Strongest memory: After a long day of seeing the cultural sights of inner Berlin, we found ourselves at the Topography of Terror. It is an extremely comprehensive (arguably too comprehensive) and after about 45 minutes of the audio tour Jamie and I were seriously fatigued. We sat down at one of the benches and watched Andy as he kept moving round the exhibition, audio guide firmly glued to his ear. With true admiration for Andy’s attention span, Jamie and I entertained ourselves for what felt like hours before Andy finally emerged.
Memorable meal: On probably our first morning, we loaded up on a beautiful brunch at Factory Girl before starting our day of sightseeing through the cultural centre of Berlin. What was most memorable about this cafe is that the food was presented like works of art and the crockery was incredibly funky; items I’d love to see in my own home. The food was tasty, filling and wholesome.
Best activity: I never would have expected myself to say this, but my favourite activity in Berlin 2019 was visiting the zoo! It was amazing: there were so many of my favourite animals and they all seemed really well cared for, with the notable and unfortunate exception of the polar bear. The main reason I say this is because it was a stinking hot day and the polar bear kept sticking it’s head through into the back part of its enclosure – apparently where the air conditioning was. Everything else about the zoo was fantastic though – it was a happy day.
Favourite place: The Monkey Bar. Somewhat related to my answer above, the Monkey Bar is a fancy cocktail bar that overlooks some of the zoo enclosures below. While somewhat difficult to see the animals, it is definitely possible to make out certain creatures in their exhibits – especially the monkeys swinging in the trees. As a group of 4 we indulged in some pretty fancy cocktails with some glorious city views.
Unforgettable sight: The sight of Templehofer Field was new to me and is permanently etched in my mind. A deserted airport, with overgrown weeds peeking through the cracked runways and people with dogs, exercising. A stray plane, dotted about, with more weeds forcing their way through. The lookout tower near the entrance to the park provides a vantage point of the whole area at once, which highlighted its absolute neglect and eerie feel.
Strongest memory: Templehofer Field. I don’t think this one sticks out due to its historic use during the Berlin Airlift (although its past is interesting!), but instead because it was just kind of weird. They haven’t really given this massive urban park a facelift, it really is just an empty airport near the middle of a major city. The runways were huge and nearly empty, and while we were out in their shelterless expanse, the skies also opened and we were treated to a mid summer downpour. I think that really added to the overall strange vibe of the place, which has stuck in my mind.
Memorable meal: I could be overlooking something great here, but I guess the passing of time has washed my mind clean. So I’m forced to give this award to a relatively informal meal at a highly rated kebab stop somewhere in Kreuzberg. I forget the name, but it was small and busy and had a definite neighbourhood feel to it, and the food was of course delicious – I remember that!
Best activity: I really want to say nightclubbing, because Berlin is legendary for it and we did make a concerted effort to have a big night out at one of Berlin’s main spots – Tresor. It was quite the spectacle, a massive warehouse spanning multiple levels with industrial aesthetic and a lot of smoke and blacklights. But was it fun? Not really. Despite there being about five different spaces playing ostensibly different music, the tunes they opted for tended towards quite a brutalist sound that was slow to change. Even without all my faculties I ended up finding it hard to get fully lost in the experience. We didn’t make it to dawn as I’d hoped. So the actual winner of this award was probably visiting nearby Sachsenhausen concentration camp, for a sombre and captivating tour.
Favourite place: My favourite place was the Monkey Bar – a big gimmick but the type of place that is difficult not to be happy in. It’s a cocktail bar in a high rise, and it has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Berlin zoo. It’s a stretch to say you are easily observing the animals, but you can definitely make out their shapes as they move around in several of the visible enclosures. To be fair, the view is a drawcard in itself even if the zoo wasn’t there. The bar has stadium style seating along its windows, as it obviously knows its not the cocktails that people are queuing up for outside. We had a couple rounds and watched the end of a fun afternoon come and go.
Unforgettable sight: The remaining parts of the Berlin Wall. It is a symbol of the city for a reason, and an example of how physical objects can sometimes so easily bring to mind the stories that created and sustained them. The most colourful parts of the wall obviously draw the most visitors, but there are remnants all over the place, and I found that each part had a similar significance even to a modern tourist born after the wall had ‘fallen’.