The last time I was in Berlin was early in the summer of 1994, less than five years after the wall came tumbling down. The whole city then was filled with cranes and rebuilding. I was travelling with a friend of Singaporean descent and she was on perpetual high alert for the gangs of roaming Neo-Nazis we’d been warned about. Our tentative forays into the old East Berlin were over by nightfall, much to my disappointment. The city was edgy and exhilarating and I was really hoping to bump into Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld at a secret gig we’d somehow discovered. Of course Nick had already moved to Brazil by then.
With a personal veto on any purchases of the infamous street sausage known as currywurst (do your worst, Leroy), we have returned to Berlin on the first of our 2017 forays. This time around it’s the middle of winter, but 20+ years later the differences are remarkable. Alexanderplatz (‘Alex’) in my 1994 memory is a vast, bleak expanse whose claim to fame was as the site of the massive, unprecedented demonstration that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now it’s stuffed to the brim with people, food and merchandise tents, and flashy advertising.
Given that it’s only a few degrees above zero, with snow and/or rain predicted, we’re planning a decadent day – a few sights mixed with a whole lot of eating and drinking with local friends if they’re free later for glühwein, pfannkuchen, or perhaps even some Königsberger klopse at Max und Moritz. Fiona has offered to help us explore the hofs (courtyards) of Scheunenviertal. And the brilliant Pergamon Museum, with all its appropriated antiquities, is long overdue a second visit.
Later we’ll head over to Schwarze Traube, and try and nab a seat for one of their fine cocktails. No menus; the bartenders ask what spirit you’re partial to and which flavours you’re in the mood for. Voila! Then, to cap off the day, we’ve planned a trip to the extraordinary Tempodrom building. The drawcard is Liquidrom, a saltwater, multi-sensory spa with amazing architecture, DJs and coloured underwater lights. I suspect we’ll sleep well tonight.