Monday, 19 November 2012

I love Berlin

Yes I know I've been absent. In my defence, I have been on two trips, been super busy at work arranging a secondment and been ill (still am ill s).
Anyway I will share some of my photos from my recent visit to my oldest (as in most long-standing) friend in Berlin. It was an amazing weekend and left me feeling incredibly jealous; not only is Berlin a really cool, cultured city, everything is also SUPER cheap!

This can be confirmed by my latest obsession, Expatistan. Expatistan compares the cost of living in different cities and tells you how they compare. Berlin is apparently 41% cheaper than London, with food, transportation and entertainment being streets ahead. Come on London, time to up your game.

Anyway, on with Berlin. Street art is massive in Berlin. There is graffiti everywhere. But not cuss words and scrawl, actual art. Even what remains of the Berlin Wall has been turned into and outdoor celebration of street art, named the East Side Gallery.

Start of the East Side Gallery
Even if you're not into art I would say it's worth a go. This section of the wall stretches for over a kilometre and is a nice walk on a sunny day. The other side of the wall, which faces the river, is also a gallery, albeit the 'unofficial' one. I didn't get chance to see that, so definitely one for next time.

The Kiss
 This is apparently the most famous part of the gallery, and I'm a shameless, sheep-like tourist for photographing it like everyone else. It was painted by a Russian artist in 1990, and is of the Soviet leader Leonard Brezhnev kissing the East German president Erich Honnecker. Full story is here.

Parrot postbox
I photographed this purely because I loved it. A parrot postbox! I'm not sure if the parrot was some kind of graffiti that inspired the post box or vice versa, but either way, where can I get one?
Becca, posing after much persuasion

Huge sculpture that came to life when you put a coin in

The locals didn't seem too impressed with me..
The last few photos were taken near a shopping area, which I believe was called Potsdamer Platz Arcades, although I could be wrong. The shopping in Berlin was in general quite good. There were lots of predictable European brands (H&M, Zara, Mango...) but some smaller local shops too, which were mostly found on side streets. Timeout has a great feature on shopping if you are planning on taking advantage of the excellent exchange rate and highly competitive prices.

Another thing I loved about Berlin was the cafe culture.

I had my first mulled wine (Gluhwein) of the year, along with the darkest, richest chocolate torte and a carrot cake. The carrot cake wasn't quite as good, but still a beast of a slice and with great icing. These were both from Anna Blume, the ideal people watching destination, situated on a cross roads. And although it was raining and cold, they have patio heaters, an outdoor canopy and blankets on the back of every chair for when you're really cold.

A Vietnamese cafe, enjoying some jasmine tea
I also visited a couple of markets over the weekend. I think Berlin is most famous for its flea markets, which sell everything from second hand clothing, to records, food, paintings and furniture. A lot of the stalls look like someone just pitched up with whatever they found down the back of their sofa, but there are also some excellent handmade goods to be had, from native American jewellery, to art. 

 I bought this limited edition print of a water buffalo for only 20 euros, from an artist called Palefroi. It's probably a good job I had to pay with cash else I could have come away with a lot more!

Flower market
Finally, one of the best things about Berlin, is the weird 'Berlin-isms'. Such as the Berlin bear:

And the Ampelmann, basically the 'green man' you get a traffic lights. East and West Berlin used to have different figures, and so the one that got chosen is a bit of a national obsession. There's a whole shop dedicated to him where you can buy signs, socks, sponges, luggage tags (like me), clothing, sweets... it's really quite mad.

Now I will leave you with some food recommendations courtesy of Timeout. I can definitely vouch for The Bird, possibly one of the best burger places I have ever been too, and it seems, so have all my friends who have previously visited Berlin.

I'm sure you can tell I absolutely fell in love with the city. It's very green and spacious, and so vibrant. Apparently the clubbing scene is one of the best in Europe, so even though I am not much of a clubber, that's definitely something to try next time I'm there.

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