Of course, whenever people heard we liked to travel they often asked had we been to Berlin. "You'll love it" they always said. And then, two years ago, Michael Audain gave me a fascinating book, In the Garden of Beasts about the Nazis rise to power in Germany. After reading this book, I knew we had to go to Berlin, sooner rather than later.
So last year we started to organize a home exchange in Potsdan, about 40 minutes from Berlin in the former East Germany. However, I didn't have terribly positive images of the place, (I expected it to be poor and grey) but for other reasons, the exchange collapsed. So instead we organized a house exchange in Hamburg, with plans to spend 5 days in Berlin.
Berlin is a very big city and we didn't know where to stay. So we looked on TripAdvisor and noted a great disparity in the advertised rates for the Ritz Carlton, ranked #8 out of more than 600 hotels. So thinking a bit of luxury never hurts, we booked it. And I am so glad we did for many reasons.
Firstly, it is part of the redevelopment of Potsdamer Platz, once considered the centre of Berlin. It has been the site of one of the most significant redevelopment projects in Europe in recent years. It's quite outstanding. Furthermore, there were plenty of good restaurants, cafes and shops nearby, and excellent transit access to almost everywhere. The hotel also had the best-equipped and beautifully detailed bathroom of any hotel I have ever stayed in. I'll write more on this later.
|The interior covered courtyard of the Sony Centre, across from the Ritz-Carlton|
I should note this is not a real building....just some vinyl sheets on a metal frame designed to look like a building. One day soon the real building will rise, but until then, this vinyl building creates the illusion of a building on a site destroyed in the war while hundreds of millions of euros are spent completing other nearby sites.
Let me conclude this post by suggesting that if you, like me, have been putting off a visit to Berlin for various reasons....DON'T!
|Many older buildings like this were severely damaged in the war, but have been successfully restored. Don't ask me about the running shoes dangling in front of it!|
|A city of large plazas, old and new buildings, most of which have a comfortable mid-rise scale|
|The Brandenburg Gate; a structure with an incredible history. When east and west were divided, it was in no man's land|
|Reichstag Building (the Parliament) altered by Sir Norman Foster in 1994-99|
|There's a lot of gild, and a lot of guilt in Berlin|
|This elegant building is sited along Kurfurstendamm Strasse, a street we particularly enjoyed|
|The infamous Checkpoint Charlie exemplifies the city with old and new buildings and a lot of stories|
|I liked this building with its old grey stonework and new Starbucks at the corner.|