On our recent visit to Berlin, we went on a nostalgia trip around the city.
Himself was at University here a life time again, when indeed it was two cities, with the wall keep the two Germanys apart. Back then, on every street corner and in particular on the smart shopping streets were Konditoreis, where the black clad war widows ate their daily portion of Cafe Kuchen , ( coffee and cake). The most famous of these was Café Kranzler, we knew exactly where it was, on the Kurfürstendamm, not far from the equally famous Department Store Ka We De. We eventually saw the awning announcing the cafe, but wait a moment, didn’t it open onto the pavement? No! We had to climb 2 flights of stairs through a trendy clothing store to find, a small coffee bar and not Café Kranzler at all, and no cakes !!
Walking around it took us back to the late 60’s, on visiting the DDR one was obliged to exchange Deutsche Marks for DDR Marks, and could not change them back, they had to be spent. Shops were few and very un exciting, but we finally found a cafe, and although the cakes were not a patch on the western ones, at least we could spend our money.
Back to today. The traditional cafes were not to be seen, ( lots of Starbucks !) but not to be out done, we ventured into KA WA DA, which is still there and smarter than ever. Up on the top floor , we found a large cafeteria type restaurant, but very much up market, and what did they have? Cakes!!! And in abundance! Cakes are not something I usually crave, but we were on a mission, and it was hard to choose!!!
Having eaten at the Wonderful Facil, the previous night we went down market and decided to go to a Beer Hall, more in keeping with München maybe but fun nonetheless. We had stopped for a drink previously and thought that the food looked copious to say the least, even if not refined.
The place was extremely popular with students and older people alike. The speciality seemed to be “Die Beste, Krosse Ganze Hinterhaxe vom Schweineschinken, ein gutes kilo, mit bayrisch Kraut !!! Translated as a whole pork shank, which weighs at least a kilo and comes with Sauerkraut! It was indeed very popular, so much so, that I wonder if there are any pigs left!! And amazingly, the crackling was superb!
Me on the other hand, had the Weiner Schnitzle, which was great but I chose to forgo the Potato and gherkin warm salad and had Pommes Frites instead. Needless to say we did not have a starter nor a dessert. It was very much for old times sake and not something to experience everyday. It would appear that the beer hall very much catered for groups and students.
Berlin is a very nice city today, but although we stayed in Potzdammer Platz, which in the cold war days was very much a no mans land today it is smart and bustling. The hotel where we stayed was the venue of the recent Global female Leaders conference ( read Ivanka Trump). The Berlin Bear could be seen in many guises. We toured around, though this time not on a bicycle, though the city is flat and bicycles are everywhere.
We saw what is left of the Wall, which is in the EAST side as well as Alexander Platz, which was the centre of the old East Berlin, along with its TV tower. Many of the residences still date from the times of the DDR, rather austere and propaganda paintings on the walls.
We went to Potsdam, the city once the home of the Prussian Kings but more recently the site where Churchill, Truman and Stalin, met to decide the fate of Germany after WW2.
Today it is only 40 minutes on the train from berlin city centre and seems a little run down, remnants of the old East. However there si a Chateau worth seeing Chateau Sans Souci, which was the summer palace of Frederick the Great. It was his answer to rival Versailles and is well worth a visit, but a guided tour only.
Bottom line? Berlin is a city with a wealth of history, easy to get around, either by bus, UBahn, S Bahn or of course Taxi.