I first had the opportunity to travel to Berlin in 1979, when I was a student at the Gesamthochschule in Essen. One of my friends used to attend the Berlin Film Festival every year, and he invited me to join him.
Sadly I had to turn down the invitation, as I was due in France for the second half of my “year abroad” – which was an integral part of earning a degree in Modern Languages. I have regretted that decision ever since.
37 years later, I’m wandering round Berlin with the same friend, having not seen him – or spoken German – for more than two decades. We both have grey hair now. It’s also much shorter than it was.
I’m sure Berlin has change a lot since then too…
I have travelled to Berlin to deliver a talk at the Polyglot Gathering, on the topic “Do Introverts Make The Best Polyglots“. This takes up one day, and I have 3 days left to explore the city – one on my own, two with my friend.
I’m staying in an AirBnB* apartment in the Brunnenviertel district, which is very handy for getting to most parts of the city by tram or U-Bahn. My friend is staying with friends near the Tiergarten, on the other side of the city.
This is the first time I’ve travelled abroad on my own in 15 years – although I used to do it regularly. Another milestone, especially in light of my illness.
From Bernauer Straße I take the U-Bahn to Alexanderplatz, for the Fernsehturm (TV tower), which I can see in the distance from the window of my apartment (that iconic view was one of my reasons for choosing the apartment).
It always seems to be the thing to do, to find the tallest building so that you can get a birds-eye view of the city. On this occasion (as on many occasions) the queue is longer than my patience, so I make do with the cats-eye view instead.
Then I get a tram to the Hackesche Höfe – a complex of “Jugendstil” or “Art Nouveau” buildings around a series of courtyards. The complex includes a cinema (which still shows films daily), cafés, shops and restaurants.
I find an ice-cream vendor and spend some time admiring the architecture from the courtyard, before climbing to the top floor of the cinema building to film the milling crowds.
After a conversation with a woman at the tram stop, about the quickest way to get to the Bundestag / Reichstag, I catch the public bus 100, having pre-booked to visit the Reichstagskuppel (cupola), which was designed by the architect Norman Foster.
I decided to visit the Reichstagskuppel after seeing a photograph on Instagram. I am in awe of the elegant glass structure atop the imposing Reichstag building, and I spend quite some time taking photographs from every angle and filming other visitors circulating around the edge of the structure like ants on ramps.
To finish the day, I hop on the public bus 100 again, at the Brandenburger Tor, and head for the Museeninsel (Museum Island). I only get as far as the Berliner Dom – before setting off this morning, I stubbed my toe, and it’s getting very painful.
I treat myself to a taxi ride back home, via a supermarket. Unfortunately, it’s a public holiday, so the supermarket is closed – just as well I bought a few things on my arrival. I shan’t starve – but, like Marie-Antoinette, I might have to eat cake!
AirBnB* – this is a discount / affiliate link – click on it to get £30 off your first trip on Airbnb!