7 Reasons to Fall in Love with Berlin

7 Reasons to Fall in Love with Berlin

A City of Infinite Beauty

An editorial collaboration with AirBerlin and Visit Berlin.
photos by Dawn Garcia

 

Germany has long since been a place on the list of countries I wanted to see so when the opportunity presented itself, working with AirBerlin to travel to three incredible cities: Berlin, Hamburg and Düsseldorf, it was a very easy decision to go. The journey began in Berlin and much like the title of this piece implies, I fell deeply in love. There is something about the city that affixes itself to your soul. The way art is honored, the way history is immortalized, the way humility is exposed, the way food is presented with love and ease. Words seem like an unjust way to summarize a place so abundant in characteristics to discover but alas, they are the vehicle that allow me to tell you precisely why Berlin needs to be on your bucket list.

Berlin is a city that surprised me in every way. From the moment I arrived and had a taxi driver who actually leant me €30 so I could buy a SIM card at the mobile phone store (so I didn’t have to make an extra trip to the ATM) – and – before I go on, let’s stop there. The taxi driver was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and like a father to a daughter he made sure my very first time to the city was without any hiccups in spite of language possibly being a barrier (which it wasn’t). It was only the beginning of what would be my introduction to a people that are anything but cold. While Berliners have undergone some rather immense historic events that shook the city at its very core (WWI, revolution, WWII, Prussia, Germany divided, the Berlin Wall, student unrest, the fall of the wall, reunification, the Berlin Republic) and yet somehow they have risen to the occasion to become one of the fasting growing cities in terms of population. While 40% of their population are under the age of 35, the surge of entrepreneurship and creativity exists in the very thread that weaves Berlin together.  That is unfounded! That also leads me to reason number one of why you should fall in love with Berlin: the people.

1. The People | Berliners

The people of Berlin cannot be confined to a mere generalized term. In fact the diversity of the people is one of the ways the city has enveloped the fortitude that lives and breathes in everything. With a large under-35 population consisting primarily of artists, tech savants, financial whizzes, engineers and entrepreneurs disrupting a multitude of industries, the energy of Berlin is one that is elating! The common thought is that Germans are supposed to be “cold” and thankfully I have some very good friends from Germany who are anything but (so I knew better). Needless to say, that rumor is wrong. Germans are an open, efficient, warm, creative people whose ability to work diligently, manifest new ideas and then take time to have a beer at the end of the day is admirable to say the least. With an average workday wrapping up by four o’clock and Fridays ending at two in the afternoon, it’s no wonder Germans seem to enjoy their lives and while it’s easy to say that’s just the “European” way, I can assure you that isn’t unilaterally true. The environment in the city is one of absolute wonder. From old school to new, the LGBT community, artists, intellectuals, educators, distillers, architects, designers, historians, you name it? They all dwell in Berlin. The telltale sign of every great city is the sound of laughter that fills the air and in Berlin, that’s the continual sound ruminating all around you.

2. The Food

Dining in Berlin is like being in the throes of culinary pleasure. The cuisine is Michelin level (and there are quite a few Michelin star restaurants in Berlin alone), the street food (aka the greatest pretzels ever) is sublime, and the options are endless (and I mean endless). From classic Schnitzel to gastronomic art, you will find every type of food from global fare to vegan and wherever you land, you won’t be disappointed. On my first evening in Berlin, as I strolled through Friedrichstraße, my palate was tickled by two restaurants: Nobelhart & Schmutzig and BarCelona. While I wanted to try the 10-course Michelin dinner at Nobelhart & Schmutzig, it was late and Spanish tapas won me over so I dined at BarCelona. Andres, my server – who spoke 6 languages – created an evening for me that reminded me of days in Spain where the food flowed in abundance and the wine poured like water. The Datiles con Bacon, Sardinas a la Plancha and Papas Arrugadas were the three standout dishes with bacon snuggled around fresh dates, sardines the size of trout and potatoes cooked perfectly with a sauce that oozed flavor! That was only the beginning. As the days passed and appetites beckoned, we ate at Clärchens BallhausBorchardt Restaurant and did an epic gastro-tour with Henrik Tidefjard at Berlinagenten where we did a three course dinner throughout the city dining at Roy and Pris, Schwein Berlin and Katz Orange. Clarchens was the most nostalgic in that it serves as a dance hall and restaurant and has remained open 365 days a year, every year with the exception of two weeks during the war. Its location represents never giving in and the cuisine was not just tasty but memorable. While there, we had the treat of seeing a dance class and amidst the old vintage signage, dangling metallic streamers it was easy to imagine how it must have been in the 40s while the world was warring just outside and dancing was the way to feel alive. Borchardt is one that is more noted as a celebrity hotspot and while the location is beautiful, the food – while good – didn’t quite compare the other four restaurants we enjoyed.

Following our guide, Henrik through the city for three incredible culinary stops: Roy & Pris, Schwein, Katz Orange

That said, I was enthralled by the gastro-tour with Henrik. Henrik is “everything”! He is bigger than life in personality, so utterly endearing in every way that dining with him is like dining with one of your best friends who happens to know everybody and is filled with a wealth of random facts and fascinating information! Each restaurant he took us to had something extraordinary to offer: Roy and Pris is one of the coolest restaurant designs  serving Chinese cuisine with explosive flavor from spring rolls to spiced pork belly. This was the beginning of something sensual. The wine selection, cocktails, presentation and dishes are well balanced, fresh and made with local ingredients. This is why the provocative meal to follow only leant itself to the sinful renderings at Schwein. This was where we went for the main course. Starting with a local produced gin and tonic (Thomas Henry Tonic) and then wine (they have 220 wines on the wine list!), the cut of meat we devoured set my palate on a journey that would make everything to follow seem sexy and intentional. The award winning restaurant has a gorgeous layout. Chef (who has a Michelin star) prepared the meat perfectly, the neck sous vied for fifteen hours so the juices rose to the surface of every bite. We rounded out our night at Katz Orange which is more of a rustic artist’s haven in terms of decor with desserts and cocktails that will invite you in to total submission. The space lends itself to the array of choices to lure your need for savory, sweet, intoxicating and contemporary. Order everything!

Everywhere in Berlin you’ll have immense breadth in terms of options from Indian to Spanish to Bavarian to schntizel but no matter where your hunger lands, you’ll be glad you came. As an added note, my breakfast every single morning at Hotel de Rome was perfection (and healthy).

3 | 4. The Art + The Memorials

It’s not the easiest thing to quantify just how impactful and life altering the art throughout Berlin really is but it will dig into the depths of your heart and beg you to understand humanity in a way that gives us all the kind of connection that makes mankind so grave and invaluable. Whether you are awestruck by street art at East Side Gallery and Graffiti Alley, feeling connected to a deeper part of the past at Me Collectors Room, lost inside the Bunker shedding light on contemporary expression, reminded of the horror of the past and the resurrected beauty at the Jewish Memorial in the city center by Checkpoint Charly, the Gay Memorial in the Tiergarten, or find yourself stumbling upon the Stolperstein, you will feel more connected to life, history, and one another than you may ever have before. The way Germany has chosen to immortalize their past is something I wish every country would embrace. There is no more profound way of recognizing where humanity struggles than to polarize it.

Art unravels one street at a time in a city rich in story, history, culture and creative expression.
Music Permission Granted by Shana Halligan.

5 | 6. The Architecture + The History

When you wander through the streets of Berlin, there are buildings that have been there for centuries and some have been revived post-war to resemble their original design. In the area known as Pleasure Garden meant for poets, dreamers, and visionaries, you are in the center of Museum Island where history reveals itself in bullet holes embedded in the outer facade of buildings, streets that are both newly paved or oddly left as reminders. Regardless of whether you engage in the incredible designs that envelop Berlin from museums to sustainable design to buildings with tales that date back to eras we only now read about in history books, you will never be at a loss for experiencing the past and present state of the city. Berlin is at the forefront of design and architecture with sustainable materials, energy efficient alternatives, immersive layouts and stunning detail.

7. The Diversity

Berlin is a city comprised of cultures from all around the world. In fact, people from over 190 countries call the city home. While German is the primary language, it is wonderful to spend your days exploring, pass a group of people and hear a multitude of languages spoken. Not only does this diversity find its place in the culinary scene, it also shows extensively in the art scene with so many galleries and exhibitions honoring street art, pop art, fine art and anything else you can think of deriving from a varying degree of backgrounds. The cultural melting pot that is Berlin is one of the reasons it feels so familiar. Much like Los Angeles, the world is well represented in a single city and rather than the limitations of one people, you’ll find a colorful blend of everyone and that is why this is one of the most culturally significant reasons to fall in love here. While you’re exploring, I highly recommend taking time to find the street fairs, take part in any community activity, spend time in the museums, try everything from pretzels to beer to Michelin cuisine. It’s also worth mentioning that the Michelin restaurants are beyond affordable so dining on illustrious food is affordable and well within reach (and most include wine flights!).

Getting around in Berlin requires but one simple thing: a willingness to go. There is so much to the city that even I had no idea about. The art tells a story of the past, present, and the future, the generations of those living here become the timeline of survival and hope, the hotels are design-centric, setting standards in hospitality, everywhere you go someone is enjoying a beer, a bike ride, or a conversation and when you think about everything the city has endured, it makes falling in love undeniable. Their strength, tenacity, and passion is apparent in the cracks on the pavement and the refreshing smiles on their faces. In other words … GO!

For more information on flights and the city itself, visit: www.airberlin.com + www.visitberlin.de

MORE Berlin …

  1. Hotel de Rome | BERLIN

  2. Vimeo – BERLIN | Welcome to Berlin!

  3. Vimeo – BERLIN | Design + Architecture

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