I'd move to Berlin in a heartbeat; everything about the way of life there sings to me. Relaxed bars, endless flea markets, countless green spaces, a plethora of independent galleries, bustling food halls, incredibly cyclist friendly - the list goes on.
For this most recent trip, we set up home right by the canal in Kreuzkolln, smack bang in the middle of my two favourite neighbourhoods. I'm not one for sight seeing, I prefer to get down to the nitty-gritty and get stuck into life as a local, so (besides whizzing around the main 'sites' one evening for a friend who was a Berlin virgin), we stuck to whizzing around the city on our bikes, discovering hidden nooks and crannies.
Wednesday night was a write-off of sleepily wandering down our road to find a pizza place where we indulged in the finest vegetarian toppings and a solo drink before stumbling to bed. This ensured that we were bright eyed and bushy tailed to fully enjoy our first day in the city.
Our afternoon was spent on the roof of a supermarket car park at Klunker Kranich, admiring the view of the terracotta roof tops whilst sipping beers. If you're around Neukolln, I highly recommend seeking out the roof top bar (open only in the summer months). The easiest way to discover the bar is to enter Neukolln Arkaden and take the lift up to the top floor of the car park - you'll the signs when you exit the lift, urging you to walk to the left and up the final slope. Alternatively, it's fun to just wander seemingly aimlessly up the car park ramps, wondering if there actually will be a bar at the end of your climb.
That evening, we had a wander around Mitte to show a friend the Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag, before making our way towards Kreuzberg to sample the delights of Markthalle Neun. Pretty much the best indoor food market you'll ever find, we all selected from the diverse array of street food and dined on one of the picnic tables. The vegan cheesecakes and goblets of 'special' gin were impeccable (and conveniently located right next to each other, on the far left from the main entrance).
We then retreated into the night, sampling a selection of Kreuzberg's bars, including Hopfenreich (a craft beer bar), Cake (excellent White Russians) and Club der Visionaere (cocktails under the willow tree, down by the canal).
After a delicious breakfast of fresh bread, berries, yoghurt and juice, we strolled along the canal to sample one of the regular Turkish markets. We hung out here for a while, listening to music and purchasing picnic food from the tempting stalls.
Following the market, we hired bikes for the next three days (for just 22 Euros - it's worth looking around to find a cheap bike hire place) and sped off towards Treptower Park. After spending three previous trips relaxing on the wooden jetty on Insel der Jugend and climbing the old wooden fence to discover Spree Park, I was somewhat disappointed to find several severe changes to this area. The jetty is no more (although we had a delightful picnic lunch on the grass, right by the Spree), and Spree Park is now protected by a high metal fence and a threatening troop of dogs.
That afternoon, we headed towards my favourite place in Berlin (and perhaps my favourite place in the world), Tempelhof Feld. This now disused airport ceased operating in 2008 and has since become a much loved recreational area. After racing our bikes down the runway, we settled into the grass for several hours with bottles of Prosecco and beer. Nothing beats drinking Prosecco on the Feld, listening to music with your friends.
Before retreating to our apartment, we cycled towards Viktoriapark, where we conquered the steep hills to take in the 360 degree views of the city.
That night, we dined on vegetarian burgers (at 11pm - I love how laid back Berlin is, there's no rush to eat and head out) before discovering a selection of Neukolln's disheveled bars. One of my favourite things about Berlin is it's nightlife. Whilst techno and house music reign, and aren't my thing at all, it's easy to tune out the beat and enjoy drinking in a never-ended supply of great bars. Head to Schillerkiez or Weserstrasse and find a selection of great bars on and around these streets. Bars seem to open and close constantly, and you'll just stumble upon new favourites on every corner. If you're seeking cheap Prosecco and the best jukebox in Berlin, head to Das Gift. Owned by Mogwai's Barry Burns, the jukebox features a fusion of Krautrock and alternative classics, such as Can and Neu, alongside compilations by a selection of Barry's musician friends.
Our first stop on Saturday was the East Side Gallery, an attraction that I've now managed to visit every single time I have been to Berlin. After walking the length of the wall, we carried our bikes down the stairs at Warschauer Strasse S Bahn station to board a train to Grunewald Forest.
Several delays later, we disembarked at Grunewald, only a few stops outside of the city, where we gathered a picnic lunch which we ate whilst sheltering from a shower in a pre-built den. We then spent several blissful hours cycling through the forest, discovering a gigantic sand pit mid way. If you're taking a trip out to the forest, seek out Teufelssee Lake for an idyllic wild swimming destination (or just a paddle, if you're not feeling brave). Watch out for the nudists practicing yoga.
We decided to get off the train at Tiergarten and cycle through the park, and subsequently along the canal to get home, stopping en route for drinks. That night, we hung out in a few of our favourite bars and ate delicious Vietnamese food before cycling along the canal up to Kreuzberg to spend the night at Chalet. If you're after a traditional Berlin clubbing experience, but don't fancy the industrial techno and selective door policies of Berghain, Chalet is an excellent alternative. It's housed in a huge abandoned mansion, right next to the petrol station by the canal (right by Club der Visionaere), and features several floors of small rooms to hang out or dance in. Out back, there's a huge fairylight-lit beer garden with its own bar, more accessible music, hammocks, a swing and a big fire pit to sit around.
A hungover Sunday in Berlin calls for cycling in the sun. We rose late to discover a Turkish market right on our doorstep, where we purchased vegetarian stew, pancakes and coffee before setting off on a mammoth cycle ride.
We rode our bikes for what seemed like hours, up into Prenzlauer Berg, where we spent the afternoon relaxing in a beer garden and seeking out a Thai restaurant with mouth-watering coconut soup.
After eating, we decided to spend our final evening in Berlin in our favourite place: Tempelhof. Several bottles of Cava and Club Mate accompanied us (Cava Mate's = the drink of the summer) as we settled onto pallet seating in the allotment area of the Feld. Part of Tempelhof is taken up by a ramshackle collection of allotments, pallet furniture and sculptures, where the locals hang out in the evening.The maintenance of the fruit and vegetables growing there seems to be a free for all, with a wonderful community garden aesthetic.
When the daylight began to fade, we had one last cycle down the runway before retreating to a selection of our favourite bars (and a vegetarian burger at Yellow Sunshine) to end the holiday as started it - with White Russians in hand!
The next day, we ate brunch and drank coffee at Melbourne Canteen before glumly making our way to the airport.
Berlin, I'll be back. Soon.