Postcard from Berlin

I spent a few days in Berlin last week and had a great time. There was lots to see and do and because my trip coincided with Fashion Week I met some fascinating fashion folk at my B&B, one of whom attended the Hugo Boss show which made me very envious indeed. The other was there to buy shoes for his retail group back home. I knew that there must have been people who did this but it was great fun to actually meet one.

Anyway here are some highlights:

1) I stayed in a superb B&B called Zimmer Mittendrin which was perfectly placed to get to everywhere and was so comfortable and relaxing. Sabine Knoll lives next door and is on hand to help you settle in - she really is wonderful and welcoming and her breakfasts are absolutely stunning. I can't recommend this place more highly.

2) The Berliner Philharmoniker - a long-held dream of mine to see this orchestra with Sir Simon Rattle conducting and I have to say that I was mesmerised. My Father would have loved it. The President of Croatia
Ivo Josipović) was there so there was a huge police presence since they found a grenade at their embassy on Monday. Arriving to the stunning concert hall (2nd row, 3rd in) to see a policeman with a machine gun standing on the roof really added to the atmostphere.

3) Sights-wise I took in The East End Gallery with the longest portion of the Wall still remaining (1st row, 1st in) and decorated with sligthly iffy art from artist around the World but interesting none-the-less. The Berliner Dom (1st row, 2nd in), the Neue Synagoge (4th row, 1st in), the Brandenburg Gate (3rd row, 2nd in), the Fernsehturm (TV tower - 4th row, 3rd in) are all easy to find and are all fantastic to see. I was really looking forward to going up into the dome at the Reichstag but sadly it was closed to all except pre-arranged groups and people who had a booked a table in the restaurant which I recommend as a good idea - you go straight in then and can simply buy a coffee. If I had checked their website first I could have got the lowdown... doh. So I took in the Sony Centre instead (3rd row, 1st in) which was fantastic. I also highly recommend just walking around and checking out the amazing architecture in the further out surburbs (especially north of Alexanderplatz) and between the Brandenburg Gate and Unter den Linden.

4) For shopping there are lost of amazing shopping streets and malls but I was on a strict 'no spending' regime so I stuck with simply walking down Friedrichstrasse which is very beautiful. I wimped out (surprise) and bought my 2011 wedding season shoes though. Anyone who reads this knows that I take each season's pair of shoes extremely seriously. Since I can be on my feet for sometimes 12 hours straight I need the most comfortable shoes in the World so the new ones are by Think!. They aren't sexy but they sure are comfortable. An interesting website too - one of their tag lines reads 'individual, comfortable, natural'... I like that.

5) For once I didn't visit a photography museum or gallery, sticking instead to dropping in on funky book and magazine shops which kept me amused for quite a while. A fabulous bookshop is Buchhandlung Walther Konig near the Berliner Dom and is a great browse. I found an hysterical magazine there called 'I Love You' which is well worth a look (it's a blog). It is really funny. And then I came across a shop called Issue and all it sells is magazines - and it sells A LOT of different types of magazines. It looks amazing and is super cool. The only photographic thing I stopped at was the Museum fur Fotografie / Helmut Newton Sammlung where I was hoping that they'd feature younger photographic artists alongside the work of Newton. No such luck. Not only was all of the Newton work on tour somewhere but the entire gallery was taken up with the work of his wife. Now I'm sure it's fine but really, 8 Euros not even to see Helmut Newton's work (which I don't even particularly like). There is also a shrine to Helmut Newton on the ground floor. I couldn't have run away any faster if I tried.

6) And finally, my museum trips included only two - the DDR Museum (2nd row, 1st & 4th - 4th row, 2nd & 4th) near the Dom which is a really fun museum showing you what it was like to live in East Berlin between 1945 and 1989. I was expecting to giggle a little at some of the items on display but to be honest all that happened is that I felt catapulted back to the 1970s and my childhood. Polyester clothing, lots of brown and orange, big hair, terrible architecture, plasticky toys, formica etc. etc. Even the Trabant felt like my Grandmother's Renault 5 with it's dashboard-mounted gear stick. As I looked around everyone else was laughing but I was feeling a clammy chill throughout especially when I saw the kitchen and sitting room. Brilliant all the same. The Gemaldegalerie is amazing and one of my highlights. I spent 2 hours there but I think 3 would have been better. It has 72 rooms and if you did the entire space it would be 2km. My feet hurt by the end... but it was worth it.

Beyond all of this I found the people warm and friendly and the city really buzzy & fun. Only one German (from Munich) openly mentioned terrible British food, the drizzly and grey skies of London, and the fact that we are pants at taking penalties. I kept my mouth firmly shut of course. I mean, what could I have said in reply? Ha ha ha he he he ho ho ho

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