As I arrived in Berlin, the city did not leave me a fantastic impression. It was cold, wet and dreary, and Tegel Airport was undeniably German. Very efficient (The immigration, baggage collection, waiting room, security, and check in were all within a few metres of each other), but rather unimpressive. I hopped on a bus and headed to my hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Berlin West
. Before dropping off to sleep however, I watched an iTunes rental I had sitting on my computer for a while. It was The Painted Veil
. An achingly beautiful movie, the book originally from Somerset Maugham, about an unhappily married couple, who through tribulation, find love in each other, however improbably. The only element of unbelievability were all the Americans trying to do an English accent. Nevertheless, Mr. Maugham's writing is translated very well into China's fields, gorges and mighty rivers.
I had booked ahead a tour with Insider Tours and got up early next morning to more grey skies, and grey … greyness. I hurried to the Zoo bus station. *Berlin is surprisingly easy to navigate via public transport, and more impressively, shockingly cheap for a capital city* and met my tour guide, Mike there. A model of Kiwi enthusiasm, we were led on a whirlwind tour of Berlin's lesser known spots as well as some of it's more intriguing areas.
The theatre where Leni Riefenstahl premiered Die Triumph Des Willens, the most notorious propaganda film of Nazi Germany.
We were then taken to such places as memorial sites for soldiers.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which is truly a sight, and??treacherous at a time when the ice has built up within the memorial. But somehow adding to the ominous aura that surrounds its polished concrete blocks, and generally somber atmosphere
It wasn't all sad and downcast though. I got to see The Titanic made from chocolate.
Bits of the Berlin Wall as well as was pointed to the dividing line where the wall used to stand.
The tour ended at the Brandenburger Tor, truly the symbol of Berlin.
After the tour, I took a gallivant around Berlin around the Potsdamer Platz before taking a train out to Olympia Stadion, where the 1936 Berlin Olympics were held as a showcase of Nazi strength but where Jesse Owens clinched 4 gold medals,??embarrassing??Hitler thoroughly.
Finally before I headed home to change for the Berliner Philharmoniker, I managed to grab that other symbol of Berlin, The CURRYWURST! Yum. Though, I think it'd be yummer if it was more curry, less wurst.
The Berliner Philharmoniker was a sight to behold. The actual building itself, along Herbert von Karajan (One of the greatest conductors of all time) Strasse, is magnificent, and once you step in, you find that almost anywhere you sit gives you a perfect vantage point to take in the orchestra. But more importantly, the music. Oh what an amazing journey I was taken on. The first piece was so impossibly modern, with all it's dissonant chords and clanging and clashing melancholy, reminds you of the soundtrack of Psycho, or Jaws. Ominous but in the best way possible. The second, a Shostakovich, kept me sitting at rapt attention the whole evening. Yo Yo Ma, was divine. Unspeakably powerful, and tender when necessary, he also found the humour in the music and managed to bring alive the cello in all it's glory. Unfortunately by the time the last piece came around, I was tired. And didn't pay as much attention to the music, which was still very impressive but ultimately just made me feel hungry.
As I walked out into the cold night, I had given up on finding some food. But as I walked towards Potsdamer Platz station, I passed by Lutter and Wegner
, a restaurant recommended by the Tour guide as one of the best in Berlin. I crossed my fingers and walked in and amazingly, at nigh on 11pm, they were OPEN! I was pleased with myself and sat down to look at the menu. And what a gloriously German menu it was. Wiener Schnitzel, Goulash, and Strudel! I was in heaven! I ordered the Veal Goulash and Apfel Strudel. *Bliss*. The Veal Goulash was truly the BEST I've ever had. And the Spatzle! WHAT joy. It was perfectly made and slightly overcooked lending it a smokey flavour. The Apple Strudel was also very impressive, a very distinct tinge of alcohol permeated the plate, with not only apple but a VARIETY of fruits. I was in heaven and all my tiredness was forgotten so much so that I tried very hard to talk to my German Taxi driver on the way back to the hotel!??
It was a blissful night's sleep, a delayed flight (HEATHROW!!!!), and a long bus ride later that I got home to my dear Coventry. What I brought back with me a totally drenched copy of??The Rule of Law by Tom Bingham
??(fascinating read targeted at non-lawyers but unfortunately I suspect will be beyond the capabilities of most non-lawyers), and the fondest memories of an diverse and beautiful city.
Berlin truly was a gracious host and a lovely queen amongst the capital cities of Europe. I cannot wait to come back in the future and see what else this beautiful city has to offer!