A fairytale wedding, magical Christmas Markets and moments of history captured made up my last-minute trip to Berlin last week.
Friends of mine were married at Schloss Kartzow, an old German castle that served as a getaway for the country’s aristocracy in times gone by. Located just outside Berlin in the pretty little town of Potsdam, there were rooms with high ceilings and windows, eight-foot tall fire places, and elegant but traditional furniture gave the place a real feel of stepping into the past. The grounds were ideal for wedding photos, and a winter morning’s walk found plenty of nature and wildlife to be seen. Schloss Kartzow was a beautiful venue for an intimate wedding.*Back in Berlin, it was just a few days until Christmas and the Markets were in full swing. Each has its own atmosphere, so it depends what you’re looking for – for me the traditional stalls with festive snacks, carousels and decorations at Alexanderplatz were perfect.
The bright lights, chaos and noise at the nearby Alexa Christmas Market, with its precarious-looking fairground rides, could be a lot of fun, but for me it was a little too much. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to explore the Charlottenburg Market, but from walking past it looked worth a visit. Having recently moved home from the Gulf, I loved Kurfürstendamm, an upmarket street with lots of nice cafés and bars, designer stores and some high street shopping. The area had a nice buzz about it, and was more tourist-friendly than the rest of the city (more on that in a moment). I got some of my last Christmas presents here as Kiehl’s had amazing stocking fillers for €10 and €20, value I’ve never seen elsewhere!
Of course, you can’t visit Berlin without soaking up some of the layers of history the city embodies. Tight for time, with just a few hours until I had to go to the airport, I took the Basic Bitch approach and jumped on a hop-on hop-off bus. Highly surprising for me was the way the Holocaust and World War 2 were glossed over on the tour, which chose to focus significantly more on Prussian history and the Berlin Wall and subsequent reunification of Germany. It was only by chance that I discovered that the Lustgarten (Pleasure Park) holds an important place in Berlin’s history, including being the site of both speeches from Adolf Hitler and protests against him.
A whistle-stop tour of the rest of the sights included Charlottenburg Palace, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Bundestag and various other monuments to German history and culture. Although it wasn’t a very in-depth insight into the city, I’m glad I did it because the chances are I won’t be back in Germany any time soon.
Between this trip and my recent trip to Frankfurt, I don’t feel like Germany puts a lot into making tourists feel welcome. Signage on public transport isn’t available in English, and with a few notable exceptions, German people seem to regard tourists as more of an inconvenience than anything else.
After two quick trips in the last few months, I’m certain that there are other European countries that have as much culture and history, but more personality than Germany.
Have you been to Germany? What did you think?