As most of you know, I have just returned from a visit to Berlin, where my Abu Dhabi friend, Jasmin, currently lives. While it was only a 6 day visit, I must say we have covered the city pretty much from head to toe, in the biggest summer heat – find out below what we have been up to 🙂
My first day in Berlin actually started at 9:00 a.m. when I landed in Berlin Tegel Airport (a very small airport) having just arrived from a short 1.5hrs long flight. My super efficient friend Jasmin sent me a beautiful screenshot with directions on how to reach the Waldorf Astoria Berlin (where she works), and it was just as easy. Take the X9 bus toward S+U Zoologisches Garten and 5 stops later you arrive!
I couldn’t believe that I was finally here after months of discussion, and when I saw Jasmin coming out of the elevator I felt goosebumps. The excitement I feel when I see her is immeasurable – she is an instant shot of sunshine with her blonde hair, blue eyes and sparkling smile.
She gave me a majestic tour of the Waldorf Astoria Berlin, with it’s to die for views of the Berlin Tiergarten (also know as the central park of Berlin). As always her knowledge is so addictive and impressive – although she is a fancy Director of Sales in this majestic property, she has a very homey and welcoming tone and instantly makes anyone feel comfortable. This is definitely something I admired when we worked together and I know her clients did as well. She knows me so well so she took me to see all 1,000sqm of the stunning Guerlain Spa which makes you feel so at peace and completely calm. We had a quick catch up in the Romanisches Cafe enjoying our green tea and cafe latte while smelling those divine cakes and pastries, and afterwards she headed back to work while I explored this new city.
Usually before I travel to a new destination I do detailed research, however with Berlin I wanted to challenge myself and be a carefree and spontaneous traveller. As the hotel’s location is ideally located in the city centre, I walked to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which was built in the 1890’s however heavily damaged in 1943 due to a bombing raid. I spent some time admiring the old church mosaics and stunning architecture before going to the new church which impressed me immediately. The exterior walls are made of a concrete honeycomb containing 21,292 stained glass inlays while the interior is decorated with mainly blue glass mosaics and a giant organ playing the most serene sound.
After catching my breathe, I headed to Vapiano for an Italian lunch to boost some energy with a pasta pesto. Unfortunately the only negative thing I have to admit is that there is hardly any free WiFi in the city. Anyway what is a holiday for!
After lunch, I crossed the street and walked into a large mall called Bikini Berlin, and as the slogan states: fashion, food, design – it is exactly that. The mall is quite large however built with optimum simplicity. Every shop resembles a type of warehouse or workshop which gives character to the ambiance and almost every coffee shop sells contemporary designs. A quick WC stop made me discover two things:
- The WC’s contemporary look makes you feel like you have a beautiful view of the city while …
- You must pay 20 cents- however not to worry with the ticket you receive a 50 cents discount on any retail items available from the 2theloo shop – located in the WC itself – quite a bargain indeed.
As it was an incredibly hot day, I headed to the Tiergarten Park and passed by the Zoo – as you all know, if there is a Zoo, I must go (but I will save this for the next post 😉 ). I discovered a small passage along the river Spree where boat tours pass by, people walk and mainly cycle or just sit by the river and meditate, and tan.
From the few hours that I have been in Berlin, I got the impression that this city is very contemporary which appreciates modern art and design. I noticed all types of cuisine, people from around the world, style, architecture and concluded – this is definitely a melting pot of cultures.
Jasmin and I met up in the afternoon where she took me a quick tour of the nearby sights including the famous Brandenburg Gate. A bit of history about this historic landmark: the gate was built from 1788 – 1791, however it was severely damaged during WWII and later fully restored between 2000 – 2002. The gate represents peace and unity of Germany and Europe despite a tumultuous past. Today this landmark is one of Berlin’s most famous tourist spots and also hosts events such a the Berlin Fashion Week this week.
Having walked around, Jasmin suggested we go to a bar near the river where we could unwind and chat a bit. We decided to have a light dinner and enjoyed a delicious Flamkuchen (Alsatian version of a pizza) and salad and then moved by the river to enjoy cocktails while watching the sun go down. Jasmin kept asking me if I need to go home and rest as I have been awake since 4am, however I had so much energy, despite my little red suitcase tagging along with us all over Berlin.
As usual with us, either we have a super hyper rendez-vous or a super relaxed one there is nothing in between – so we decided to have drinks with Jasmin’s client who is based in Dubai (and without saying anything, we both knew we were longing for a bit of the Middle East). We made our way passed the Reichstag building (Germany’s parliament building) – which gave me goosebumps knowing how much history happened here, yet I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of the architecture. A short walk and many giggles later (including an attack of moth/butterfly/cockroach looking like insects)… and we arrived at Das Stue (Berlin’s first luxury boutique hotel). The hotel is cozy and impressive and we very much enjoyed white wine while reminiscing about the UAE. At around 1am, we said goodbye and conveniently were informed that the fastest way to get home was to walk through the park. Perhaps it was a combination of being tipsy and tired – but I found some kind of back up energy and dragged my red suitcase following the only people I could see in the park while Ms. Haas was tagging behind me with all kinds of “scenarios” in her head.
We finally arrived home and after a quick shower, completely passed out in perfect sleep – I would say my little red suitcase was relieved to say the never ending day had finally, well … ended.