A couple of my more recent blog posts are from Berlin, visit to Facil, a 2 Michelin star restaurant and a deli called Mogg & Melzer located in the very cool Mitte district. While 6 of my 8 nights were for work, I tagged on a couple days at the end to explore Berlin and spend time with my Dad who came to join me.
I can’t say enough good things about Berlin, its a great city, lots to do and see. And I didn’t get around to nearly all the things I’d have liked to so I hope to find myself back there some day to finish exploring! In the meantime sharing some pictures and thoughts of the great weekend we had …
We stayed at The Ritz Carlton on Potsdamer Platz – when all is accounted for, from the rooms, breakfast, the bar, the incredible staff… it’s hard to find any fault at all with this hotel. Wonderfully centrally located next to the Sony Centre with lots of choices for restaurants and bars nearby for the evenings, you can also easily reach most of the sights, on foot, short taxi or hop on the city sightseeing buses.
The club lounge has a Gin trolley – need I say more!
There’s a beefeater – Robert – on the door each evening and at 6pm he officially opens the bar – The Curtain Club – this is a nice little tradition and Robert is fantastic, happy to chat either in his beefeater uniform or when he’s off duty! He’s a great asset to the hotel but is not unique in service and friendliness. Every member of staff, reception, bar, restaurant, concierge, doorman are great. This contributes so much to an experience in a hotel.
I booked a special lunch for the Friday, with lunch at Facil. Without doubt one of the best meals I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy. There’s a full post on it here where you can read about all the lovely things we ate!
After that we had a stroll around, looking at the Berlin wall remnants on Potsdamer Platz, outside our hotel. We visited the fitness centre pool, small but fine for a bit and then wandered out for dinner locally that evening to Lutter & Wegner in Weinhaus Huth (just across the road from the hotel). White asparagus was just in season when we were there so we shared a portion of that which was served with hollandaise sauce and small boiled potatoes and a plate of Serrano ham to start. Followed that with the Wiener Schnitzel to share which was served with a warm potato and cucumber salad. The food is excellent quality here, mid priced. Good selections of wine too and we enjoyed a bottle of a German Pinot Noir with our food. Only downside with this Lutter & Wegner is that the toilets are 2 flights up a small windy staircase (recommend not trying after too much wine consumption!). Back to our hotel bar for a nightcap with a big day of sightseeing ahead on Saturday.
The bar in the Ritz has a really lovely atmosphere at night, its a cosy spot, again with great staff and their in house ‘mixologist’ and live music, a guy plays piano and sings.
On Saturday, after breakfast, we purchased our city bus tickets and headed out for the day. We took the bus around to Checkpoint Charlie. My Dad had his passport stamped with the 15 stamps! We visited the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie which is the museum there. Its a great visit – if you are interested in all things world war 2 and the subsequent times in Berlin. If not you may not think it worth the €12.50 entry fee. The museum opened in 1962 as a display about the newly built Berlin Wall and stories of those affected by it. It has evolved into something far bigger than this and you will easily need a couple hours to work your way around the space. You will see things used to escape over, under, and through the Berlin Wall, and read many stories including of those who died in their attempt to cross. We both loved this museum and the time spent there.
We jumped back on the bus and got out at Museum Island – exactly what it says it is, an island of sorts full of historical buildings and museums. We visited the Berlin Cathedral – absolutely stunning.
And walked right to the top of the dome – amazing views, absolutely worth the sore legs (there’s a lot of steps!)
Then we walked onto the Mitte district to go to Mogg & Melzer for lunch. No need to get into that here – you can read the blog post on that here if you wish to.
After lunch, we took the city bus to The Brandenburg Gate – an imposing archway and one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin. Located in the Western part of Berlin, near to the Reichstag, the gate was originally the entryway to the avenue leading to the palace of the Prussian monarchs. It was considerably damaged during World War 2 but was fully restored in 2002. Its so big, and brings back all the imagery around the war, the Berlin wall and when the wall came down. It’s a pity the square around the gate doesn’t have more cafes so that you can sit and look at it a bit easier but its still incredible.
And we did manage to regularly break for coffee in between all the sightseeing and exploring!
The Holocaust Memorial is located nearby to the Brandenburg Gate and is also called The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a large site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a slope. I wasn’t really sure what to think of this… its hard to find the symbolism in it, maybe it is reminiscent of a cemetery. Underneath there is an information centre which you can visit – we didn’t know this on our first visit and looked to go on Sunday but ended up not having time – next time I’m there I will visit to find out more about this memorial. There is something eerie about it with the sloping ground and grey columns…
When crossing the road in Berlin you will find quirky traffic lights with Ampelmann symbols! This is a legacy of East Germany / GDR where the figure on the lights was male with a hat! The Ampelmännchen is a beloved symbol in Eastern Germany and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Ampelmännchen acquired cult status and is a very popular souvenir item to buy! Read more about the Ampelmann on this Wiki page…
That evening we had dinner in Essenza, an italian style restaurant. We started with seabass stuffed with black risotto and an artichoke with smoked salmon salad. Then followed with 2 pasta dishes – Angel hair pasta with shrimps, vine tomatoes and basil and Black trenette with Breton lobster, cray fish and poached green asparagus. All the food was really good here, service was ok and the wine list is on the pricey side, choose carefully! The main thing here though is don’t ask for butter with the bread they bring to your table at the start. The butter was a nice item on our bill – €4.50. We complained (obviously!) – the waiter seemed to understand but said the Chef had demanded it be put on the bill and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. We paid but on getting back to the hotel that evening, talking with Robert, the beefeater we made sure he knew. He told the concierge and actually visited Essenza the next day to explain that the Ritz couldn’t be sending guests to them if they were going to charge for butter!
We visited the Classic Remise on Sunday morning. The Classic Remise is a centre for classic and vintage cars. Not a normal tourist activity but we had held an evening event there earlier in the week and my Dad is a big classic car fan so it was a must for us. Its free to visit and open every day – if you like cars – go see it! there’s a cafe and restaurant there also. On Sundays they do a brunch too, which if we hadn’t had a big hotel breakfast, would have been nice!
On Sunday afternoon, we had booked our visit to the Dome in the Reichstag. So after a brief pitstop to catch the start of the Liverpool match, we joined the queue to enter. Always register online as otherwise you will not be able to enter, you must be on the list! We were brought through the security check and taken on the short walk to the lifts. The lift brings you to the dome entry level. Pick up an audio guide which will talk you through the sites you can see and the Reichstag itself as you climb the spiral ramps to the top and back down again. The guide adjusts to where you are as you go. This is free to visit… and a must do!
Our flight wasn’t until late Sunday night, so we went back to Lutter & Wegner for a bite to eat after checking out and storing luggage. The food on our first visit here was so good we pretty much replicated that meal, sharing asparagus and schnitzel and a couple of glasses of wine.
Then it was time for the airport and leaving Berlin. This is the main issue with Berlin – that flights from Dublin go in and out of Schonefeld airport – its a pretty awful, small, dingy airport. I did manage to pick up some Gin in the ‘duty free’ shop and luckily flight was on time. When we got on the plane though there was a technical issue and we were delayed over an hour and half but at least we had a seat on the plane while we waited… and arrived home very tired around 1am!
Berlin is wonderful, go visit if you haven’t been. I already have a list of things to do, see and eat when I go again! There is so much more I could talk about and include here, let alone all the photos but think this is quite long enough as it is.