We haven’t heard the crazy laughing toy in Kypseli for awhile but, the night before we left for Berlin it was replaced with something more maddening: a radio, volume cranked up, songs blaring all night long. And I mean, all night. Occasionally someone would come out and yell at the offending apartment and at one point the police came by, but mysteriously couldn’t do anything about it. Around 3 or 4 in the morning we heard some windows breaking, but Top 40 pop songs were still streaming into our apartment. By 5 am we gave up and got ready for our morning flight to Berlin, and then, once we made it to Germany, couldn’t help remarking on how quiet it was. For some reason I hadn’t expected Berlin to be such a peaceful city, but it was, all those wide streets, and trees, and occasionally the Spree River winding through it.
(Although, “peaceful” isn’t the word I’d use when Germany is playing in the World Cup. The day of their win against England was full of spontaneous fireworks, vuvuzelas, and cab drivers who insisted on watching the game even while driving us.)
We were in Berlin for a few days, part of it with good friends, and it wasn’t enough time to explore as deeply as we wished. We covered most of the touristy things – the Brandenberg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Museum, the East Side Gallery portion of the Berlin Wall – and we squeezed in plenty of other things like drinks on terraces, amazing shopping in Mitte, and visits to a few other galleries. But sometimes it felt like we were still simply scratching the surface. Another thing I hadn’t really anticipated about Berlin was its size. It’s a sprawling city – just have a look at the U-bahn and S-bahn maps and you’ll see just how large it is. We spent the first part of the trip meandering about somewhat aimlessly before wising up and buying metro day passes so that we could cover more ground.
Greeks aren’t big on breakfast, so it was fun to be in a country that knows how to serve brunch. Every morning I ended up eating a typical big German breakfast, the best one being in the leafy garden terrace of Cafe Einstein: multiple types of cheese, cold cuts, piles of smoked salmon, good bread, fruit, eggs. And after 2 months of mainly eating Greek cuisine, we also pounced on the chance to go for Vietnamese one night and Korean another. And German food! Schnitzel, bratwurst at a street fair, mustardy potato salad, pretzels. We also fit in a lunchtime picnic made out of a visit to the famous KaDeWe food hall, and yes, of course we had currywurst, the slightly sweet ketchup-y sausage you eat with toothpicks.
Our travelling companions are more into wine, and although we gladly made it a habit to have prosecco at brunch, we took advantage of being in Germany to drink beer. The concept of a beer garden is so simple and perfect: shove some picnic tables under a bunch of trees, offer some good beer on tap and a little bit of food, and let the people come. Tiergarten, a huge park in the middle of the city, has some good ones, and on our last day we sat by the water in Cafe am Neuen See, watching people in boats row by and ducks splash about, and it was all so serene and beautiful. We followed it up with dinner on Oderberger Strasse in Preuzlauer Berg, and by then were smitten enough with Berlin that we looked up how much it cost to live in the city. Guys, it’s cheap. Let’s all rent a huge sunny apartment for not much money and make art in Berlin, okay?