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My Express Travel Guide to Berlin; Where to Stay, Shop, Sip and Eat

May 29, 2013

Spring, Berlin, Germany, Travel

The first time I’ve been to Berlin was six years ago. I was going through a rough time in my life (a breakup, to be more precise) and needed a place to escape to from New York. I have always wanted to go to Berlin and that was the right opportunity. I’ve stayed with some good friends and walked a lot around East Berlin. The only thing that bothered me (beside my broken heart) was the cold European winter. Back then I was not a photographer yet (I was walking around with a pocket camera) and was quite in distress. Therefore, this recent visit was sort of a redeeming experience.

Presently, there is a buzz going on about Berlin. I know some Israelis who are investing in Real Estate and some International Artists who find an inspiration in this city.

If I have to describe Berlin in one word, it will be Urbanism. As I was staying mostly in East Berlin, navigating back and forth from Mitte to Kreuzberg, the architecture I was exposed to was a combination of Stalinist architecture, a refurbished 18th-19th century apartment buildings (buildings look like they came out of the same assembly line), Bauhaus style and some nice surprises in the shape of contemporary architecture (lots of big windows and glass) and new modern buildings and condominiums, which are mostly occupied by International residents and young families. I think May is the best time to visit Berlin. Weather is nice and the Berliners are getting quite loose and relaxed right after May Day, the official day that welcomes Spring. If you have an option to choose, than prefer the Spring and Summer days to the Winter ones.

Here is my Berlin’s intake and my express guide to East Berlin; Where to Stay, Shop, Sip and Eat.

Stay: Hotel Gat Point Charlie

Hotel Gat Check Point Charlie, Berlin, Germany

Hotel Gat Check Point Charlie, Berlin, Germany

Hotel Gat Check Point Charlie, Berlin, Germany

Hotel Gat Check Point Charlie, Berlin, Germany

My first interaction with GatRooms hotel chain was last year in Lisbon. Since it was a very successful experience, I decided to visit their hotel in Berlin. (If something is working well, I’d better stick with it, right?). One of the best things about GatRooms hotels is their premium locations. In Lisbon it was Rossio Square and in Berlin the location is just around the corner from Check Point Charlie. From there, it is a walking distance to Unter Den Linden, The Jewish Museum, Brandenburger Tor and more. Beside its reasonable prices, the young and hip rooms’ design, the breakfast in GatRooms is great and generous. It is not the typical continental breakfast that offers a toast, jam and coffee. The breakfast is rich and varies from different kinds of breads, cheese, confiture, cereals, eggs and cakes.

The hotel offeres bike rentals (the easiest way to travel around in Berlin like a local) and the staff is extremely helpful.

Hotel Gat Point Charlie, Mauerstrasse 81-82. 10117 Berlin

Shop: Pro Qm 

Pro Qm, Berlin, Germany, Books

Pro Qm, Berlin, Germany, Books

Pro-Qm, Books, Germany, Berlin

I have been reading about this store even before I booked my trip to Berlin and intended to go there ever since I read about it in my Wallpaper Berlin City Guide. I love visiting book stores wherever I travel, and moreover, when the book store is dedicated to design , graphic design, architecture and pop culture. Needless to say I was in awe when I got in. Mostly because I was planning to visit this store for a while now. I loved the clean, simple white shelves, loaded with books and the blast of shocking pink color in the shape of ladders and some shelvings. If the majority of the books was not in German, I could stay there forever.

Pro Qm, Almstadtstraße 48-50, 10119 Berlin (closed on Sunday) 

KM Shop, ThisDas

DAS, Berlin, Germany

Just down the road from Rro Qm, I found this nice beautiful shop KM (I love how the shops are called by single letters). The yellow chairs outdoors just called me in. If I need to describe this store in one word, it will be Minimalism. A collection of various artists (locals and internationals) and a variety of Jewelry, stationary, home accessories and personal ones. I love the yellow walls and how everything, as small as they are, just pop up and make you want to buy them.

Km Shop, Almstadtstraße 1, 10119 Berlin

Flohmarkt, Flea Market in Mauer Park 

Flohmarkt, Flea Market in Mauer Park

Flohmarkt, Flea Market in Mauer Park

Flohmarkt, Flea Market in Mauer Park

I’m not necessarily a flea market’s fan, but I find flea markets quite captivating from a photographer’s perspective. I think that flea markets are like small melting pots. They can teach you a lot about the culture, the tradition, the custom and the style of the city they are located. As the idiom says: ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, I find my ‘treasure’ in photographing the scene. Flohmarkt is one of the biggest flea markets in Berlin and it is located in Mauer Park. (The name Mauer Park means Wall-Park, named after the former part of the Berlin Wall, which can be found there). Even though my girlfriend dragged me to this market and it was such a hot day, I enjoyed the scene very much. If you are a Vintage junky, this market is for you. Plan it wisely and take a stroll along the Wall.

Flohmarkt, Bernauer Strasse 63-64, 13355 Berlin-Mitte

Sip: Napol Jonska

Berlin, Cafe, Germany

cafe Berlin, Germany

Cafe Berlin, Travel, Germany

Nothing can go wrong when the walls of the cafe you have just discovered are colored in pink. I came across this cute cafe while coming back from the Flea Market in Mauer Park on Sunday. When I got in, people were busy having a late brunch which included mostly waffels and crepes. The owner of the cafe was also having a brunch with her family and friends at that time. She was happy to tell me that she was buying most of the products from organic farming and was making the majority of the products herself with her staff. She is using only fresh fruit, fresh milk and organic eggs.

Napol Jonska, Kastanienallee 43, 10119 Berlin

Cafe Kauf dich Glücklich

Cafe Kauf dich Glücklich, berlin, Germany

Cafe Kauf dich Glücklich, berlin, Germany

I tend to believe that if my friend Peter hadn’t told me about this place, I would have had to find it by myself. This vintage-look cafe reminded me so much of a place I use to go to in the flea market of Jaffa when I am in Tel Aviv. To ‘try out’ this gorgeous cafe, I scheduled a meeting with Thea and Tony, aka as SisterMag. I loved it when the furniture all looked like taken from a different store or different era, all collected together in one place.

I think there is something going on with waffels in Berlin, as it was also the highlight of the place. (same as in Napol Jonska). The cafe is located in one of the trendiest streets in Prenzlauer Berg in East Berlin. Prenzlauer Berg is one of the most popular districts in Berlin, and one of Berlin’s prettiest neighbourhoods, known mostly for its Art scene. Cafe Kauf dich Glücklich is among the popular places where locals hang out.

Cafe Kauf dich Glücklich, Oderberger Straße 44, 10435 Berlin

Eat: Monsieur Vuong

Monsieur Vuong, Berlin, Spring, Travel, Germany

Not sure about German food and German dishes, as I didn’t have the chance to try them out. But one evening, while I was strolling in the streets of Mitte, I have noticed a hectic scene and a young crowd outside a buzzing restaurant. It was Monsieur Vuong, a hype Vietnamese restaurant with Pink and Red colored walls, great cocktails and a fresh Vietnamese food. It was actually my last night in Berlin and I wish I would have found Monsieur Vuong earlier. Great variety of food, refreshing cocktails, reasonable price and fun, live atmosphere.

Monsieur Vuong, Alte Schönhauser Str. 4610119 Berlin-Mitte

Editorials Intimacy Under the Wires Travel

Marie Claire Italia April Issue

March 21, 2012

Just in time for Spring Season, the Fashion Magazine Marie Claire ITALIA is featuring my ongoing photography project ‘Intimacy under the Wires’. See the latest April Spring Issue.

For me, it is just another reason to go back to Italy and revisit….

I migliori panni della nostra vita
Lenzuola che sventolano, calzini spaiati, tovaglie colorate, le vite degli altri appese ai fili dei balconi. Sono quelle che Sivan Askayo, fotografa 36enne israeliana trapiantata a Manhattan, ama immortalare nei suoi viaggi, da Firenze fino a Tokyo. “Ero tornata dopo tanto tempo a Jaffa e mentre aspettavo un amico in un vicolo, ho alzato gli occhi. Una donna stendeva il bucato al sole: una scena che, vivendo a New York, avevo dimenticato”. Il suo progetto (in corso) Intimacy Under The Wires, racconta l’intimità esibita in città, sotto gli occhi di tutti.

marie claire, Travel, Laundry, Intimacy, April, Spring

Design & Lifestyle New York City

NY Fashion Week: A Day in My Life

February 17, 2012

Fashion Week, New York

6:00 in the morning: I get up, drink my morning coffee while checking my emails. Recharging both my batteries (another cup of coffee) and the camera’s and heading out to the Gym. I need to have at least one hour work out, otherwise I really feel bad walking among all those models/fashion editors/twiggy fashionistas. Thank God my Gym is only one block away from Lincoln Center. I can make it on time to the ‘before’ of Tory Burch’s Fashion show.
8:30 am: I am in Starbucks the corner of 63rd and Broadway. i think this branch might be the busiest in the city this morning. A long line of ‘fashionably-dressed -caffeine-addicted’ people holding their iPads/Camera/Hand bags I wouldn’t mind adopting.
Having some small talks, getting some of yesterday’s reviews and off to Lincoln Center Plaza. Some people at the entrance giving away the ‘Daily Fashion Front Row’ and some other fashion magazines. Who has time to read, anyway?
fashion week, ny

Tori’s fashion show is at 9 am at the Alice Tully Hall on 65th street. It probably started already and I missed the people who were getting in. It’s the first show of the day and people are more relaxed. That will change within an hour or so. Guaranteed.

9:15 am: I walk back to Lincoln Center’s plaza, on time to catch the J.Crew fashion show at 9:30 am. My God! So much color! Then I see a glittery green skirt walking towards me. One of the photographers tells me it is Kelly Killoren from Real Housewives of New York City. I don’t really care. All I see is that glittery sequined green skirt with a matching green bag.

ny, fashion show

At 9:30 am all the late comers start racing towards the fashion hall. On heels!

The J. Crew show is till 10:30 but 10:00 am is the Badgley Mischka show. Another party of people is coming while the J. Crew crowd is getting out for a cigarette break and to have their pictures taken.

j. crew, ny fashion show

ny fashion show

All of a sudden I notice a group of tall people and among them a familiar blonde figure. But who is she for God’s sake? I must admit that for a second I thought it was Georgina May Jagger, the daughter of Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger, but one of the photographers next to me whisperes in my ear ‘It’s Lara Stone, can’t you tell?’. They are all so look alike.

lara stone, ny fashion week

Around 10:30 more people are coming out of the J. Crew show and I can catch some more color splashes with my camera. So beautiful.

Note to self: Check out the J.Crew catalogue I got in the mail and mark some new items to buy. A must!

Then I spot Maria Duenas Jacobs, the Accessories editor at Glamour magazine. And she is wearing jeans. But she is so beautiful, so it is forgiven

maria duanes jacobs, glamour

Talking about colors, then out of the Mercedes Benz halls I could spot a fuchsia coat walking on two skinny legs and all photographers are running toward it. Og my God, it is Anna Dello Russo. I decide to also run after this coat with its two skinny legs and photograph Anna. And she is so slim….and she is so happy to be photographed with well, almost everyone by everyone. Some girl from a European TV network asks her what was her favorite show and the fuchsia coat said it was very impressed by Prabal Gurung‘s latest collection.

anna della rosso fashion week

Then the  fuchsia coat hurries to the next show, and we , the photographers, take advantage of the brief break in between the shows to take more pictures of the people outside.

Disclosure: As we, the photographers, want to shoot, the people who come to the shows want to be photographed. They wear their best clothes (and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are hiring a stylist just for this day) and they pose in front of our cameras, like, if not as, some of the professional models in the shows. Every one wants to find himself/herself the next day on one of the fashion blogs or websites. Speaking of which, I just recognized Scott Schuman, who is The Sartorilaist. Oy, I never thought he is so short and compact.

So if he is here, I thought to myself, then his French girlfriend, Garance  Dore, or whatever her name is, should be here as well. And indeed, few feet away I saw Garance taking pictures of some girl for her blog. I’m a bit disappointed by what she is wearing, no need to say more. One can sense the excitement in the crowd when Scott and Garance are around. Who doesn’t want to find himself at the Sartorialist as a good dresser?

Meanwhile I see Katie Couric and then Taylor Tomasi Hill the fashion editor of Marie Claire, wearing high heel sandals to die and kill for. Perfection!

11:00 am: I’m having another coffee break at Starbucks, same place. same people. Who need caffeine as well. Everyone with their iPads, iPhone, Blackberries, and I can already imagine the graph of Twitter sky rocking. After my coffee break, I decide to change my location and head down to Bryant Park. If I time it right, I might get there on time when people are leaving Vera Wang’s.

13:00 pm: So if I am already at the park,  I should go and say hi to a friend of mine who is a make up artist at one of the shows. No way I can get an entrance to behind the scenes so my friend is coming outside, we grab lunch, breath some ‘normal’ air and I head downtown to Chelsea. A friend who is having a gallery there is renting it out for a fashion display and invited me over.

15:00 pm: I am meeting with my Amsterdam friend, Elyne, She has decided to focus on photographing mostly shoes. While waiting to get in the Chelsea gallery, I show her my shoe collection I got on my camera. The hand bags collection, I should show her later.

The Chelsea gallery display was packed with a different type of crowd than the one in Lincoln Center. The Chelseas are more daring, less trendy than the Upper West Siders. The Fashion show was of Viktor Luna, a Mexican-born designer, who grew up in Los Angeles and works in New York and his style is more of Punk Rock and Pulse. Except for one pair of pants I could see myself wearing, the rest of his clothes were not really my style.

I looked at the models who were looking at us. None of them moved. Well, maybe only one moved, or someone moved her, I don’t know. They were standing there. Frozen.

I got bored of looking at people who are looking back at me, so I’ve decided to take some pictures of the audience. At least the audience was more ‘alive’ and interesting. Then I notice two drag Queens. Was Pricilla Queen of the Desert making a comeback?

It took me twenty minutes to view the show to decide to take a taxi uptown back to Lincoln Center, to make it on time to my favorite, Diane von Furstenberg. Another round of shoots to catch more of the people who come late. Elisa Sednaoui, the model who DVF hosted on the first fashion week was fashionably late. She was wearing all Pink. Well, she can do it.

17:00 pm: I am going home to edit some of my shots, recharge the batteries (and the camera’s as well), changing clothes and off to the Meat Packing area.
20:00 pm: The Meat Packing District is packed. The French Purple magazine is giving a party at the Standard. Among the party guests I could spot some fashion bloggers, fashion assistants, fashion wanna bees and of course, fashion victims.

22:00 pm: I’m running out of subjects for small talks. I’m getting bored. I’m going back home.

Tomorrow is another day.