that runs east-west through
Kruezberg. This is the spot where there is a lively
Turkish Market every Tuesday and Friday. At KottbusserStr
25 Linda spotted fresh baked Turkish pies (filo pastry)
in the window of Leylak. We tried two versions, both
filled with cheese and spinach, the difference being in
the crust; one was flakier than the other. Good stuff
Tonight we had a Zine
GTG (a get-together of
members of TheTravelzine discussion group). Pierrette and
Louis were able to make it along with Myra and Neil from
Toronto who were in town. We met at the Turkish
restaurant Mey, BleibtreuStr 47. Great conversation about
our current, past and future travel plans over platters
of hot and cold appetizers, grilled lamb and fish, beer
Since we had been absent from the
city for 7 years and it was a drizzly day we decided to
take the City Circle Bus Tour. There was a slight break in the weather so
we hopped off along Unter Der Linden for a walk and
coffee break. This wide powerful boulevard is the
ceremonial axis of the city. Over the centuries
victorious armies have paraded its length. At the west
end of Unter den Linden is the grand Pariser Platz, home
to the Brandenburg Gate, embassies of the United States
and France, and the Adlon Hotel.
Brandenburg Gate, the most famous
landmark in Berlin, was constructed in 1791. It was not
damaged during the Second World War and the main
architectural design has not changed. During the
communist regime it was incorporated into the Berlin wall.
Now it is a symbol of the successful reunification of the
SILENCE in the Brandenburg Gate, is the result of a
vision to create a non-denominational Room of Silence in
the middle of the city. It was opened on October 24, 1994.
It provides an opportunity for everyone to enter and
remain in silence, to relax, gain strength, meditate and
feel gratitude. It is significant that the room is in the
Brandenburg Gate because the gate was conceived as the
Gate of Peace.
The rain and winds were peaking as we exited
so we hopped back on the next City Circle bus to continue
the tour. The bus was filled with tourists from around
the world, for a very good reason. This is the year of
historic celebrations in Berlin: the 60th birthday of The
Federal Republic of Germany, the move of the parliament
and government to Berlin and the 20th anniversary of the
peaceful revolution of the citizens of the GDR that led
to the reunification of divided Germany with the fall of
the Berlin Wall. Information about the celebrations and
events can be found at the Berlin Tourism web site.
Berlin is too large a city to rely
on foot power alone. A combination of walking and public
transportation is an excellent choice. For the balance of
our stay we opted for the 5 day Welcome Card, which was very efficient for us.
We had found many interesting
restaurants in our neighborhood and were having trouble
making a decision. We took our problem to Gerd and
Christine and after determining where our taste buds were
at recommended the Austrian restaurant Nussbaumerin
at LeibnizStr 55, just 5 minutes away.
The dining rooms are clubby
Austrian elegance yet casual and relaxing. We perused the
menu while enjoying the house pate and breads. It would
be two classic choices, wiener schnitzel with warm potato
and cucumber salad for Linda and tafelspitz for me. The
boiled beef is preceded by a bowl of its broth with
strips of savory pancakes and root vegetables. The meat
was served with fried potatoes and onion with white
horseradish of course. Konigspilsner was a perfect
partner. A classic finish - Apple strudel, ice cream and
whipped cream. Our meal was almost perfect. Linda found
the breading on the schnitzel too oily. Our waiter was
excellent and the prices reasonable.
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