Betsy Loves, Culture, Food, Travel

Berlin days – poor but sexy

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And so on to our final day in Berlin. Remember when I talked about queueing to get tickets to climb the Reichstag’s dome? Well, this was the result! I’m so pleased we made the effort because although part of the glass panels were frosted over (it really was bloody freezing!) the views were great and the structure itself was interesting.
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So this is the inside, and at the base of the cone is a glass ceiling that shows the main debating chamber underneath. Pretty cool.IMG_9621

I love how smooth the curves lookIMG_9622

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Please excuse the red lipstick around rather than on my lips! Apparently I was being cack-handed with my application.IMG_9631

You can see the glass ceiling hereIMG_9633

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Basically I just thought this was a cool car. And I definitely cropped the picture so you don’t see another Caffe Einstein behind! So much for being a unique restaurant find…IMG_9638

Checkpoint Charlie in all its ‘glory’. I hadn’t realised how fake it was until Francesca, our guide from the first day, disparaged it thoroughly. Apparently, when the actual checkpoint became defunct, the locals didn’t want to be reminded of it, so it was destroyed, but then the tourists started coming but there was nothing for them to look at. And this happened time and time again. So eventually, some enterprising sausage set up a ‘new’ checkpoint, complete with concrete filled sandbags, actors in uniform and red velvet ropes…

You can get your passport stamped to East Germany here, but, if you do, you could get it revoked as technically your passports are the property of your country and there’s no such thing as East Germany anymore. You might as well plonk a Hello Kitty sticker in there for good measure.IMG_9639

This isn’t Charlie. Just an FYI. IMG_9643

I thought this was great graffiti, and so different from the scrawls on the Wall yesterday; later, we were told that commissioned graffiti (which I presume this is) is sort of considered to be a sellout/damaging the genre, but I still think it’s beautiful. IMG_9644

And I loved this too, which was painted on the opposite wall.

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So this is Curry 36. Why were we here? Because we’d read in several places that it sold the best currywurst in Berlin. Well, we couldn’t miss that so we trekked pretty far out of our way (it would’ve been easier if parts of the U-Bahn weren’t shut!), and prepared to queue. It’s so popular that people have to wait for ages, but, luckily, the best kebab in Berlin is right next door so it’s become a bit of a ‘thing’ to grab a beer, and get either your currywurst or kebab and then chomp on that and chill with your mates while you wait in the queue to get one of the other!IMG_9645

Well, when we got there, there wasn’t a queue for Curry 36, but there was a HUGE queue for the kebab and we hadn’t left much time, so it was just the currywurst for us. I can’t say I noticed a great difference from the one Mr T had the day before – slightly curried hotdog sausage, coated in curry powder and curry sauce. It was still tasty though.IMG_9647 
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Mr T tries to recreate the iconic Ampelmann

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So, for the last part of our day, we decided (in light of the excellent tour we’d hopped on on Friday) to do another tour with the same company; this time, the alternative Berlin tour. What does this tour encompass, you ask? Well, basically we were told this was the tour you do to get under Berlin’s skin. Other tours are great for history and culture and so on, but this one, this is the one that makes you want to stay for years…IMG_9653

Our first stop was to show us the way East Berlin looked just after the Wall came down. This little alleyway runs along the back of Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. What is that? Well, I don’t know exactly as we didn’t go in, but Otto Weidt (and I’m paraphrasing the guide here) did for blind people what Schindler did for Jewish people.

In essence, blind people were considered a drain on Nazis society, so they risked euthanasia, but Otto employed them in this factory, thus proving their usefulness. So, all in all, he was a pretty straight up guy, and that’s why this building is Listed, which means the alleyway behind also has to be preserved. Got that?

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I found it really impressive, and a bit of a time capsule. Yes, there was the ubiquitous graffiti, somehow, here, it fit right in, and here’s why: before the Wall came down, East Germany didn’t have the money to repair all the damage from the War so for years, they remained bombed out shells.

Then the Wall came down, and suddenly there were all these vacant buildings ripe for the taking and they appealed to all the artists, hippies, musicians and so on. A huge squatting community sprung up, and an artist group lived in this alleyway. So, in a sense, the artists took ownership of the alley, hence the graffiti fitting in.IMG_9657

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El Bocho is a famous graffiti artist, and the CCTV camera is topical in Berlin right now: in the UK, we are caught on camera hundreds of times a day, but it’s not like that in Germany, at least, not yet. Recently more cameras were put up in the capital, and people have been protesting about that. And the speech bubble? A decade ago, the mayor – Klaus Wowereit – claimed that ‘Berlin was poor, but sexy’. It went down a storm with the Berliners.

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Then we headed to Raw Tempel – basically the site of loads of huge railway warehouses left vacant after the unification of Germany. So who took over? Gigantic nightclubs, and artist communes, and squats, and markets, and skate parks, and you name it!IMG_9666

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As we left Raw Tempel, we walked over this bridge, which had been a main divide between East and West; today it marks that power struggle with a constant game of ‘rock paper scissors’ played out between two illuminated hands.IMG_9672

For our final evening, I dragged Mr T back Fassbender and Rausch and their chocolate restaurant. Of course!IMG_9673

And yes, it tasted even better than it looked!

And that’s all folks. Hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight into Berlin; we did!

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Betsy Loves, Culture, Food, Travel

Berlin days – fine art to street art

IMG_9495I loved all the graffiti around the city. I have no idea what this means so Mr T laughed at me for taking the photo but pffft, whatever!
IMG_9497There are loads of museums in Berlin (about 190 apparently!) but we were on holiday so we didn’t want to spend ALL our time in them. The one that I really wanted to visit was the Neues Museum, which had an amazing Egyptian Museum with the famous sculpture of Nefertiti. We got to the museum early and decided on a little photoshoot in the columns…
IMG_9500Attempt no. 1

IMG_9502 Attempt no. 2IMG_9547 Success!IMG_9553 When we got into the museum, we decided we needed some refreshment first so we headed to the cafe. Mr T went for a gigantic slab of German cheesecake, which, coupled with his white hot chocolate caused him to look a little green around the gills. I, on the other hand, a sugar connoisseur, mastered my (regular) hot chocolate and cherry cake with ease and aplomb. IMG_9557We don’t actually have many picture from the Museum, and the main thing I wanted to see – Nefertiti – you can’t take pictures of anyway, but let me assure you, if you’re interested in that type of thing, it was really beautiful; and it’s an unusual sculpture in that, yes, she is beautiful, but she also has wrinkles around her eyes and strained tendons in her neck; this is an ageing and possibly stressed woman, and it’s fascinating to see that reflected beautifully in art. 

Anyway, back to my incredible pose above. I’m not sure it needs any explaining, but I’d like to draw attention to my posture. Cracking. IMG_9558Ok, so we’d heard about currywurst. Apparently currywurst and Berlin go hand in hand. For the uninitiated it’s essentially a curried hot dog liberally dusted in curry powder and then slathered in curry sauce (which is actually a sort of BBQ sauce and isn’t that spicy at all). It’s definitely not fancy food or sophisticated, and I’m not sure it’s lust-worthy but it certainly filled a nice spot on a cold January morning.

As you can see from below, it was Mr T who first ventured to taste this delicacy.
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Another time when I don’t have a picture for you, sorry, but in between stuffing our faces with currywurst and burger, we went to the Palace of Tears. Right next to the Friedrichstrasse train station, it’s a very unassuming modern(ish) looking building and we almost missed it if it hadn’t been for the group of school kids hanging around outside.

Basically, this was the main crossing between East and West Berlin as it was the train station between the two, and as farewells were so dramatic and people tried desperately to get across, they created this building as another ‘remove’ from the actual train station while a small corridor connected them to the station only if they’d passed through customs successfully.

Today it’s a small museum and very interesting. One of the best exhibits was a film reel which showed the same events covered by both the East and West media and they were so different; startlingly different. Another fascinating part was an interview with a former customs officer explaining how they were taught to examine travellers – there were about 15 different parts of the ear to check, and then the eyebrow and so on…IMG_9571Another Collins recommendation now. This time for the best burger in Berlin at Burgermeister. When she told me about the place, I mistakenly thought it was a proper restaurant we were going to so I was a bit confused when we got off the U-Bahn (the Berlin equivalent of the Tube which is cheap and efficient so thumbs up!) and saw this.

At first I thought it was just a takeaway version of the ‘real’ restaurant, but we soon realised it was at the right address so we sort of inched closer and closer while we tried to get our bearings.

IMG_9562After erroneously trying to enter the kitchen, we found our way into the little glass enclosure bit. As you can see, it’s completely covered in stickers, and while it’s not the cosiest place, it’s enough to protect you from the elements so we placed our orders and had a drink while we waited.

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IMG_9566Doesn’t this look like the best burger in Berlin? Yes? It was. It really was. It was so juicy and flavoursome. Ommm nom. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with the cheese fries that we got to go alongside, but hey, I still helped eat them all!

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IMG_9570 I reckon it’ll be heaving in the evenings and especially in summer. And if you think it looks like a public toilet, that’s because it was, but I’d still go back. And it was cheap too. Hallelujah!IMG_9573This is the East Side Gallery. Don’t confuse it with a traditional gallery: it’s all outside so wrap up warm! I have conflicting feelings about it to be honest. Mr T was really looking forward to it (can’t you tell in this picture?…) but was a little disappointed. Basically, when the Wall came down, people were literally tearing it down and suddenly people realised maybe they should preserve some history so they kept this 1.5km stretch and commissioned artists from all over the world to paint it, but only on the East side, not the West (the West had been liberal before, while if you’d even approached the East side you could have been arrested).

All in all, that’s a pretty cool idea, and some really iconic images were created. So all of that happened back in the early 90s. And then luckily for us, about five years or so, the same artists were commissioned to repaint their work to keep it fresh, but, as you might be able to see in this picture (and certainly in the others) the whole Wall is covered in non-commissioned graffiti, and mostly, it’s naff, crap and detracts from the art.IMG_9574Some people argue that the unauthorised graffiti is freedom of expression, which is important considering the strict controls that had been in place, but personally, I felt that it spoiled some great art (call me a prude). 

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IMG_9580I think the girl is unauthorised, and the signatures clearly are, but while the former looks ok, I hate the latter. Ugh!

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IMG_9584So this is one of the most famous painted parts of the Wall. And fortunately people seem to have left it mostly alone, but even then, some idiots (and yes, I do mean idiots) have scrawled love hearts over it. To me, it’s vandalism. As we were walking along the Wall, a taxi drew up and a young guy jumped out with two others, and while the taxi driver sat there laughing, the first guy was photographed by his mates scribbling all over that section. 

As Mr T said, I can understand wanting to leave your mark, and Berlin is, after all, considered a graffiti mecca, but for me, it’s still a no-no.

Graffiti aside, I love this photo of us! Inadvertently we even got the glasses right!IMG_9586

IMG_9588Mr T was very proud of this set up…

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IMG_9592This was the western back of the Wall, and with all this ‘free’ space to scrawl your name, I thought the ‘official’ side should have been protected more. But enough of my ranting!

IMG_9595So, this is us standing on East and West Berlin, which was cool, but the reason there’s a gap in the Wall right here? O2 built a huge arena to the right of Mr T, and to the left of me there’s the River Spree, and the O2 wanted its big name stars to be able to dock their boats on the river and get straight to the arena without there being a big pesky wall in the way. So they asked the German government to move part of it, and THEY DID!!! Insane. 

IMG_9598This is the TV tower in Alexanderplatz. It’s quite tall, and was built by the East Berliners as close to the Wall as they could to prove to the West how superior their engineering and architectural skills were. A few years later they had to secretly smuggle in some Swedish engineers to fix the subsidence…Awkward.

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We knew we wanted to revisit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews as we’d only had time to see the monument above ground and not the museum beneath the day before. I’m still glad that we did, but I’m not posting (nor did I take) any photos as it was brutal, as, arguably it should have been.

As Mr T said, it was a memorial to the ‘murdered Jews’ so there weren’t too many happy endings. At one point, I had to take myself off into a corner and have a little cry and compose myself. Part of me felt ashamed to be visibly upset; who am I to cry when I’ve lived such a privileged life, but there was no way I couldn’t be affected, and I wasn’t the only one. So yes, it was tough, but yes, I’m glad we went and I do recommend it.

After we’d finished in there, we hopped over to the Reichstag.IMG_9603The Reichstag, or the government building. Very heavily damaged in the War, Hitler never stepped foot in it when he was in power – the Nazis had set fire to it (allegedly) and blamed the Communists. You can’t see it very well in this but there’s a huge glass dome behind called the Bundestag, and if you book in advance you can climb it. Fortunately for us, they also reserve some tickets for unorganised folks if you queue for half an hour or so in the ticket office over the road.

IMG_9604I was desperate to see the Gate at night as I thought it would be really impressive and I wasn’t wrong!

IMG_9610A very casual Mr T pose.

IMG_9612From avantgarde fancy food the night before to some very traditional German fare at Lutter & Wegner. Known for making the best schnitzel in Berlin, it’s all white tablecloths, fine crockery and dark panelled interior, and like Tausend, not cheap, but also like Tausend, worth it.

We had sparkling strawberry cocktails to start, and then shared the legendary schnitzel (which came with a warm potato salad) and slow roasted duck with red cabbage and some delicious dumpling thingies. Ugh, they were both so good. And afterwards, apple strudel with vanilla sauce. Holy hell, that was amazing too!

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IMG_9614We didn’t want to go back to Bar Newton just because we knew it was there and we’d liked it the night before, so searching through the guidebook again, we found Windhorst, and geez was I glad I did. A jazz bar, they were playing records that night, and while Mr T had a beer (very good he assured me but boring as far as I was concerned), I had the most amazing mandarin cocktail. Seriously, it was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had; exquisite! I was gutted when we tried to go back the next night and it was shut.

IMG_9616One of our better photos together!

Tomorrow I’ll be bringing you more graffiti and more food.

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Travel

Berlin days

This Friday, Mr T is taking me to Berlin for a few days. Yay! Now, I’m a big planner, so between the two of us, we already have an (hour by hour!) itinerary sorted for Friday and Saturday; no joke. I think we’ve covered all the basic highlights – The Bradenberg Gate, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie, Gendarmenmarkt, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, East Side Gallery, Museum Island – plus a few bars and restaurants picked out (Curry 36 for some legendary currywurst…), but I figured you guys, you lovely people, might be able to suggest some of your own personal recommendations.

So, please, are there any places, bars, restaurants, museums, galleries, and shops that we shouldn’t miss? I’m all ears! Thanks in advance.

And hopefully, you’ll have a little travel blog to look forward to next week sometime. You lucky sausages (or should that be bratwurst?).

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