My report from Berlin is going to be fairly brief. Not only was I just in Berlin two years ago, but I stayed in the exact same two hotels as I did last time: the Intercontinental and the Grand Hyatt. Both were excellent last time, both were excellent this time. The only difference was cash rates at the Intercontinental were nearly three times as much as they had been 2 years ago on the same weekend, so I spent two nights there using points. I then used my Hyatt Category 1-5 annual Visa cardholder certificate at the Grand Hyatt Berlin for my last night again. I’m not going to do a full review of the properties again as there was nothing appreciably different. Check out my review of the Intercontinental Berlin here and my review of the Grand Hyatt Berlin here. If you’re interested in more of what to see and do in Berlin, I’d recommend this post as a supplement to my 2014 report, available here.
As I did last time, I took the public bus from the airport to the Zoo Garden station and walked about 10 minutes to the Intercontinental. The stay was really just lovely, and reminded me why I’ve stayed at about 20 different Intercontinental properties (with return visits to several) over the years: the consistently good service and treatment of elites. (And I generally find Holiday Inns and Crowne Plazas underrated too!). This stay was no exception. At check-in, I was asked how my trip was, and told “Welcome Back.” While this should be a no-brainer at any hotel, I’m rarely asked these questions as a Hilton Diamond. Although I was on an award stay, I received the same upgrade I had two years ago, and was proactively offered a 4pm checkout. Just after I checked out, I realized I had left my passport wallet in the room, and the front desk clerk profusely apologized to me, as if *they* had done something wrong. Good job, Intercontinental Berlin. It makes me excited for my upcoming stay at the Intercontinental Wellington. (And note, I did not have a free breakfast or lounge access, yet still came away feeling like a valued guest of the hotel.
The only good weather on my day in Berlin was the day I arrived, and then it was only for a brief 1-2 hours of sun. There were a few sights I wanted to see that I hadn’t in my 2014 and 2004 visits to Berlin, and some I wanted to see again, so I got going … after a short nap.
On my way to the S-Bahn, I encountered a long protest through the streets, protesting an unknown subject. Then it was a quick ride to the Tranenpalast, or “Palace of Tears.” This is a building that was built in the early 1960s and served as a border crossing checkpoint between East and West Germany, and was connected to the Friedrichstrasse train station by tunnel. This would be where West Germans would enter into East Berlin, and East Germany, by train, and also where they would say a tearful goodbye upon heading back. After unification, the building was used for a variety of purposes, until it was converted into a museum in 2011. It’s a small, but interesting, museum, with many stories about what border crossings were like during the Two Germanys period.
After a brief visit, I walked along the Spree River, where many new buildings housing the German parliament have been built, before ending at the Reichstag, complete with its famed glass dome. I didn’t go up to the dome this time, but definitely recommend doing it.
I then looped back towards Potsdamer Platz and the Mall of Berlin, which is huge and architecturally interesting, but mainly because I was out of clean underwear.
Unlike previous stays in Berlin, I took advantage of its wild nightlife this time. I started at Suksan, a Thai restaurant in between the Intercontinental and the gay bars of Schoneberg, not realizing I had ate there last time. The night evolved (devolved?) from there, starting at Prinzknecht, so my morning the next day was pretty much shot.
On day 2, I headed over to one of the big Sunday flea markets, at Mauerpark. It was packed and had a lot of interesting knick knacks and street food for sale, but I would not recommend going if your goal is to maximize time spent seeing important sights of Europe. It reminded me of something you’d see in Brooklyn or Seattle, and wasn’t the easiest to get to. The rest of my Sunday day was spent on Berlin’s Sunday daylife, i.e., nightlife during the day, leading me to dinner of a Durum Kebab for the second night in a row before bed at midnight.
My final day in Berlin on this trip was pretty low-key, starting out with some shopping, followed by the Jewish Museum, which I had been to in 2004 but merited a repeat visit. The Liebeskind-designed museum really makes the museum building part of the exhibits itself. The museum has been subject to a lot of criticism as to whether the design aspects have actually made it too difficult to display meaningful content. One thing I noted was that much of the “contemporary” Jewish life segment hadn’t been updated since my 2004 visit. But I’m still glad I went.
One thing the museum had new was an “art vending machine” where you could insert 6 Euros and get a small piece of artwork by a contemporary Jewish artist. Cute in concept, although the print I got was just weird and not Jewish-themed at all – a black and white photo of two chubby twin German boys. Oh well, at least I supported the arts.
It was also nice to be in the museum on a slower day than my peak summer visit in 2004, shortly after the museum opened. Even though other museums are closed on Mondays, and it was perfect museum-visiting weather, it wasn’t too bad.
After the museum, I headed to Meisterstueck, an upscale sausage restaurant, for lunch. It was pretty empty when I was there, and I probably ordered wrong, but the atmosphere was good and my lamb sausage was pretty tasty if not satiating. My appetizer was a bit of a misfire, a Caesar salad with the saltiest largest pieces of bacon I have ever had on a salad in my life.
The restaurant also had a wide display of cuckoo clocks, which was weird. Weirder still was that an American couple came in to buy one off the walls.
Post-lunch I made my way back to the Intercontinental, picked up my bags, and hopped the bus to the Grand Hyatt Berlin. A bit more of a sterile location but easier access to multiple parts of the city, the hotel remains clean, modern, upscale, and a fantastic use of my Hyatt certificate. I had a standard room which was more than adequate, and was greeted very warmly upon arrival and sent off kindly on departure.
After a nap and gym, I realized it was a super lovely night out. I found a German restaurant about 20 minutes walk away and headed there, only to be drawn by the siren song of a packed Indian restaurant with tons of outdoor seating. Amrit looked enticing, but for basic Indian food it turned out very expensive and had terrible service. I thought “Maybe I shouldn’t have Indian food the night before a flight,” but thought the throngs of people meant I’d be wrong. (Foreshadowing) It tasted fine going down, though.
Post-dinner, I took advantage of the lovely night and had my only night of the trip just wandering around Mitte, something I highly recommend. I passed through Brandenburg Gate at dark, looped around the River, and wound past the Reichstag, unfortunately just missing the last entry to the dome for the day.
In the morning, I took the S-bahn and a bus to the airport, and some of the worst 14 hours of physical discomfort of my life began. Just you wait!!!