Berlin has been on my list of places to visit for a while now. What better way to turn 34 than to have an adventure in such a cool, modern city with such rich history with my boyfriend Jonathan?
We flew to Schönefeld airport on the Monday 2nd April in the afternoon and got the S-Bahn to our hotel which was between Charlottenberg and Wilmerdorf. The first thing I noticed were all the long names for streets! Berlin felt sprawling compared to Paris as it has no centre. I also saw loads of these bears dotted in different places.
On Tuesday we made our way to the Naturkundemuseum which I was excited to see; I love natural history! They had two huge Brachiosaurus skeletons in the central exhibit. They were so big I couldn’t fit them in to get a good picture. They also had the world’s best preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex and a lot of interesting taxidermy including Knut the polar bear.
My favourite thing in the museum were these insect sculptures by Alfred Keller who made them between 1930 and 1955 specifically for the museum. I love the attention to detail and they would have taken him up to a year for each model.
After lunch we made our way to the Botanical Gardens in the south-west of Berlin. It was a warm, sunny day so walking round the grounds it felt like Spring, and going into the greenhouses felt like summer!
On Wednesday we headed out to Alexanderplatz, and went to the Bodyworlds exhibition which I had missed when it was in the UK. I’ve always been interested in biology and this was fascinating. Seeing real people in the exhibition was surreal; sometimes you forgot they were real bodies. Some things made me feel a bit squish to be honest!
After lunch we decided to go to Checkpoint Charlie, the famous boundary between East and West Germany. It was weird seeing this in the middle of the road, surrounded by fast food outlets and tourists. We walked around this area and found the watchtower that would have been between the two walls separating the countries, as well as parts of the wall still standing.
Thursday was my birthday, whoopie! After a breakfast of coffee and German pastry we headed to Berlin Zoo and Aquarium, not too far from Charlottenberg.
I loved this zoo, it has so many animals. The best thing about it was probably seeing a panda munching his way through bamboo! There are only 2,000 left in the wild. I know some people object to zoos, but I do think they help people realise we need to protect our planet and all living things. All the zoos I’ve been to highlight our need for conservation, endangered species and climate change.
After the zoo we went out to eat and I had a little cheeky cocktail to celebrate turning 34! My 30s are definitely better than my 20s and getting older doesn’t mean getting serious! I think it’s about embracing who you are and your interests, as well as being aware of the world around you.
On Friday we went to the Spy Museum in Potsdamer Platz which was brilliant. Loads of things in there you would only imagine in a James Bond film, like these playing cards with a map inside and the cigarette packet with a tiny camera. Here we are dressed as spies!
We then went to the what is known as the alternative Berlin in Bergmannkiez and Kreuzberg, which was full of indie cafes, small thrifty shops and Vicktoriapark. We wondered round here all afternoon and found an art shop, a magic shop and a juggling shop! No chains in sight which was really nice, I felt like this was true Berlin where locals go rather than just tourist places.
Saturday was our last day so we headed to the DDR Musuem near the river Spree. I think this was my favourite museum because it showed what it was like living in East Germany before the wall came down. It was interactive with rooms set up to look like a prison sell, an interrogation room and an East German flat.
I studied German cinema when I was doing my Masters and this place made me think of films like The Lives of Others and Goodbye, Lenin!
After the DDR Museum we went on a boat tour on the river Spree past Museum Island and rested our feet – we had done a lot of walking the past few days.
In the afternoon we got the train to the East Side Gallery – Conserved graffiti project by 118 artists covering part of the Berlin Wall and celebrating its demise. I thought it was very moving and showed how creativity and individuality are fundamental to what it means to be human. It is so long but I have put up some of my favourite pieces.
Berlin is a fantastic city rich with so much history, culture, art and friendly people. I can’t wait to go back one day.