I don’t like to mess around when it comes to buying people presents.
Whether it’s Christmas (see my sausage post here) or birthdays, I like to make those who are special to me feel special, as I pour my heart and soul into an experiences of a lifetime. (Though I am still paying off Christmas, so maayyybeee I should reign it in a little. It’s handcrafted pressies for 2017 folks).
I would like to think that this was no different when my boy turned 27 (does that mean he’s now a man?).
He is OBSESSED with the frankly brilliant Berlin Noir series by the phenomenal Phillip Kerr. The books feature no-nonsense ex-cop turned private investigator Bernie Gunther who solves a range of mysteries from pre-war right up until the most recent set in the 50s.
You can read reviews of his latest book and buy them here.
So I decided obviously to take him to Berlin for his birthday… but because it’s me, just going there wasn’t good enough.
I started to write my own short-story inspired by Philip’s series that would take us on a journey around the city, and give Jack his very own Bernie novel to solve.
Set back on the streets on Berlin where it all began; Bernie Gunther is transported to the modern day to solve one final mystery. A tale that takes you not only across the city, but right into the depths of morality.
It’s not always easy to see where the truth lies.
I left it quite late (surprise surprise) to finish it, and it turns out it’s not that straight forward to have one singular book published (go figure).
BUT the legends at Solentro in Sweden fast tracked my book (after a flurry of begging emails and tears) and I had it there in two days (rather than two weeks) – I cannot thank them enough!
LOOK HOW PROFESH IT LOOKS!
Then I thought, what the hell, why not send my madness off to Phillip Kerr’s agents whilst I was at it… and his response was overwhelming.
But just like Jack, you’ll have to wait and find out what happened and Where The Truth Lies…
HOW TO GET THERE
A quick flick over on Sky Scanner pre-xmas, I managed to get two returns (Luton to Berlin Schonfield) for £160. Taxis either side added to the cost (there are no Uber’s allowed in Berlin), but it was still super cheap.
To be honest, it really does pay off to book early. The flights were an absolute bargain! Luton is not THEEEE best airport, but hey ho as long as there is somewhere for a pre-drink or two who is counting?
WHERE TO STAY
You can choose to stay in the more traditional West (Charlottenburg), the cooler East (Mitte), as well as other areas (great little overview here), however we went for Potzdammer Platz, which is a buzzing transport hub. We could walk pretty much anywhere in the day… and we did. (Ms Motivator rules – always stay slightly out of-town, so you get to see more of the ‘real’ city, and are burning off some of the calories from discovering local delicacies. Winner).
The accommodation I had found, ‘Grimms Hotel’ was themed by the famous fables and was £289 for the three nights. Not bad at all for such a lovely hotel.
We were blown away by the staff, the breakfast,the hospitality, the amazing cocktails, the room, the happy vibe of the place. I mean they definitely thought we were alcoholics (we were on our holidays so lunchtime drinking is acceptable), but they were so generous with their measures (there are no laws like here!) so I think it’s mostly their fault there was a few blurry moments.
Faultless throughout our stay, they went above and beyond to chat and make us feel special. I would highly recommend.
Breakfast was crazy, like another level buffet shizzle… and they do the most DIVINE coffee frappe.
WHAT TO DO
So my Berlin Noir story started with a murder, as you would expect, and we found our way around the city picking up clues – receipts, letters – as we went. Conveniently the clues led us to the best tourist spots in town. So here are my recommendations… and a few pics of the weird and wonderful things we saw whilst strolling around!
Surprisingly this only opened in 2001 – after many disputes. It’s an over bearing, eye-saw of architecture now – and so it should be. Something you can’t ignore – just like the Jew’s history in Berlin.
I had hoped for more of the ‘history’ but the artefacts it contained are from Jews who lived at that time – letters, momentos, and pieces of importance. It featured stories based on these artefacts before, during and after, which were tear-jerkingly poignant.
Perhaps for me – hungry for information – it felt sporadic, and perhaps not getting to the crux of what happened – or the fine times before the war. Seems a shame not to just celebrate the times of happiness. Or at least acknowledge. And then admit what followed… but that’s not my place to say – only to observe.
The architecture, however, really was thought provoking in its dominance. Make sure you go outside (its sign posted) where possible and breathe in the cold, bleak, sadness that the architect created purposely. Take a moment to think it all through.
We should all, always take a moment.
This had mixed responses when it was first installed. Was it enough? What did it convey? Again, was it really enough? We walked through the thousands of concrete grey, sharp, – tombs? – from far away – columns? as you got closer – it had a domineering affect – we continued into the neat grey rows so we could try and appreciate it.
For me – it was very effective – I had a long and hard think and whilst in the centre of the memorial. I couldn’t hear traffic, and it felt very small and insignificant. I was scared almost – you could lose someone in there or find it hard to get out very easily. Perhaps a TINY TINY TINY TINY (times infinity) glimpse of what Jews went through.
Let me know your thoughts if you’ve been.
From here, its so easy to walk to the main tourist attractions…
If you are interested in exploring historical buildings, (who DOESN’T) then the Reichstag, which is actually properly called Bundestag, is a must see!!!
The 19th century Parliament building not only boasts grand architecture but is also a famous site where many historical events have taken place – such as the 1933 incident that led to Hitler’s emergency powers. See, you can learn AND enjoy.
The Brandenburg Gate
Probably the most iconic landmark of Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate was built in the 18th century as a symbol of peace but it was damaged during the Second World War and was left isolated by the Berlin Wall.
It’s set in a ‘Platz’ next to the very famous Hotel Adlon… where Bernie worked in the books… More on this to come!
East Side Gallery
This is where they have preserved a section of the wall, and painted it poigniantly. It’s a lovely stroll along, taking in the different pieces of art. And discussing the madness that was dividing a city into two. The sadness and sorrow, and eventual jubilation when it came down. History is MAD sometimes.
Along the river bank there are some SUPER COOL bars, selling a multitude of schmancy and very strong cocktails. The sun was shining, the weather was sweet. We sat chatting and laughing with that ‘Ahhhhhhhh’ feeling you only get on holiday.
And DO NOT MISS the BREATHTAKING Cathedral at the end of the famous Unter Den Linten, where everything along the road is ridiculously exquisite.
And finally, of course, you cannot visit Germany without going to a market. We stumbled across one on the river bank by the cathedral, you find so much just walking around.
Including more poignant moments…
WHERE TO EAT
Someone told me it’s hard to find good food in Berlin. I meannnnn…. to say that to a sausage fanatic like myself was silly, but aside from that we found phenomenal dinner in the form of the beautiful place I had pre-booked called NENI.
“NENI Berlin is a culinary mosaic of Persian, Moroccan, Spanish and Israeli influences, as versatile and cosmopolitan as the city itself”
Set up on the 10th floor overlooking the Berlin Zoo and the Emperor Wilhelm Memorial Church.
We love to share food (well I do and Jack has learned to love it too) so we had three stunning starters, with cloud-like bread. He cracked on with solving the mystery, whilst I cracked open the wine…
Just by our hotel there was a massive car park decorated with oversized… well Jack thought artichokes, so when they turned up on the menu we couldn’t resist. Along with a Syrian tomato based dish, and a classic Baba ghanoush. It was babadelish!
Mains we HAD to try the cod, a kebab and this mad street food that had an egg in it. I love food that just randomly involves an egg, like why the Jeff not. Beautiful middle eastern flavour fusion. A bottle of very decent Sauvingion Blanc and it all came to about £80.
“Monkey Bar” next door was packed so we took in the scenery and went back to the lovely hotel for a few cocktails.
The views were exquisite!
LOCATION: Budapester Straße 40, 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, 10787
COST: Around 90 Euros for the above with a bottle of wine
So I get a call saying that the legend that is Author Phillip Kerr, had only gone and booked and paid us to have afternoon tea at the Adlon Hotel!
For non Bernie fans this is somewhere he works from in one of the series of books. And a stunning place set just by Bundenburg Gate.
It was all very overwhelming, kind and generous from someone who must have just thought we (or I) was mad for writing the book in the first place perhaps…! And WHAT A BEAUTIFUL PLACE!
Uber schmancy, piano player, silent yet attentive waiters and waitresses. I loved that walking in there we were almost transported back in time. Chandeliers, marble, charming patterned carpets, brass trimmings to big wooden features. Claridges-esque.
We enjoyed champagne, and all the delightful minibites of heaven you’d expect.
The cream and jam complemented each other like old friends, lying on a scone that managed to be light and dense all at the same time.
It’s not often I indulge in a carb-fest, so I ate slowly… well slow for me. Savouring each mouthful.
The teeny tiny puddings were sweet but not sickly. Genius. It really was a very special moment and I would highly highly recommend it.
To pay full price is around 50 Euros each depending on which drink you choose. We were just so lucky.
Not knowing who had organised this magnificent treat, Jack was perplexed if not flabbergasted.
LOCATION: Unter den Linden 77, 10117
COST: We were lucky enough for it to be paid for! But around 50 Euros a head
EATING ON THE HOOF
Now we can’t go to Berlin without talking about my favourite – sausages.
Currywurst stalls were everywhere! And they sold BEER! YAY!
Chopped sausage that had a robust texture – much less like the rubbery German sausage we get in the U.K. Frankfuter or Bratwurst (I wonder what the difference is sausage fans?)
The curry element is added through a rather sweet curry-esque Sauce. Like the love child of our chippy’s curry sauce and some Heinz. Stodgy fast food for tourists basically.
LOCATION: All over
COST: No more than 10 Euros
RATING: 5/5 – It’s sausage for Jeff’s sake!
OLDEST RESTAURANT – Zur Letzten Instanz
Our final meal out was another complete experience. In The Pale Criminal Bernie takes a lady friend to one of his “favourite” haunts, deciding to look it up, I could not believe it when not only was it still open, but it was the OLDEST RESTAURANT IN Berlin!
Built in the 13th century, and then turned into a Tavern in 1621.
That’s like cray cray, or as the locals (definitely don’t say) verruckt verrucklt.
And man it was cute.
Just like everything you want from a sunny Sunday afternoon.
If a gigantic knuckle of pork is everything you want from a sunny Sunday afternoon of course.
Which it is for us.
There was only about six things on the menu as it was their Sunday specials. I also think in a world of singular food pop-ups we do today, a small menu is a sign of a place that does few things, but does them Goddam well.
We shared a cold meat starter that was somewhere between a pate and the inside of a pork pie (that’s allllll good with me!).
Then came the knuckle and the schnitzel.
The former on a bed of red cabbage that tasted of cloves nutmeg and many hours boiling away with red wine. Mmmmmn. The latter with crispy crunchy salad and delicious chunky new potatoes in vinigarette.
Look at this bad boy! That is some knuckle!
We left “stuffed” which is my bf’s favourite turn of phrase (he’s either “a bit peckish” or “stuffed” never an in between. He just stays peckish until he cannot move through stuffedness. It’s quite a skill but goes against Ms Motivator principles. He will never be a Mr Motivator… Lycra doesn’t suit him…and I digress).
Definitely worth a visit, as its like jumping into a time machine.
LOCATION: Waisenstraße 14-16, 10179
COST: Around 50 Euros for the above with wine and beer
STAR RATING: 5/5
A visit to Berlin would not be a visit to Berlin without heading to a rave.
We love our dance music and had heard great things about Berghain and Watergate – but of course we had also heard about the four hour queues that are often met with the bouncer turning you away on the count of not being German and that.
So a quick visit to my favourite club site – Resident Advisor – we picked the top rated club night at IPSE. It was their 3rd birthday – and it was on 4pm-11am. OF COURSE, the German’s LOVE a late rave! Being British, we headed for just before 12… and of course it was practically empty. But we were IN so that was the main thing.
Set half outside on a big wooden veranda over the river, and half inside a Warehouse, the music (jackin house mostly) was bouncing and everyone was super friendly and about seven Jagermeister’s later, it was RAMMED. Cash only, we went out for more moolah, and were greeted by a humungous queue. We had hit the place at the right time.
The DJ smashed it, and suddenly dropped Fleetwood Mac ‘Dreams’ out of nowhere… and played the whole track!! Everyone sang along, it was one of those ‘moments’.
So after all this amazement and fun over three wonderful days – Jack was able to work out who the killer was – it turned out it was our friend the Author! Who would have guessed it… Phillip was insanely kind enough to send Jack the FIRST BOOK OFF THE LINE from his last novel, and a brilliant picture below. (We now have it all laid out like a weird shrine at home).
I cannot recommend Berlin or (Bernie Gunther) enough, we scratched the surface but still felt like we saw so much. Go go goooooooo!
Have you got any stories to share from Berlin?