Berlin; a city that is (at least, in certain areas) post-apocalyptic in appearance even when we aren’t in the midst of a plague.
Despite the pandemic, Jan and I spent a long weekend there in mid-August. The numbers weren’t great then, but they were certainly better than they are now. So, you’d be forgiven if you looked at the title and thought, “naja…ein bisschen übertrieben, oder?” Yes, things were better in August. They weren’t exactly great, though, either; not compared to, say, the halcyon days of July.
…or, you know, before March in general…
This was my first time in Berlin during the Summer, so I have no reference for how busy it can get during peak tourism months. I’ve been to Berlin several times, including a month-long visit, but I’ve only ever gone in the Winter. There were other tourists, but far fewer than I expected. We were able to easily get a table at a beer garden and never had any trouble getting an outdoor seat at a restaurant.
The longest we waited was 15 minutes for a table at Hako Ramen, which we would have happily waited an hour (or longer) for. I’m an American, after all. I like the “wait to be seated” game; well, better than the “you must have a reservation” game, anyway.
I can’t recommend Hako Ramen enough. Their vegan ramen is chefs kiss amazing. I would have been happy to eat every meal there.
The main reason we were in Berlin was to visit with friends; two of whom I hadn’t seen in three years. They’re German and, like my husband, spent a few years in the states. Even though we always spoke English together back then, spending that time with them helped me prepare for German culture.
It was so nice to see all three of them again, as well as their toddlers, whom I hadn’t met yet. They were impossibly cute and so intelligent, but that’s no surprise, since their parents are so smart.
We spoke in German for our entire visit. I’ve been fluent enough to have real conversations for nearly a year now; but, being able to speak with friends I hadn’t seen in so long, in their native language, was really cool.
Jan and I also went on two tours while in Berlin.
The first was a two hour tour of Tempelhof, Berlin’s old airport. The grounds have been turned into a public park and it’s now a great place to do some cycling without worrying about traffic. That’s not the only draw, of course; aside from the extensive green space for picnics and barbecues, there are small “attractions” sprinkled throughout. There’s a very stereotypically Berlin “fair” with rusty signs and strange attractions, as well as a putt-putt golf course made from scrap metal and other found objects.
The majority of the tour takes place inside the airport. Our tour guide was really informative and friendly; we learned so much in just under two hours. Unfortunately, she did say we could only take photos for personal use. I don’t make money off of my blog, but just to err on the safe side of things, I’m only going to share photos I took outside of the airport.
Like this guy, who was once perched atop of Tempelhof Airport during nazi-era Germany. According to our tour guide, the Americans first painted him like an American bald eagle. Then, after he needed to come down to install some equipment, they sent his head to the USA. He spent some time at a military base before being “rediscovered” and sent back to Berlin. Now, you can see him sitting in front of the main entrance.
The tour also included a look at the WWII bomb shelters built into the airport. There are still original WWII-era paintings on the wall. Our tour guide said they had been painted to give babies and young children “something to look at” while their parents waited for the all clear.
The most interesting part of the airport for me was the section once used by the US Army. They even had a basketball court and bowling lanes. The bowling lanes are long gone, but you will still get to see the basketball court if you go on the tour.
Jan and I also toured the Cold War fallout shelters that are hidden throughout Berlin, including one that is still accessible (provided you’re on the tour!) from a major subway station. We were able to see (and sit on) the beds planned for the shelters, and we also got to look at the kitchen and medical area. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed on the tour at all; the above photo is one that I found on a free photo website.
I don’t know where it was taken; but, if someone told me it was taken at the bomb shelter tour, I’d believe them. It looks very similar to one of the early rooms the tour guide showed us, right down to what appears to be a hand crank generator.
The tour was through Berliner Unterwelten, a club that finds and maintains structures from Berlin’s past. I’ve also been on their Dark Worlds tour, where they guide you through old WWII air raid shelters. I highly recommend booking a tour if you’re in Berlin. I’m personally looking forward to doing another tour with them once we’re able to (safely) visit again.