It amazes us that it only takes a one and a half hour flight and we are in another country that is so different - different language, different culture, different food, different systems, different architecture..everything different. People not only sound different but act, look and dress differently too....and yet Italy and Germany are SO close geographically.
We arrive at our Berlin apartment on Kastanienallee (near the intersection with Oderberger Strasse) at around 3.15pm after an easy departure and Air Berlin flight from Roma. We LOVE our apartment in the very buzzy Prenzlauer Berg district in the former East Berlin. After the Berlin wall came down in 89-90 this district became a centre for young bohemian Berliners (cheap rents but near the city centre) and more recently it has been undergoing gentrification. The Brandenburger Tor (Gate) and all the main tourist sites are only a 20 minute walk south, but staying here on Kastanienallee will be a lot of fun for all the hip and happening street culture we can experience (observe more likely).
The flat is on the top floor of the apartment block with plenty of light and very spacious. We love the original art work and the retro 60s style decor (the furniture is authentic vintage - no doubt true to what was found in a lot of East Berlin flats up until reunification).
The kitchen even has woodgrain laminex on the benches and burnt orange splashback tiles (except they are high quality glass tiles). They are 50s-60s references - but so stylishly done.
Note the 70s style cassette player adorning the 50s-60s buffet in the dining area.
This is the view looking out of the kitchen window onto Kastanienallee. The street is lined with restaurants and bars, vintage shops (lots) and independent fashion and homewear shops, lots of fun for browsing.
The Prenzlauer Berg district escaped serious damage from WW2 bombing and also missed out on the post war redevelopment of much of West Berlin. So it's one of the few neighbourhoods in Berlin that has retained a distinctly historical vibe; its apartment blocks are 4-5 floor walk ups, and apparently rents are much cheaper in Berlin than in other major capital cities - another reason why Berlin (and Prenzlauer Berg in particular) is attracting a lot of young artists from around the world, for its cheap studio spaces and arty vibe.
This is the view south down Kastinienallee when you step out of the door to our apartment block.
We take our first walk up the street and almost straight away find the famous Konnopke's Imbiss under the U Bahn on Schonhauser Allee. Konnopke's is one of Berlin's cult sausage kitchens, and has been in the same location since 1930. It's most famous for its currywurst which is Berlin's favourite fast food apparently. Rob adores a good bratwurst and I had some fond memories of the bratwurst and pommes frites we were able to get, served with sauerkraut, in Frankfurt, on our first visit to Germany many years ago. So, seeing we hadn't eaten lunch today we thought we'd try some knackwurst and pommes frites from Konnopke's (not the curry wurst)!
I must say I don't think I would do it again - and way too much mayonnaise and ketchup for my taste - maybe we needed to have beer with it!
Which took us to the Prater Garten, Berlin's oldest beer garden (it's been around since 1837) and only a few doors up Kastinienallee from our apartment. Prater survived bombing raids in during WW11 and the Soviet rule of East Berlin and is very much a Berlin institution now. It's very laid back this late afternoon (around 6.00pm) and the dappled sun under the chestnut trees feels warm (while the Prater pilsener is a lovely honey flavoured drop).
I'd come here for a bratwurst and pommes frites and a pretzel anyday - rather than Konnopke's.
We had a very memorable afternoon visit to East Berlin, through Checkpoint Charlie, back in 1975, and as we walk around the streets of this now buzzy area we can see lots of ghosts of the old Soviet controlled era. The apartment blocks are being renovated and painted fresh colours, and cafes and new commerce line the streetscapes, but we can still see the Soviet era and the old Berlin in the bones of this place. Fascinating!