Category Archives: berlin

Berlin – Brandenburger Hof Hotel

There’s no two ways about it. Berlin is a looooonnnggg way from home.
 But for Australians there’s no better time to travel to the German capital than now.
With our strong exchange rate and cut-price airfares, the arctic chill can turn on a magical winter wonderland at this time of year.
And there’s no better place to make your travel base than the Brandenburger Hof Hotel in Berlin’s ritzy Charlottenburg just off the famous Kurfurstendamm shopping precinct and near Europe’s largest department store the Kaufhaus des Westens. (KaDeWe)

The Brandenburger Hof is one of those destination hotels.

I could easily pull up sticks here for a few weeks…

Of course it helps that it’s a five star hotel with a Michelin star restaurant Die Quadriga.

This is the view from our room of the twinkling bejewelled Christmas Tree in the atrium courtyard.

The one-bedroom suite is modern yet soft and inviting.

I wanted to ship this bed back home with me
after a long chilly day of sight-seeing, there’splenty of room to put up your feet…..

…very relaxing…

… or catch up with some blogging..

Nougat, marshmallows and iced gingerbread to keep the energy up

luxurious bathroom with heated floors, double vanity, deep bath and roomy shower

beautiful body treatments and a spa suite for a rejuvenating massage…

Through the lobby is one of the coolest lounge bars

cocktails and an excellent wine list..

And some interesting pieces of art collected and curated by the hotel’s owner

love this mirrored piece..

There are several private dining rooms to book for dinner or a meeting. German Chancellor Angela Merkel can sometimes be spotted here.

Breakfast is the real piece de resistance. It’s more like an elaborate ceremony.

several courses featuring the Nordic staples of yoghurt, eggs…

cheese, fruit, pickled fish and buttered chive bread.

The service is impeccable. And yes we did feel like royalty for the day.

To top off a perfect stay we were able to snaffle up some standing-only tickets to the Berlin gig of Bryan Ferry’s current tour.

Third row from the front at the intimate Admiralpalast Theatre.
My Only Love.
You have got to come here.

Berlin – KaDeWe Food Emporium

OK, calling it a food emporium doesn’t do it justice. KaDeWe’s 6th Foor deli (which is short for Kaufhaus des Westens – Department store of the West) is how most gourmands would picture the Afterlife to be like…… football fields of the best food the world has to offer.

Smoked salmon from Norway, thick double cream from Devon, Echire butter and fois gras from Paris but surprisingly no vegemite from Australia! In fact no products from Australia at all that I could find. Easy to miss though. KaDeWe boasts 34,000 different items, 3,4000 wines and 1300 types of cheese and an indecent array of sausages and wursts.

This one caugt my eye – it was studded with fresh green peppercorns
This is another German favourite – jellied or potted meats
The ham section alone was the size of the entire David Jones Food Hall in Sydney.
Fancy some pickled champignons?
or wild rabbit (in the foreground)
You haven’t tasted chicken until you’ve had a roasted Bresse chicken from France
And then there were the fish and crustaecean bars
don’t get on his bad side…
And how’s this for a creature from the deep?
More varieties of olives than you knew existed
And stuffed marinated vegetables for a meze platter to blow your mind
And of course I couldn’t go past a glass of bubbles at the champagne bar

Hanging out for some Thai I tried a beef stir-fry at KaDeWe’s Asian stall.
  It was delicious but sadly a thinly disguised Chinese dish. The only Thai ingredient they used was fish sauce.
The other 6 floors in the store aren’t nearly as interesting as the food hall – just the usual cosmetics and designer wear that you could find anywhere in the world. KaDeWe had just gone into receivership when I visited. I hope it survives its financial woes. It would be sad for the 40,000 to 50,000 daily visitors to miss out on this truly unique experience.

Berlin – The Turkish Markets

Still grey and overcast in Berlin. Sunny change expected on Thursday – when I leave for London. Danke Schoen!
On our way to the Turkish markets nestled on the banks of the Landwehrkanal, we take a little detour so Ria and Chris can show me the last remaining section of the Berlin Wall that’s been preserved as an ominous reminder of the communist era.
It’s covered for its length with grafitti-like artwork exploring the wall’s many evocations.
In fact much of the art work along this old east-meets-west border is confronting.

Ah yes, we’re finally here…… at the Turkenmarkt in Kreuzberg. Berlin has Europe’s third largest Turkish population and most of the city’s immigrant community comes here to shop for fruit and vegetables and exotic fabrics.
The makets only sell seasonal produce
This ginger smelt pungent and spicy
Lots of cool climate root vegetables but I was surprised to see limes
And of course with spargel season running hot there are phallic-looking white asparagus everywhere.
The marinated vine leaves will make delicious dolmades
And this stringy salty cheese is a local delicacy used in sauces and dips
This wasabi cheese was a taste revelation. Nice grab-you-at-the-back-of-your-throat finish.
Time for a warming ale… we grab the window seats at the bar across the road for a bit of people watching.
A sensible combo – a glass of wine comes wtih an obligatory glass of water.
But unlike the French and the Italians no complimentary nibbles!

Berlin – The past looms large

How imposing is this?The Brandenburg Gate is a very important symbol of the unity of East and West Germany.
The Berlin Wall use to run along just behind it. The gate was the location for last year’s 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall.
It’s the last remaining of the 8 original gates that provided entry points into the old gated city of Berlin.
Miraculously while everything else in the plaza lay in ruins after the Second World War the Brandenburg Gate was left standing – abeit peppered with hundreds of bullet holes.

The gate underwent expensive and time-consuming refurbishment and recently opened to the public again. It is closed to vehicle traffic. I love the Doric columns.
It’s crowned with a Quadriga – a four horse chariot drawn by Victoria the Roman Goddess of Victory. Napoleon apparently took the Quadriga back to Paris after the 1806 Prussian defeat but it was returned 8 years later when he was rolled and the iron cross was added as a symbol of Prussian power.
This is the holocaust memorial – just a block away from the Brandenburg Gate. It was controversially built 5 years ago to commemorate the thousands of Jews who died across Europe.

Controversial because many Jews felt it was unnecessary. The designer Peter Eismann wanted to capture ”an ordered system that has lost touch with human reason”.

Walking through it is certainly a disorientating experience – varying heights of concrete blocks built on an undulating landscape.
The rain is setting in now despite this being the first week of summer in Berlin. Luckily I squeezed in a thick coat and pair of boots into my tiny bag. Berlin is inland and on a higher latitude than London so prone to colder and more inclement weather.
Time to get into a little local tucker.
Ria and Chris took me to Borschardt, the Berlin French eatery where the celebs hang out.
For entree we shared a tomato and rocket salad dressed unusually with roasted peanuts.
…. then an exquistie dish of Bresse chicken with herbed mash, baby vegetables and a sticky rich jus.
..thick meaty fingers of white aspargus. It’s the beginning of the spargel season and Germans go gaga for it served here with a garlicky olive sauce.
For mains it was lamb rack with potato dauphinois, diced yellow and green zucchini with tiny flavour-packed chantarelle mushrooms.
Lamb is expensive in Berlin and hard to find in supermarkets and butchers.
This lamb was cooked to perfection – lightly pink and cut like butter. Hubba Bubba!
All washed down with an Alsace Reisling.
On our way back to Prenzlauer berg we stopped by the eerie memorial to Checkpoint Charlie where so many Berliers lost their lives trying to flee to the West.
An actor playing an American GI is stationed at the site of the old checkpoint. He’ll pose for a photo with you for 10 Euros.
Like so many cities ravaged by war (London, Paris and more recently New York post 9/11) so much of its past is meshed with its present and its future.

Berlin – Bikes R Us

Pop-up art: This piece of bicycle street art appeared overnight outside Ria and Chris’s apartment block a few weeks ago.

Well I arrived in Berlin last Sunday after a 26 hour flight that left me deliriously tired – and deliriously excited to see my gorgeous pals Chris and Ria who have relocated to this fascinating German outpost.
Chris is the drummer in the indie rock band Expatriate and his wife Ria is a communications whiz.(she also has the rain man-like ability to navigate her way around the metro system of any city!)
They’re living in the artistic but slowly gentrifying suburb of Prenzlauer berg in the old East Berlin.
The bicycle is the preferred mode of transport for most Berliners. Streets are wide and flat with continuous bike lanes. 
And when visitors and tourists decide to move on, their touring bikes can be picked up very cheaply
This pink one with a woven carrier basket caught Chris’s eye.
25 Euro later he was the proud owner of  a new set of wheels.
Lunch was down the road at a little bistro. We all went for a traditional schnitzel.
The veal steak came with a puffed crunchy coating of thin breadcrumbs, a tangy cold potato salad and some cranberry relish.
The stand out was the side serve of ribbons of cucumber with a creme fraiche and dill sauce
In their attempt to keep me from falling asleep, Chris and Ria took me for a little neighbourhood recce.
Berlin is teeming with green – from flower baskets on balconies, to creepers on buildings
You never feel very far away from nature
Berliners are also huge boozers. The streets are littered with smashed glass and beer bottle tops. Drinking in public – in parks and on trains is widely accepted behaviour. In fact, the legal drinking age is 16 and 14 if the beverage is a low alcoholic one and the minor is accompanied by a parent.
Despite the city being awash with beer there is little of the accompanying agro that you find in Australia. It was the safest I’ve ever felt in any city.
Time for a long hot shower and some sleep. Tomorrow I hit the tourist hotpots.