As I mentioned before my boyfriend was working in Berlin for a little over a year and in that time I have visited the city 12 times. The last visit (for now) was in December 2016 when I spent four days in Berlin. Luckily my place of work is very flexible and supports agile working, so it’s not a problem to work remotely for a couple of days.
So on Friday, I worked from home and in the evening we went to a restaurant called Monsieur Vuong, which has been recommended in a lot of Berlin guides as a place, which serves really good food and isn’t very expensive. After seeing this restaurant being mentioned in a lot of places, I thought that we must try it.
They don’t take reservations and it was full when we arrived around five o’clock, but despite that we only needed to wait five minutes or so. We were seated at the bar and ordered cocktails, Vietnamese fresh spring rolls for starters and pho soups. Cocktails were really good, the spring rolls were pretty good, but we both thought that pho lacked spices and flavor. So we were a bit disappointed after seeing this place being praised everywhere. Unfortunately the issue with not using enough spices is very usual for Berlin restaurants.
On Saturday we went to Michelberger Hotel for brunch. They had a superb selection for brunch and a lot of vegetarian and vegan options. The buffet had a large variety of options and in addition to the buffet, they served pancakes that day. The brunch was very good. If I’m not mistaken we paid 36€ for two people, but of course if you stay in the hotel, the breakfast is part of the room rate.
After brunch we took the train to Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen, which served as a concentration camp. We took S-bahn S1 to Oranienburg station, where the train terminates. The Sachsenhausen museum site is located something 1,7km away from the S-bahn station and it is actually quite easy to walk. There is a bus line 804, which goes like once every two hours (e.g. 12:23, 14:23, 16:23, 18:23), so if you miss it, you either need to walk or take the taxi. We missed the bus, so we decided to take the taxi to the museum. It cost close to 7€, but it was really cold that day, so we didn’t regret spending the money. 🙂
The site itself is free, but I recommend you get the audio guides, which were something like 3,50€ per person. There are guided tours, but there wasn’t one on any of the days that suited us, but audio guide isn’t a bad way to get to know the history of the place. Before heading in, we checked the timetable at the bus stop, so that we would catch the next bus, which was going back to the Oranienburg S-bahn station and we had almost two hours of time, which we thought would be enough.
The entrance to Sachsenhausen had the infamous Arbeit macht frei sign and the day was very cold, it was getting foggy, and there weren’t a lot of visitors, so the site appeared quite eery.
All the buildings that were here, were burned down. Some of them were restored, but the locations of the barracks are marked with the rectangles filled with gravel. There were lots of them…
You could enter some of the barracks, where some of the interior has been recreated and the rest of the space was used for history displays.
Some of the buildings were built as cell blocks.
Walking with audio guide proved to be quite slow (although the information was interesting) and the winter day didn’t make the situation any easier. We were freezing by the time we needed to leave in order to catch our bus, but we have managed to visit probably a bit over half of the museum site. So if you want to be thorough, you need a lot of time and in winter some really really warm clothing. I would say that both my visits to Auschwitz were more impressive (not sure if this is the right word for this kind of experience), but maybe because there we had a good guide. The audioguide gave a lot of details, but isn’t as effective in painting a full picture.
We ran back, returned our audio guides and got to the bus stop only to see that the stupid timetable information on the stop displays information for both this stop and the stop on the other side of the street. So the time we thought we would catch a bus to train station was in fact the time where the bus would come from the train station to the stop across the street. So yeah… our bus would come in another hour.
At this point we were so cold and pissed (Why on earth somebody would do the timetable display for both sides of the street?!) that we decided to walk to the train station. It took about 20 minutes and we came to the platform 1 minute before the train was leaving. Luckily S1s go every 20 minutes, but it was nice to get inside and warm up.
On Saturday in the evening we had a reservation to a restaurant called Volt. I saw great reviews and the food was supposed to be great, so we were really excited. The restaurant itself was very cozy especially in winter darkness, but unfortunately the food wasn’t as good as we had expected nor matched the prices.
Again I complain about the flavors. They were really mild. The main course and the dessert were our favorites. Also it was rather interesting that all the dishes were served with white wine only. But the dishes while were all quite ok, just lacked the inventive flavors we expected from this type of restaurant.
On Sunday we had brunch at a place called Distrikt Coffee. They also don’t accept reservations, but once again the wait wasn’t much longer than 10 minutes. The weather continued to be cold and rainy and this place exuded warmth. We ordered drinks first, but had drunk them before the food arrived, so we had to get another ones. I absolutely wanted pancakes and my boyfriend ordered a sandwich. I liked my pancakes, but boyfriend thought the sandwich was a bit too dry. Fresh mint tea I ordered as a second drink was good.
After brunch we headed to Reichstag. The top of the building is free of charge to visit, but you need to book the visit in advance. I thought that during the winter, it would be very easy to book, but Reichstag was always booked several days in advance. So this time we booked a month or so in advance. You need to go to the small glass barracks and present your letter of invitation (showing them the letter on the phone screen is fine) and then showing your ID and going through security. We were there about 30 min before our allocated time as we didn’t know how long the security process would take, but it took only a couple of minutes and they did let us in even though it wasn’t our time yet.
They ushered us in as a group of about 30 people. There is a security precaution that one door opens only when another is closed, but otherwise there wasn’t any excessive security measures. I’m not 100% sure, but I think that when I visited Reichstag for the first time in 2007 there wasn’t any security measures and you could just walk in, but I could be wrong.
The downside of booking the visiting date well in advance is of course that you can’t predict what the weather will be like on that day. And it rained on this day. It doesn’t bother much when you’re inside but when audio guide says that on the right you can see this and that, on this day it wasn’t as easy to spot the buildings the audioguide mentioned.
These mirrors are supposed to reflect the light from outside into the assembly hall located below.
In the evening we decided to have a simpler dinner than last night and went to a place called Frittiersalon, which was supposed to serve good hamburgers and poutine. I thought the food was pretty good, but nothing super special. Of course the price was much lower than in Volt. 🙂
On Monday I once again worked from home and in the evening it was time to finally have our last dinner in Berlin. We had booked a table in a restaurant called Eins44 and it was simply amazing! They served food that was super weird but also extremely delicious! 🙂 First of all, you cannot spot the restaurant from the street, but you need to cross two courtyards before you see the restaurant entrance. The place has a very industrial feel and the menu looks super strange, but as they start serving the dishes, you just hope they would never stop. 🙂 They also served some amazing wine and what was particularly surprising some really good German red wine. Everybody knows German Riesling, but to get superb German red wine is not a usual occurrence.
Also for the first time ever I was served red wine with dessert. Dessert had beetroot and chestnut ice cream and it was the strangest and one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. 🙂
At the end of dinner I got an sms from my mother asking whether we are ok and it turned out that at the same time we were having dinner the terrorist drove a truck into the Christmas market in Berlin. We were in another part of town and when taking the metro back home everything seemed so very normal that the attack seemed surreal.
The next day I caught the plane back to Helsinki and the security check seemed to be a bit more rigorous than normally, but life seemed to go on as usual. I lugged back two large bags of my boyfriend’s stuff and he followed three days later, so this is the end of that chapter in life and maybe it’s time to spend money on traveling to other places.