One reason Austin and I were so excited to move to a new country was the opportunity to travel. So far we’ve been to France, Portugal, and Iceland this year (and he’s been to Malta with work). So when our friends said they were going to be in Berlin and did we want to meet up, we found some absurdly cheap flights and a great hotel deal and booked a weekend away.
I first visited Berlin the summer after high school, when my choir went on tour. I didn’t remember much when I returned 12 years later with my sister. She and I had a wonderful time exploring the city and even hopping over to Potsdam for a day trip. Since then it’s been a city I remember fondly. Now, eight years later, it’s just as lovely as I recalled.
It was also so cold. So very, very cold. Not sure if autumn is a thing in Berlin but, if so, it ended well before we arrived. A quick bus to our hotel (which was literally next door to the Tacheles, which sadly is being torn down) and we were off. We hoped some Christmas markets would be open, but they were still in set-up mode. We ended up getting dinner at a tourist-y beer hall that still had delicious food. (The service was borderline hilarious though – took like 20 minutes to order, and another 15 to find someone who would let us pay our bill when we were finished). I even drank beer, as I tend to do when I’m in Germany.
To get a respite from the cold, we wandered into the Ritter Sport factory store and holy crap. I love chocolate, but have never really picked up any of their bars. We decided to get a few samplers and became pretty obsessed with the one with Speculoos cookie bits in it. So good. And of course we found a book store with a HUGE English language section and bought books, because even on vacation we’re the same people as we are at home.
Near our hotel was a delightful cocktail bar, with high ceilings, low lighting, and (probably intentionally) distressed decor. I had an elderflower gin and tonic, which is quickly becoming my favorite cocktail. We returned with our friends the next night.
The next day was apparently Totensonntag, which is a day of mourning before all the Christmas festivities commence. Probably explains the cheap hotel room — very little was open. Austin and I decided to spend about three hours wandering Tiergarten, in the bitter cold. Our friends arrived but needed a nap, so we relaxed and warmed up at our hotel until we met up for another delicious German dinner. As a vegetarian I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find things to eat, but each of my meals was delicious.
Monday was our last day, and we finally got to see Christmas markets! We ate so much – pretzels with cheese, these bread toast thingies with toppings, gluehwein, egg nog, cocoa, waffles with nutella. I know a lot of places in the US have Christmas markets, but those to me end up feeling like Farmers Markets hopped up on sugar. German Christmas markets are just something else entirely, and need to be seen in person.
It was such a short trip that we didn’t end up doing much else, so I know we’ll want to return. And probably when it’s a bit warmer.