Beyond Checkpoint Charlie – an insider’s guide to Berlin

Hi Frugalistas!

In this Insider Guide we’re off to cosmopolitan Berlin, with my very cosmopolitan friend Angelique Larderot.  A true citizen of the world, Angelique has her own unique take on this great city!

RIMG0016_9

Photo credit: frugalfirstclasstravel

1. Berlin has a lot of history attached to it – a lot of it is stereotypical of Berlin’s Nazi and Communist past.  What activities or sites in Berlin would you encourage visitors to see in order to move past those stereotypes?

Above all it is important to understand that even though Berlin is the capital of Germany, it is also extremely poor, and is dependent upon financial support from the other regions of the country.

While the population is very eclectic, there are still values specific to Berlin – freedom and mixing together.  Numerous demonstrations and activities are organized in support of minorities, against nuclear energy and Nazism.  There aren’t any particular places that exemplify this idealism, but you can experience it as you walk around the streets of the city.

 2. As an expatriate living in Berlin, I would imagine you would have many visitors from out of town.  What is your favorite place in Berlin to take out of town visitors, and what makes it so special?

Charlottenburg Photo credit:  wikipedia commons

Charlottenburg
Photo credit: wikipedia commons

I really love taking my friends out to Charlottenburg Palace.  The palace isn’t very big, but has some real treasures.  It is impossible not to feel full of devotion when discovering the splendid family chapel, and I love the display of Chinese porcelain.

 3. Tell me about your favorite place that I wouldn’t find in a guidebook.

The Central Cinema.  It isn’t a true tourist attraction, but this little cinema reminds me of my childhood.  There are only 3 theatres, with wooden seats and an old popcorn machine.  The films screened there are classics and independent films .  The cashier will give you a little ticket of such poor quality, but when you have it in your hand, it brings back memories!

 4. What is your perfect day out and about in Berlin and why?

First, start with a good breakfast.

From my house, I pass by the Kastanienallee – a chic shopping street during the middle of the 19th century.  Now you will find a park, ice cream vendors, shops with local Berlin fashion and many cafes and restaurants.

I would continue to the Hackershermarkt where I would eat lunch on the grass beside the River Spree.  Occasionally I call out an enthusiastic “guten tag” to the tourists on their cruises.

Before it gets too crowded, I would then go to the Pergamon museum.  This isn’t a very big museum, but it always makes an impression on me after all these years.  In one of the rooms I find myself in the middle of the grandeur of Greco-Roman architecture.  In the room after, I lose myself in the turquoise mosaic murals – a reconstruction of Babylonian architecture.

Upstairs, there are Islamic arts and I’m transported to another world like entering the room of a mosque.  Absolutely magical.

I would finish in the evening in a beer garden with some German snacks (sausages, bretzels, bread).

 5.  For a visitor staying in Berlin for a number of days, could you share some of your favorite day trip destinations?

Schloss Sanssouci Photo credit:  wikipedia commons

Schloss Sanssouci
Photo credit: wikipedia commons

Potsdam is about 30minutes from Berlin by train.  A cinema museum allows you to discover the cultural aspects of the country.  Finally continue onto the magnificent Rococco Sanssouci palace built by the king of Prussia in the 18th century.  The gardens include a vine, a mill, a pagoda….there is surprise after surprise.

A trip on the river to Spreewald.  There you can discover this little natural paradise by horse, bike or on foot.  You can buy good local farm products from the site and participate in numerous cultural activities.  Enjoy the flora and fauna.

Spreewald  Photo credit:  berlin.de

Spreewald
Photo credit: berlin.de

6.  What is the best way to find out about concerts, exhibitions and other special events for English speaking visitors?

http://gogermany.about.com is a complete site that offers numerous posts on varied subjects, such as clubs, restaurants

http://www.toytowngermany.com has forums for the expatriate community to exchange advice on living the best Berlin experience.  They also have a detailed list of events in the capital.

7.  Some quick fire favorites now:

 Favorite garden(s)/outdoor space(s)

 Tiergarten park and Volkspark Friedrichshain.

Favorite window shopping street

The area around the Hackerscher Markt for shopping far away from the international brands.

Favorite market(s)

In winter, all the Christmas Markets!  They start the last week in November and continue till Christmas.

The big antique market at Ostbahnhof.

Favorite spot for a tea or coffee

Anna Blume for cakes and hot apple juice with fresh mint

Les Enfants Gates – a French café for coffee and tarte au citron.

Favorite value for money restaurant(s)

I’m not a fan of the local cuisine, but I do particularly like Sophie Neck.

For breakfast or brunch I always enjoy Die Zuckerfee (the Sugar Fairy), or Zuckerstuck.

For a casual and unusual experience don’t miss W der Imbiss to try a nan-pizza

If the urge for sushi strikes, don’t hesitate to try Omoni

Finally, let yourself be tempted by a real pizza a I Due Forni, even if the service isn’t what you were expecting, you won’t forget that first bite in a hurry!

About Angelique:  

moi

I’m a young French woman who loves to travel.  Having spent 12 years in Asia, I returned to good old Europe where I’m experiencing a huge culture shock!  I am a teacher of French and Chinese and I love to communicate and immerse myself in society.  I’m not afraid to try anything that is new – particularly when it comes to food!

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2 Comments on “Beyond Checkpoint Charlie – an insider’s guide to Berlin”

  1. Pretraveller 15/10/2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Angelique, thanks for sharing your Berlin tips! They certainly bring back memories of my visit to Berlin over 20 years ago! I flew into Berlin as my first stop on my very first solo backpacking adventure. And I visited the Pergamon Museum on that visit and still recall how amazing it was… it must be time to go back again.

    • Angélique 28/10/2013 at 3:30 am #

      Well, you are more than welcome to come back again 🙂 If you need someone to take you to tasty restaurants or show you around, I am there!

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