Arriving into Berlin at night, our first impressions were hazy, curious and intrigued.
The streets were darkly lit and as we neared our neighbourhood, the walls became more and more colourful with graffiti and street art. Both fighting for space on abandoned buildings nestled amongst manicured parks.
We wandered the nearby streets to find a bar. Shop after shop was closed or occupied by only distant memories of what they once were. Empty except for the dust that had settled on unwanted furniture.
Stumbling into a barely-there bar, we entered a space that oozed an ‘I don’t give a f**k’ attitude. While the couches appeared rescued from a well-used second hand store and your shoes stuck to the floor as you walked, there was a warmth to it. A feeling that had our inner rock n’ roll selfs want to come out.
The light of our first morning brought with it a completely different city, removing any trace of assumptions set the night before. People were out on bicycles or walking their dogs. Every street had greenery and natural life scattered amongst busy cafes spilling out onto the footpath.
Following the direction many were headed in, we came across an abandoned airport, Tempelhof Feld. What was once an iconic pre-World War II airport is now the city’s largest park. Communal herb gardens take their place just off the footpath and as you wander the neverending runways, there are groups of people still going from the night befores’ activities, kids racing about, people using the space as a running track and others using it for their morning park-stroll.
Berlin is unapologetically raw. They don’t have the friendliest of service and are 100% themselves. Never make the assumption that you are doing them a favour by being there as a tourist.
WHERE WE STAYED; BERLIN ACCOMMODATION
We booked a small Airbnb in the Northern Neukölln district. Described as Berlin’s most desirable and ‘up and coming’ district.
We didn’t book our place for this reason though. We have family who live in the same district so wanted to stay close to them. After having spent some time in the district we feel like the translation for ‘up and coming’ is ‘uber hipster’.
The Airbnb is in a neighbourhood called Schillerkiez, which is within the Northern Neukölln district and borders Tempelhof Feld [abandoned airport]. Our Airbnb was the perfect place for two. While there is the option for a third, unless a small child, we would recommend keeping the place for just two. Easily accessible and close to everything we ventured out to see, it suited us perfectly for the five days we were there for.
This district and neighbourhood, while short walking distances to many heaving bars and clubs, and cafes, is not city central. So if you are after a city-only style trip to Berlin, we would not recommend staying in the surrounding districts.
In saying that, the city was a very short train ride away and our style of travel is to always stay a little bit out of the main sqaure to explore and experience more. The ‘real side’ of a city if you will.
OUTSIDE THE HOTEL; BERLIN TO-DO’S
While in Berlin, Mr Jones was turning the big 3 0. So I [Mrs Jones] wanted to find something special and unique to do, to celebrate it.
Air Berlin offers a range of unique flight [by helicopter or hot air balloon] tours. The one we experienced was incredible.
We arrived at a nearby local Berlin airport, and awaited our private pickup. While this is a smaller airport, expect to be surrounded by locals waiting to also board a flight, in ugg-boots and staring, heads cocked, wandering why you’re suited up for a short flight.
Through the usual boarding gate, onto the tarmac, we were personally escorted out the doors and straight into a private limousine. To say we felt bougie [but loving it] was an understatement. We hoped those ugg-boot locals were still staring.
The limousine takes you to an offshoot on the runway where the helicopter is waiting. Once you have finished your glasses of champagne [oh did we forget to mention they feed you champagne from start to finish?!] then you have some photos taken and are geared up and popped into the back of the helicopter.
Flying over the city and taking in the views below takes about 15 minutes. The pilot then lands at a nearby private airport. Included in the package is a mini photoshoot [which we were not expecting]. Once the pilot has turned off the helicopter and headed inside, a photographer appears ready to take you through your own mini photoshoot. You get given one free shot and, from what we could gather from the email later sent in German, are offered the others to purchase.
Once your glamour shoot is done, you are popped into another private car, with champagne of course, and taken to the castle-like hotel, The Lakeside Burghotel, in Strausberg. Here you are greeted with champagne on arrival, followed by a fine-dining three course lunch inside the hotels restaurant before you and your full bellies and champagne filled heads are sent back into the private car, back onto the helicopter and then back to the local Berlin airport.
The Joneses Rating
Berlin was, for our first stop on a two month holiday, surprisingly inexpensive.
The most expensive meal we had was at an Australian cafe serving smashed avocado and flat white coffees. So; fair that it was more expensive than the usual coffee + pastry breakfast Europe usually offers.
We didn’t go to any theatre shows, but did look into them. The prices were well priced, we just didn’t have time.
Bars and drinks are on-par [when converted to AUD$] to what we would pay back home in Australia if we went out and only ordered the specials for the night.
WHAT WE WOULD RETURN FOR; BERLIN MUST DO’S
We hired bicycles and cycled through the city, other surrounding districts and across parks almost as big as the neighbourhoods themselves.
During the ride we rode through districts and neighbourhoods which felt very ‘Joneses’. We loved the experience and vibe of the district we stayed in, but we would return to explore other districts that oozed European charm. Buildings with waterfalls of flowering plants from the rooftops, corner-cafes and boutiques full of unique wares.
WHAT WE WOULD LEAVE BEHIND
Smoking still being allowed in bars. The last time we came home stinking of cigarettes was when we both worked in bars, during our youth.
BERLIN CITY GUIDE
The Joneses Berlin
If you are craving a full breakfast, Aussie style coffee, vegan dishes or just some fresh avocado, head along to Uppers Espresso Cafe.
We found a lot of places still only accepted cash, no EFTPOS facilities, so you may need to be a little more than other European cities.
Whether you like bike riding or not, jump on one. Riding past the Great Berlin Wall and through parks you can get lost in, will have you seeing so much more than by foot. At from a different perspective; one from a locals.