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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. 46, 10119 Berlin-Mitte