My first visit to Berlin in September 2009 was for business. I was a little bit unfortunate to end up staying in an old, slightly eerie apartment for 3 whole weeks – and let me say it was a bit disturbing. However, that’s not Berlin’s fault :) I should have found a better apartment to live in. That situation was remedied in my second visit when the bf found a rather new hotel right in the middle of the city. Of course we ended up in that same hotel this time, on our third visit.
Why would anybody go to the same city three times over the span of three years, anyway? Simple:
- Culture – Berlin is jam packed with people from all over the world. If you sit in the S-Bahn (their Subway system), you will hear so many different languages being spoken at the same time. I get really happy when I hear a group of people speaking English. Ah, the Queen’s language is like music to my ears. I love the Berlin lifestyle – of course I haven’t really lived there long enough – but the little that I know, it looks like a lot of fun. The people are nice and friendly (really, the German stereotype does not apply) and you get amazing service. Of course it helps that I am usually around Berlin with a German speaking person, but even when I was there alone for work, I never had any problem with just speaking English. The stores are open till much later than Oslo, and once a month they are open on Sundays. Because there are people from all around the world in this city, the variety of items is amazing.
- Food – need I say more? Every time I visit Berlin, I come across a new restaurant serving very good food at very reasonable prices. Now my measurement of how reasonable a restaurant is, can be a bit skewed as the cost of living in Oslo is much more expensive than in Berlin. Having said that, many of my friends in Berlin do not seem to mind the restaurants we eat at (and the price of the dishes there). So, which are my favourite hangouts? YamYam for really good Korean food and Cafe Einstein Stammhaus for delicious brunch or lunch that will take you back to the 1920s. Apart from these two restaurants, there are tons of cafes around the city. The bf and I go into random cafes for coffee (I’m usually surveying the cakes) for the fun of it and we’ve never experienced such a thing as “a bad cafe” before. Recently I was hunting for Churros and stumbled upon Nibs Cacao in Savignyplatz. We went there on Sunday and I have to say – the Chocolate con Churros were really good. I’ve never eaten the authentic version from Spain yet, though. Someday I will :)
- Shopping – The best part about shopping in Berlin is actually the tax refund. Oh wait, it’s also the huge variety you get. See, Germany has a population of 81.7 million (thank you Wikipedia!) – you can imagine the variety the population can command, especially in the capital city. I love shopping in Berlin because you can come across a lot more designs and variation of clothing, unlike the usual stuff you would buy in a normal shopping mall. Take Hackescher Markt for example. This area has a lot of nice small boutiques where you can purchase non-mainstream bags and shoes. *sigh* If only I could go on a shopping spree in Berlin … now that would be a dream come true ;) My favourite malls are Alexa and KaDeWe. I wouldn’t say shopping in Berlin is cheap but it can be very worth the money because if you live outside of the European Union (Norway is not part of E.U.), you can claim approximately 10% of your purchase value (if it is more than 25 Euros) back. This is really fun when shopping because you feel like you’re getting a 10% discount on your purchase. Of course there is a procedure to claim this money back (ask the store if they do Tax Free shopping, then fill in the forms and show the items + forms at Customs at the airport [before checking in for your flight] and then you can claim the money back from Global Blue. It is a wee bit of work, but hey, it’s money :)
- History + Sightseeing - There is a lot to see in Berlin – if History is your cup of tea. Brandenburg Gate is a nice view for sure. What used to symbolize a divided city is now the symbol of unity. I can’t seem to take good photographs of this monument unless I lie on the ground :) Well, someday I might do just that. The Holocaust Memorial is another place worth visiting. Until today, I cannot make myself walk through it as it breaks my heart to know that human beings can be so cruel to each other. Take a walk through Savignyplatz if old architecture excites you. Savignyplatz has buildings that were not destroyed during the war, and they are very pretty. Here‘s a quick look. One more spot to sight-see would be the TV tower. I don’t know why but I’ve walked past this building so many times but not gone inside for a real view. I’m strange like that. But don’t make the mistake I make, take a look at the TV tower if you’re around Berlin :)
- Affordable - As I’ve mentioned before, the prices in Berlin is relatively cheap compared to other capital cities I’ve been to. It is cheaper than London to a certain extent as well (again, purely my opinion). The public transport (S-Bahn/U-Bahn) have reasonably priced tickets and the entire city is so well connected by these trains that you won’t really need a taxi or a car (unless you’re lazy like me and don’t enjoy lugging around your luggage). Food in Berlin is inexpensive: a regular meal will set you back approximately 5 to 7 Euros. Beer prices are 2.50 Euros onwards.
There is so much to do in this beautiful city – I’m just highlighting a few options. The next time you are looking for a place to visit, do consider Berlin ;)