Thursday, May 13, 2010

Berlin -- First Thoughts

If you are looking for Lederhosen and other Bavarian inspired sights, you are not going to find it in Berlin. In fact, we only saw 2 restaurants serving German food in our entire time there and we were looking.

I had braced myself for endless days worth of eating sauerkraut, wurst of every sort, ham hocks, downing it with a different beer each time. Instead our first meal was Vietnamese, then Taiwanese, then Turkish, then French etc. Berliners are into world food.

In fact, the 6th floor of the KaDeWe department store is all about good food. It probably houses around at least 20 mini bar style restaurants based on food region.

For example there are champagne bars run by big names like Veuve Cliquot etc., caviar bars where you can buy $1000 Euro tin of Beloga cavier and enjoy it with top line Volka, oyster bars, any kind of major food from around the world is represented there.

The smells are amazing -- except the cheese area where I know, the best types are frequently the most stinky...

I cheated by visiting that floor 3 times to buy french pastries from Lenotre. Normally I eat what is local but I couldn't help it. Seriously, I was almost in tears when we bumped into that area of the store. D and I haven't been back to France for 2 years and it has felt like decades to us.

Germany has the world's 4th largest economy and you can see evidence of it all around you. There is serious money in Berlin. The kind of serious money you feel from people who live in places like Monaco, Nice and Cannes. The kind of wealth that is palpable, but not heard.

I love European style wealth because it isn't of the showy sort (outside of their cars and boats) and much much more classy and understated. The people who could afford to shop at the glitzy stores on the Kurfurstendamm just wore everyday no label (that I could see) clothes and didn't have their makeup and hair just so.

And they are not looking around to see who is watching. Berliners have a very eclectic personal style. It is one of those places where everyone seem to fit in. I didn't feel like I needed to dress differently (like I do in Paris), walk around in heels all day. It is a very freeing place -- everything goes. We love that.

Holy smokes, did we want to buy cars in Berlin. The dealerships are amazing. They are beautifully designed, located on the main shopping areas and have bars and restaurants to woo you into buying. If you are going to buy anyway, why not go for the full experience?

Those of us in North America, for example can buy a BMW here and then fly to Germany when it is ready whereby you are wooed with great stuff and then you get to drive it right out of the factory whereby they will shipped it to you.

Berliners take their cars seriously. Small compact cars and scooters are few and far between, unlike other major cities in Europe. They are all spotless and they park them with good spacing. It is an ordeal and expensive to get licenced so people are naturally careful. I would not be intimidated to drive there.

D and I left Berlin wanting to own the cars those people go into though -- a Maserati Granturismo, a Porsche Panamera, an Audi A8 and a BMW 5 Series Wagon. We even saw a Bugatti Veyron. There are Mercedes everywhere.

Because people tend to drive high end cars, what you'll notice immediately is how relatively quiet the city is compared to those where the cars and scooters going by are subcompact and have to be revved to go. Our apartment faced a main street and we were able to keep our balcony doors open -- unheard of for us!

We also love flying into Tegel airport. They have things arranged so well. You get off the plane on the tarmac and are bused to a door that opens right where your luggage arrives. I am so used to walking and walking and walking through airports on arrival, it was a very pleasant surprise.

After you pick up the luggage, you go though a small corridor and you are right at ground transportation. The easiest transition and arrival ever.


  1. Oh, your post brought back so many memories of my trip to Berlin in 2008. Tegel airport, luggage right there, family waiting for me. KaDeWa was fantastic and I was amazed at the huge Estee Lauder counter where MY products were higher priced than in the US. But, I ate wiener schnitzel 5 times in Berlin (yes, I love it) and my family asked me if I only knew how to eat wiener schnitzel. I had German food everywhere. Went to the Berlin Zoo the last day and at their little restaurant what did I order? Wiener Schnitzel again. Did have an ice cream bar in the zoo and it was a Kit Kat ice cream bar. That was fun because I am a Kit Kat fan. Glad you enjoyed yourselves. I'm ready to go back!

  2. Thank you for sharing your travel experience. I can't believe you had Taiwanese food there. There is only 1 Taiwanese restaurant here in Jersey; it's rare. I like how you can go there and feel at ease. Oh, how I'd love to go there sometime! Just a few more years until the boys are old enough to travel to Europe. We really don't want to do that kind of trip until they can understand and appreciate what they see.

  3. Hi Immer!

    I really like weiner schnitzel too! We walked by the Zoo but didn't have a chance to go in this time. We can't wait to go back someday!

    I'm sorry to hear about the spam you had been getting. I think the internet allows people to shoot off their mouth without care or thought of other people's feelings.

    I'm really glad your computer is fixed without costing an arm or a leg!

    Hi Sandra!

    I didn't realize Taiwanese food is hard to find. We lucked out!

    I can't wait to hear all about your travels in a few years because I'm expecting you'll be diving right into everythings!