Aunt Benny, snow and flea market galore | Berlin, Day 5

My last day in Berlin was a Sunday which is flea market day in the German capital. So many markets happening every single week, I’m a wee bit jealous of you Berliners! They’re my favourite things to do on holidays so I made something of a military plan to cover as many of them as I could. But first I needed some fuel for the busy day ahead!
Berlin, Day 5

I went to the uber popular brunch spot, Aunt Benny, which was just down the road from my airbnb. I would lie if this didn’t majorly factor into my choice of accommodation (that and the cat of course). The place was already packed by 9.30am and as it was too cold to sit on the benches outside, the lovely waitress suggested I sat in the shoebox-sized adjacent bar. I ordered the quiche with a cup of sweet chai. It was simple but fresh and well executed. I also sampled the bagels and the homemade cream cheese, which gave me a whole new appreciation for the combination. And because I was still reeling from the previous night’s cheesecake fiasco, I may have had a naughty slice of New York cheesecake. So good!
Berlin, Day 5

The first flea market of the day was actually a couple of streets away from Aunt Benny and my airbnb. On Boxhagener Platz, the cute stalls were peppered around the square park and the little kiosk. As I got closer to the first stall, the snow started to fall heavily. I was having a real pinch-me-now moment. Everything looked so bright, kids were being pulled on their sledges by their parents between the stalls. It looked like a romantic film set, up until the path turned into an ice-skating ring and standing up straight was a matter of life and death… for my butt. I’m glad to say no damage was done and that I jumped on the tram for my next flea in one piece.
Berlin, Day 5

Mauerpark is like the mother of all flea markets. I can’t believe how big it was! Rows and rows of cardboard boxes full of junk, you could literally spend all day digging through old stuff. Once again, I was solely attracted to crockery so I reluctantly cut the research effort short knowing that it would be hard to bring anything back home. Nonetheless what a lovely way to spend a Sunday. If old stuff is not your cup of tea, there are lots of food stalls and crafted gifts. On a nearby snowy hill, kids were having a ball, sliding down on their sledges. Very picturesque! But the afternoon was getting on and I still had one flea market to check out.
Berlin, Day 5

Rathaus Schoneberg had a completely different vibe. Located in a quiet area in the West of Berlin, the market stalls were spread on the cobbled-stoned square facing the town hall. It was definitely not as busy but quite neighbourly. I had a quick browse and walked back through the snowy park to the U-bahn station where the train would take me back to Friedrichshain.
Berlin, Day 5

There, I had a little play around with the iconic photoautomat booths next to the train station before heading to the vegan supermarket. This might have been my favourite supermarket experience. What a wild statement. I love how fun the food was there. In the freezer, there was a whole fake turkey! With a limited luggage space, I had to settle on a couple small items so I picked white strawberry chocolate and vegan salami. They were so convincing. Next time I need to bring an empty suitcase to stock up!
Berlin, Day 5

For my last meal, I could not not have falafel. Luckily, I was standing a few meters away from Mustafa Demir’ Gemuse Kebap. It’s a hole in a wall kind of establishment so don’t expect comfort or chairs for that matter, you’ll have to dine on the pavement. But their falafel wrap is pretty amazing. I’d go as far to say that it was the most creative in terms of toppings I’ve had. So much going on between the flat bread, I couldn’t make out what half of it was but it was bursting with flavours, no greasy sauce needed.

That’s a wrap (!!) on my Berlin trip. Unfortunately, it was cut shorter than anticipated as Aer Lingus changed my night flight to a morning one the day after. I wish I had the time to visit the Charlottenburg palace and had it been warmer I would have definitely gone to Templehof Airfield and Spreepark, the abandoned theme park. I definitely need to plot another visit to Berlin. I hope the last few posts inspire you to do the same. One word of advice if you go, plan your trip during the warm season as I felt the city truly reveals itself while aimlessly wandering.

Day 1| Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

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A singing man, a protest and the missed cheesecake | Berlin, Day 4

Berlin, Day 4
I started the day with this little white fluff of happiness, watching the snowflakes falling by the window. If you didn’t read day 1 of my Berlin trip, you might have missed that my airbnb came with a cat. He was such a personality, spending his time either napping or supervising the courtyard.

It was then time to head out the door. Like every morning, I took the U-bahn, aka the Berlin tube, to join the city centre. My airbnb was located just next to a station so it was very handy to explore the city. I quickly snapped this picture as it was the first time I got on one of these vintage carriages. So small and so seventies!
Berlin, Day 4
I decided to go back to Mitte, the city centre where the main sights are, as I realised I had forgotten to check out Gendarmenmarkt, which is often referred as one of the most beautiful squares of Europe. I, for one, think it has nothing against ‘my’ Grand Place but it wasn’t too shabby indeed! On the marketplace, you’ll find the German Cathedral, the Concert Hall and the French Cathedral (the last two pictured below). The guy next to the fountain was singing some Oasis songs at the top of his lungs and I’m not sure why but I found him quite moving. Maybe it’s because he was facing the towering Concert Hall as if he was imploring Listen to me!. I was about to give him my change when it was suggested to me that the cup he was holding was actually his coffee. Awkward situation averted, phew!

On the square, there’s also an old-fashioned toyshop with an army of nutcracker soldiers in the window and other beautiful wooden objects. The Christmas decorations were still up so there were loads to look at. Side note, I was surprised to see so many garlands and trees still up walking in Berlin mid-January. Do Germans have a hard time letting go of Christmas? Does anyone know why?
Berlin, Day 4
Next stop that morning was Bebelplabtz which is famous for being the spot where Nazis held book-burning ceremonies. I wanted to see the memorial but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. On the opposite pavement, there was a little second-hand book market which is probably the most a-propos place to sell books, don’t you think?
Berlin, Day 4
On a lighter note, I then made my way to the Mall of Berlin where I wanted to browse the home section of H&M. I’m forever jealous of the other countries where H&M homeware is stocked so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to browse IRL the goodies that had me dreaming online. In typical ‘Nora’s fashion’, I got overwhelmed and nearly left the shop empty-handed when I spotted a cute marble phone cover by the till so at least that came home with me! I wandered a bit more in the mall and browsed in Zara Home and in the Marriage Freres tea shop.

As I stepped outside, I found myself in the middle of the biggest demonstration I ever seen. I’m not 100% sure what was going on but there seemed to be a lot of discontentment against the power in place. Among groups representing Vegans, LGBT Rights and the Refugees, I listened to speeches shouted from megaphones for a while. I don’t do well in big crowds so I slipped away to a deserted side street and went for a bite in a shabby greasy spoon.
Berlin, Day 4
Going to the Topography of Terror museum wasn’t part of the plan but I ended deciding to go there on a whim after seeing it pretty much mentioned in every Berlin guide I read. It’s located just next to the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall which is a stunner of a building. It has these pretty gold medallions all over it. I took a good while admiring and photographing it, nearly getting run over by a car in the process. After googling it, I found out that it’s pretty amazing inside too so I really regret not stepping in.

In front of  Topography of Terror, there’s a segment of the Berlin Wall still standing as well as the excavated cellar where prisoners were tortured and executed by the Nazis. The museum is indeed built where the Gestapo HQ used to stand. The Topography of Terror examines the Nazi institutions and the crimes they carried. One thing I would say is that the exhibition is quite static. Chuck loads of information is displayed on white boards so I would probably advise you to watch a good documentary on the subject beforehand and then focus on the areas in the exhibition you’re interested in. Queuing to read the boards can get a bit tedious otherwise. The part that captivated my attention the most was the beginnings of the National Socialist party and how they managed to gain so much power with such a vile agenda. It turns out that voters’ indifference is probably the most powerful political tool. It is a delicate balance achieved by giving something to the people they want then taking away something else and repeat the process. It is scary how that method still rings true today.
Berlin, Day 4
When I left the museum, I headed to the nearest U-bahn entrance. I rode South to the neighbourhood of Kreuzberg. The atmosphere there was probably the liveliest of all the areas in Berlin I had visited so far. The streets there were a pleasant combination of Kebab restaurants and indie shops. In a courtyard, I found the hipster Voo Store where cool magazines, designer clothes and beautiful people drinking coffee formed a harmonious hub. I quickly browsed the thoughtfully curated items on display and made my way towards my last cultural stop of the day: The Museum of Things. How do I describe this museum with this strangely vague name? If you love collections, you will enjoy browsing these cabinets. Objects are displayed according to function, material or colour. It’s incredibly eye and camera-pleasing. As you can imagine, I went a bit snap-happy so no doubt I will expand on this place in a later post.

By the time I got out of the museum, the night had fallen on the city. However, I was in the mood for cake and looking on my mapstr, I noticed that Five Elephant was on the way to my airbnb. It turns out that once again I underestimated Berlin geography. The walk felt long, although the cold and the neighbourhood with the creepy circus and the questionable street-sellers might have had something to do with it. I passed many cute cafes but my heart was set on Five Elephant as it came recommended by Mariell’s blog. She claimed they serve the best cheesecake in history. If that’s not an incentive, I don’t know what is! Unfortunately, when I finally got there, the place was packed. Thick-condensation-on-the-window packed! I turned on my heels and jumped on the bus home.

Are you all caught up with my Berlin trip so far? Here are Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 if you missed them.

Eyeliner, french toast and an evening in the museums | Berlin, Day 3

Berlin, Day 3
Day 3 in Berlin started with a spot of shopping. I can’t say it was the promise of browsing that lured me in the giant shopping mall Alexa, just off Alexanderplatz. I think I was more interested by any source of heat at that stage. I’m glad I stepped in as I stumbled upon a Kiko shop that was having the most ridiculous sale ever. So while warming up, I stocked up on my favourite eyeliner and other bits. I’m all about that kind of multitasking.
Berlin, Day 3
Berlin, Day 3
First on my list of things to see that day was the Berlin Cathedral. It’s quite an impressive building. There is something about the way it looms over the river Spree that reminded me of Notre Dame de Paris and the Seine. It made the area quite romantic really, even the bridge next to it had something French about it.

Standing on the bank of the river, I could see a gold dome shining in the distance. I followed it like the old magpie I am, thinking it would probably be a Russian Orthodox church. It turns out it was the New Synagogue. The most beautiful one I ever did see, it looked like an intricate wooden jewellery box. It’s certainly worth a look if you’re in the area. And the surrounding street is actually very lively, Oranienburger Strasse seemed to be a haven for hip bars and restaurants. I didn’t put any of these places to the test as I was on my way to the House of Small Wonder, near Friedrichstrasse.
Berlin, Day 3
I had been dreaming of their infamous Croissant French Toast ever since reading about them on Jess-On-Thames’ blog. I vaguely pretended to look at the menu and ordered them straight away and accompanied by a matcha latte. They were indeed delicious although I would say that the portion is rather on the small side, just a warning in case you are really hungry. Maybe, I was too greedy… The decor of that place was absolutely magical, so many plants, it had an air of French Indochina.
Berlin, Day 3
I then headed to the Charite University Hospital. The campus was so eerie, blocks and blocks of stern buildings that looked like abandoned asylums. I couldn’t help thinking it would make a brilliant map for a video-game. There, I visited the medical museum with its gory collection of jars filled with diseased organs. This stuff wasn’t for the faint-hearted, I’m sure you’re grateful that photography wasn’t allowed inside.
Berlin, Day 3
Next stop, keeping with the creepy and weird theme, was the Design Panoptikum. This ‘surreal museum for industrial objects’ was such a great surprise. And something I will be sure to write more about here. The charismatic founder, Vlad, takes you away on a journey where things are not always what they seem. Loved it!
Berlin, Day 3
My ‘night at the museum’ ended with the DDR Museum. The museum presents the daily life of the people who lived in East Germany in a very interactive way, through a collection of mundane objects, from their beach essentials to the cars they drove.

I don’t think I have ever been to so many museums in one evening! I’m going to blame the cold for that. Rather tired, I ran back home but made sure to stop for a burger first. A falafel burger, natürlich.

Here are Day 1 and Day 2 if you missed them.

Chandeliers, pink rooms & film props | Berlin, Day 2

Berlin, Day 2
On Day 2, I left the city to go to Potsdam, a town 45 minutes away from Berlin. The reason I wanted to go there was to visit the Sanssouci park which comprises of several grandiose palaces and buildings. Unfortunately, only the main Sanssouci Palace and the New Palace were open during the low season but I still took the combi-ticket as I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see as many rococo rooms as I could that day.
I did find it a bit puzzling that there was no Winter ticket as you only get to see 2 palaces out of the 5 buildings open in the full season for the same price. Tickets are not cheap and on top of that, you need to buy a photo permit, maps must be bought from machines, there’s a charge to the restrooms and some parts of the palaces open that day were going under some works. I don’t regret it as it was totally worth it, I had a magnificent day out and I can imagine that the maintenance of the whole park must cost a fortune but to be perfectly honest, I do feel that there should be some kind of gesture towards the low season tourists.
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
First up was the main Sanssouci Palace which was the summer residence of Frederick the Great. Forgive me if I’m not very historically accurate here, but taking pictures while holding the audio guide and keeping up with the group was a bit of a challenge. The guy was reacting against the squareness of his father who thought education was frivolous. He lived for arts and philosophy. He even asked Voltaire to come and live with him at Sanssouci. You can see the room where he stayed today, it’s a mad thing! Its yellow walls are covered with wooden parrots and flowers (I will show it to you in another post, I’ve way too many pictures to share). Frederick was as exuberant in his lifestyle as in his choice for home decor. He loved French baroque and his living space is an incredible display of the rococo trend. As a visitor, I marvelled at his taste and felt like fist-bumping the guy… Not sure I would have felt the same as a tax-payer at the time!

When the tour was done, I had some time to kill before the next one would start at the New Palace. I took that opportunity to walk in the gardens surrounding the palaces. They’re huge so it took me quite a long time to get to the New Palace and my 7 minute-late arrival caused the receptionist a panic but thankfully she let me grab an audioguide and join the group…
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
The atmosphere inside the New Palace offers an interesting contrast to Sanssouci. The windows had been blocked off, everything felt a bit dusty and sad. The rooms were freezing cold. But I think I liked it even better, it reminded me of the abandoned house Professor Emilius Browne squats in during the Blitz in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Rococo was out of fashion at the time Frederick the Great built this palace but he could not get enough of the chandeliers, the silk tapestries and the gilded frames. His love for rococo was so strong that a new form of the style was named after him ‘Frederician Rococo’. My kinda guy.
The New Palace had some of the most impressive rooms I had seen that day. The reception hall had a sea theme and was covered with seashells and another one with pink marble from floor to ceiling. My favourite room though was the hunters lodge, surprisingly it looked like it could have been Marie-Antoinette’s boudoir, what with its feminine blush tapestries and the wooden rosebuds carved on the ceilings.

I had a little bit of time left before the night would fall so I decided to stay a bit longer in Potsdam to check out the film museum. Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed inside so I’ve nothing to show to you bar my ticket.
Berlin, Day 2

Potsdam is an important spot in the history of cinema. There, you will find Babelsberg Studios, the first ever large-scale film studio, birthplace of masterpieces such as the iconic Metropolis. To my surprise, I found out that the studios are still in activity and produced quite a few international blockbusters in recent years like Inglorious Basterds, V for Vendetta or The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Film Museum displayed quite a few props used in the nearby studios, old machinery and vintage makeup. I especially liked looking closely at the editing consoles. It turns out that editing was historically a woman’s job because of their smaller fingers. It made me smile that women had such an important role behind every great story shot on the silver screen.

Read about my first day in Berlin here.

Street art, Pastel Houses & David Bowie’s Flat | Berlin, Day 1

It’s been a few days since I’ve been back in Dublin and I’m not sure I’ve quite collected all my thoughts on Berlin yet but I thought I would show you day by day what I did in the German capital. Technically, this wasn’t my first day but my third one. On Day 1, I didn’t take any pictures but I roamed around where my Airbnb flat was located to get my bearings and Day 2 was spent unfortunately inside as I was sick. I was in good company though as my Airbnb host had left her cat in my care and it was so cosy to have a little purring friend by my side. It was my first time using Airbnb by the way and maybe I could dedicate a post to my experience if anyone’s curious on how the service works but to make it short here, I am a total convert, the whole thing was absolutely delightful!
The Fraternal KissSo let’s go back to my first day exploring Berlin. My flat was located in Berlin East, in the neighbourhood of Friedrichshain and on that morning, I decided to walk to my first port of call: The Berlin East Gallery. I don’t know about you but generally when I get to a new place, I feel like I need to walk everywhere and I avoid confined spaces for the first few days. Museums and public transport make me feel a bit claustrophobic up until I have a better grasp of the geography surrounding me.

It took me about 45 minutes to walk to the most famous segment of the wall covered with murals. The walk there was an atmospheric one, on the big boulevards of East Berlin, with their towering stalinist buildings. Few times during my trip, I felt like suffocating thinking of the past, this was one of them.

The walk along the Wall cheered me up. I was armed with patience to take a tourist-free picture of the infamous Fraternal Kiss (pictured above) which I heard was near to impossible. It turns out sightseeing at the crack of dawn is great, the whole gallery was empty. Too bad about that ugly fence though.

Nikolaiviertel
Nikolaiviertel
Berlin, Day 1From there, I had planned to walk along the river Spree to get to the city centre but I didn’t factor in the size of Berlin. I knew it was big, I think I read somewhere that it is 10 times bigger than Paris but I guess I thought I could deal with it… Well, I ate my hat and took the U-bahn, aka the Berlin tube to my next stop, Nikolaiviertel (not without a little breakfast stop to a kebab joint oops… One thing I love about Berlin is how falafel is so readily available, it’s literally everywhere so it was hard for me not to have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. (Hi my name is Nora and I’m a falafel addict).

The neighbourhood of Nikolaiviertel was high on my to-see list for the simple reason that it looks like it could have been the set of a scene in Grand Budapest Hotel. The houses are painted with pleasing shades of pastel and they boast of pretty ornaments like bows and garlands. The contrast is quite impressive actually when you step from a big boulevard that has a distinct seventies vibe to this quaint quarter that could belong to a city like Vienna.
Berlin, Day 1I jumped back on the U-bahn towards the South of the city as there was something I was adamant to do that day. Like the rest of the planet, I had a hard time coming to terms with the death of David Bowie. I woke up that morning thinking it was a nightmare. His music had such an impact on me as a young adult although I am not going to pretend here that I was the biggest fan, I sort of ignored anything he did after Diamond Dogs. So I found some comfort in being in Berlin when it happened and discovering how their fates were intertwined. I went to Haupstrasse where he was sharing a flat with Iggy Pop for a few years in the seventies. In front of his building door layed flowers, drawings, candles and poems. I stood there with a handful of people in silent disbelief.
Berlin, Day 1
Berlin, Day 1
Berlin, Day 1
Berlin, Day 1

I then made my way back to the centre to see the main sights. It was my first time in Berlin, actually I think it was my first time in Germany weirdly enough so I felt like I should cross them off my list.
Pictured above, you can see Checkpoint Charlie which was the Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Nowadays it serves as a picture opportunity for tourists where they can pose with actors dressed in fake army uniforms.

Next was the iconic Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building which sprung chilling image of World War II in my mind. Lastly, the day ended with a visit to the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of Social Nationalism and to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

I’m in Berlin!

Sandra Juto Instagram
Sandra Juto’s Instagram

Blame it on watching too much of late night Arte but I always thought that Berlin was way too cool for me. I envisioned it as a massive slab of concrete covering a raging rave scene and bizarre fetish clubs. I remember this show about a little old shack called ‘The End of the World‘ near a river where people-in-the-know would come party like there’s no tomorrow. I thought then ‘Surely I would never get invited to a place like that‘ so I kind of crossed off Berlin from my wanderlust list.
But in the past few years, thanks to blogs, I started seeing a different side of Berlin. It suddenly seemed like a great place to actually live in (and not casually lose a liver), I keep reading about bright brunch places, charming flea markets and an all-round creative food scene. I’ve pinned all the places I want to check on Mapstr and for the first time, I’m left with more eateries than sightseeing sites on my map.  I’m especially interested in the Vegan scene, I’m not one (yet?) but I do wonder if it would be easier in a city like Berlin. I’m using Airbnb for the first time so it’ll be interesting to fully immerse myself in the Berliner lifestyle.
This is what I’m looking forward to do the most over the next few days.

  • go to a vegan supermarket and prepare a meal
  • take silly pictures in a street photoautomat
  • visit the rococo palaces of Charlottenburg and Sanssouci
  • walk in the Nikolaviertel neighbourhood where houses look like cakes
  • sample the best falafel dishes in town
  • browse lots of flea markets
  • admire walls and walls of street art

If you want to know what I’m up to while I’m here, you can follow me on Instagram for daily Berlin updates. Also, Have you ever been to Berlin? I would love to hear if you have any recommendations and your overall impression of the city :)