After driving more than 1, 600 miles over two nights and three days - we cannot go over 90km/hr otherwise Izzy starts shaking! - we couldn't wait to get to Berlin and finally put our feet down. Our last morning sleeping on the A2/E30 motorway West of Warsaw had been a bit stressful with a group of men trying to sell us some knives - one of them had even tried to get into our van by displaying his box of knives through our back door, on top of the steps!
Rush hour traffic in Berlin wasn't great either and was probably made worse by our tiredness and our impatience to meet Jo, James and the kids; Billy (5), Sam (4) and Laurie (10 months). We also had to think about parking - luckily we managed to find a space at the top of Oderberger Straße in Mitte (read our parking spot review), where Jo and the family were staying, in a holiday rental flat at number 38, in the same building as café Krone. After "cleaning" their plates - they were just finishing their dinner at an Italian place down the road - and time for a quick chat', we all got back to the flat, put the kids to bed and Jo, Jamie and I went for two sneaky drinks out at Nemo on Oderberger.
It'd been a long time since the three of us had gone for a drink together as Jamie or I would usually babysit for them. We had great fun and managed to relax after the hustle and bustle of the day. In the morning, the weather was on our side, so we hired three bikes with baby seats and used mine too - my legs were too short for the hired bikes! We did a big loop around Berlin, here it is in picture:
|First stop: Berlin TV tower ("Berliner Fernsehturm") - we just stopped for pictures outside.|
|Time for the first group picture attempt!|
|Second stop: the Berlin Wall. It is one of the two main areas in Berlin where you can still see the Wall.|
|Some of the nice graffitis around the Wall.|
|Third stop: "Checkpoint Charlie" - the most famous border crossing between East and West Berlin.|
|The name "Checkpoint Charlie" was given by the western allies, hence the above sign in the different languages.|
|Someone got either very bored or very tired... Very cute.|
|Fourth stop: Brandenburg Gate.|
|Fifth and last stop: back home, time for well-deserved hot drinks and cakes at café Krone.|
|Café Krone was conveniently located at the bottom of Jo & James' holiday flat!|
|Back in the flat, time for some cheeky picts...|
Jamie had only been to Berlin briefly whilst I'd never been. We really enjoyed discovering the capital on two wheels and Jo and James had really found the perfect area for a short city break (we were leaving the next day for Hamburg where Jo and James were going to be staying with friends). Oderberger St in Mitte looked like an up-and-coming area with vintage shops such as VEBOrange, independent cafés and bars such as the previously listed Nemo and café Krone. It was at walking distance/a bike ride away from all the main monuments. And the tram and bus stops were only up the road for those tired feet.
|VEBOrange is your shop for all things 60s and 70s.|
|Oderberger Straße, Mitte, Berlin.|
|Jo and James' holiday apartment block with convenient café Krone at the bottom.|
|Some filming happening on the street - we unfortunately didn't get to know what it was for.|
|For all those who think Apple's overrated.|
|Our tram stop , a short walk away.|
|The rude advert!|
Leaving Berlin was sad, but Jo and James had planned to divide their German holiday discovering the capital and staying with their friends; Boris, Julia and their daughter, Hannah (3yrs) in Hamburg. As we didn't want to impose on their friends too much, we thought we'd only arrive the day after so they'd have time to catch up with each other. We stayed on Ludwigslust free motorhome aire, just around the corner from the impressive "Schloss" ("Castle") and its gardens (read our review of the aire). It's a little picturesque town with traditional buildings and cobbled streets.
|4.50pm, on our way to Ludwigslust, our overnight stop before Hamburg.|
Jamie and I had visited Hamburg a few years back. We had loved it and were very much looking forward to get the locals' insights knowledge. Boris and Julia welcomed us with opened arms like if we were their friends too. We managed to park on their street; Schnell Strasse in the Altona district (read our parking spot review). Luckily, we didn't even need to pay any parking meter!
We arrived on Friday 1 November, sadly we only had one night left with Jo and James as they had to leave early on Saturday morning to catch their ferry. We made most of the day, having some fun at the playground just around the corner from their flat and walked around the shopping streets of Altona - from the big chains such as Zara and H&M, the neighbourood also has specialised delicatessens and wine shops, independent clothing shops and vintage ones. After all this, we were all happy to put our feet down and fill up our stomach at "Tibet" - an amazing tibetan restaurant Boris had recommended and booked us a table.
|Whilst Jamie talks with Boris,|
|James and Jo seem to find the inner child in them...|
|A taste of "Tibet" in central Hamburg.|
|Taking pictures at our huge table was a bit tricky...|
|Kids were being moved around!|
|And more interesting things were happening underneath the table!|
Jamie and I went on for a few drinks around the corner from Boris & Julia's flat, at the cheesy "Zwick" chain pub on Max-Brauer-Allee. Walking into the pub was walking back in time - the pub was adorned with posters, photos and a few memorabilias of the big names in rock'n'roll such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Queen etc.
8am morning goodbyes were sad and a few tears were shed as, unlike Jamie who'd be able to visit his sister in London whilst doing Izzy, the motorhome's MOT, I wouldn't probably see Jo, James, Billy, Sam and Laurie until next Summer 2014. Boris and Julia kindly invited us up to their flat for breakfast, a nice warm shower and even do our washing! Waking up early had meant we could make the most of our day - whilst Jamie was enjoying making sure Izzy was ready to go on the asphalt again, I went for a long walk across the city and hopped on a train back to Altona station.
|One of the former squatted apartment blocks along the harbour, on the way to St Pauli.|
|Another former squat on St. Pauli-Hafenstraße.|
Once back, Boris was cooking us an amazing meal of locally-sourced beef steaks accompanied with yummy caramelised roasted veggies; what a treat! We went out again for some sneaky drinks, but walked back later on a bit disappointed; the first bar had seemed very popular and a cosy place, but we quickly realised we wouldn't get served - the only one barmaid behind the bar (on a Saturday night!) just couldn't cope - people had been queueing for an hour! The second bar was a teacher's retreat - too quiet and empty, we were told once sat and having ordered our drinks that we had to drink up as they were closing! The third bar was probably the best, but was noisy and a bit too trendy. Ooh well, we should have just gone back to the cheesy Zwick.
That's it for our German break. We left the country happy to go on further on our travels, but thought we would definitely come back and visit Germany again. We had been happily surprised at how cheap everything was from food shopping to eating and drinking out. People had also been very friendly and had made us feel welcomed.
Germany, we'll be back!