Berlin: At a glance
Our World | On 30, Jun 2011
It’s been a couple of years since I was last in Berlin so I was looking forward to my recent visit. I think this is one of the most underrated capital cities in Europe and somehow suffers from an “out of sight out of mind” syndrome that doesn’t seem to affect many of the other major destinations.
Of course, being a patriotic football fan I was a little apprehensive following last summer’s humiliation, but I was determined not to revert to the old English habits of “remember 1945“ and all that nonsense. Of course as we took off on our super luxury 1 hour 25 minute easy jet flight from Luton one wag couldn’t resist a customary “chocks away biffo”. As I was that wag I had to remind myself of the legendary Cleese sketch – don’t mention the war!
Our speedy and efficient transfer from the airport to the Swissotel served as a reminder of many things German, their renowned efficiency, their undeniably fascinating history, how green Berlin really is and their own comfort with not only mentioning the war but their absolute insistence that it is not forgotten as there are more reminders, symbols and monuments than in London. Of course there are many other famous and more recent symbols too – not least the last remaining stretch of a wall that didn’t just divide a city, but arguably the continents of America and Western Europe from Eastern Europe and Asia. For a millennium East met West in Istanbul, but for 44 years from 1945 to 1989 East and West met at an 8 foot wall in Berlin.
Arriving at the Swissotel I was also reminded about a couple of other German stereotypical misnomers. Irony and art. Newsflash! Germans do have a sense of humour – they always have and unlike some of our friends across the pond they also get irony, sarcasm, wit and indeed taking the proverbial Michael. The art covered curved walls of the Swissotel conference centre also reminded me that not everything is straight efficient and mechanical – although the check in and luggage service was impeccably efficient.
First time visitors were impressed with Berlin and the returning delegates were all in agreement that they had forgotten just how nice, modern, historical, contemporary and interesting Berlin is and just how friendly Germans really are. Hmm…well for the typical Brit there is always one urban myth that no-one will ever undo; German food is worse than ours. Well, the food at the Swissotel was excellent, but on the second night our group ate at the Adlon, which must be one of the best Kempinski hotels on the planet. Anglophiles look away! Dinner at the Adlon was traditional, German and absolutely superb! The post dinner cocktail on the terrace overlooking the spectacularly illuminated Brandenburg Gate wasn’t too shabby either.
Overall marks out of 10…probably 9+.
Oh and they were also very kind and didn’t mention that we are less than average at our national sport!