Eight years ago I came to Berlin with our German class at college for my first ever visit to Germany. Apparently I got home and announced, “I liked it there. I’m going to go and work there.”
And two years later, I got my six month internship in Hamburg. It was the first time I’d ever been abroad alone, but I remember my flat mate, Georgiana, telling me that this would just be the beginning. I don’t know if I believed her at the time, but she was right – that my beautiful life of travel and language had begun!
This weekend I returned to Berlin to visit the Christmas markets with Liz, Clare and Ashley.
This trip I seemed to have become designated route planner, tour guide, photographer and translator. I only have vague memories of my first visit, but it involved following our teachers, buying spotty shoes, sneaking a bottle of malibu into our room, and learning the essentials, “Eddy, how do we say ‘bothered’ in German?”
We came for the Christmas markets, so I had searched the internet for the best places (Liz wanted a plan!) created a flexible route, saved my options onto Google Maps on my phone and let us do as much or as little as we pleased.
The first morning, Liz and I left the Holiday Inn to a few flakes of snow. By the time we got to Potsdamer Platz it was snowing heavily and so exciting and Christmassy.
We went into the Arkaden to go to our favourite shop Depot and were even more excited to see the beautiful decorations inside.
We got the text that the others were on their way, so we walked through the Potsdamer Platz market, admiring the “snowballs”…
…past the Holocaust Memorial…
…and down to the Brandenburg Gate to our assigned meeting place, Cafe Lebensart to meet Clare and Ashley who had just flown in for one night.
The plan worked perfectly, they arrived five minutes after we did. We drank overpriced tiny coffees before we squinted through the snow to Gendarmenmarkt.
It was quite touristy and expensive, so we looked around and stopped for Glühwein and Eggnog before continuing our Christmas market crawl.
We went to Schloßplatz, which was pretty empty…
…through Nikolai Viertel and Rotes Rathaus market, which was busy with a skating rink and big wheel…
…and were then getting tired, cold and hungry so went to find coffee, dinner at Ristorante Marinelli and more shopping in Depot.
We had a bit of slower start the next morning, but decided to take the U-Bahn out to Charlottenburg Palace.
We arrived an hour before the market opened – oops! But played in the leaves in the park and got a very cheap coffee in a warm cafe.
This was by far our favourite market. There were so many more stalls, all selling different things and at much better prices.
We bought lots of presents, had some Kartoffel Puffers with apple sauce…
…some more Glühwein, and got back on the train.
Ashley and Clare were catching the evening flight, but Liz and I would leave the next day, so we said our goodbyes, and went to the most amazing Vegan restaurant Soy with curry and noodles, and the nicest smoothies. We visited Checkpoint Charlie, and the Alexanderplatz market before getting back for some much needed rest.
Such a lovely weekend, and interesting to be back in Germany. German people are very polite. I sneezed three times waiting for the S-Bahn back to the airport. People in Moscow usually look horrified that they might catch my germs, but here a man said, “Gesundheit!!” before offering me a tissue ‘for the nose’.