We began the day with the sumptuous buffet breakfast at the H10 Berlin Ku’Damm. The hotel is beautifully stylish with greys and steel throughout. It’s all set in an old mid-Victorian school building that somehow presumably avoided the worst of the bombing. The restaurant is similarly chic. The buffet stretches over three main areas: the breads and cereals, the cheese and meats, and the hot buffet. There is also a guy cooking fresh omelettes. It looks enormously appetising but should do at a ‘hefty’ 19 euros. These days it has become all the more hefty due to the exchange rate post-Referendum. It’s odd because I wouldn’t blink at paying that price for any other meal of similar scale and quality. The cereals were plentiful and their were lots of dried and fresh fruits to accompany. There was milk or a selection of six yoghurts. The last time I had this choice was on a cruise ship. Something I hadn’t seen before was the little edible wafer pots to serve your honey or syrup in rather than the wasteful individual jars. The cheese selection alone would match most restaurant cheese boards.
The hot buffet is the real test of quality. While the bacon looked a little fatty for me in a European style rathery than underdone, there was plenty of sausage to choose from as expected. The scrambled egg was sensational and astonishingly moist for a buffet. Slightly odd were the rissoles and the mini pork schnitzel. It was all very good quality. I didn’t try the fresh omelette guy (mainly because my German doesn’t stretch to any of the ingredients) but he got the thumbs up from my wife and daughter. The homemade pastries were a great touch. The breakfast demonstrates the international aspect of Berlin – a huge buffet to meet the needs of any traveller.
We spent the rest of the morning at the East Street Gallery. This is a 1km stretch of the wall in the East of the city which has been decorated with murals by a range of international artists. It’s most famous for the one of Honecker and Breschnew kissing but the range of some of the pieces is fascinating. When the wall came down much of it was destroyed and then other chunks were chipped off for souvenirs. This is another great Berlin way of preserving but using the past. On the reverse side of the wall was an exhibition on Syria with photographs of bombed towns and portraits of Syrians with their stories. It’s all oddly non-commercial. There were just a few buskers and little souvenir huts at either end.
From there we went to the Bauhaus Archiv. I had an art teacher who was obsessed with the Bauhaus movement and would slip their name into classes wherever they fitted (or didn’t). Whatever her intention, she achieved her objective because I have kept an interest. The building itself is striking with its ridged roof. The interior is somewhat darker, but full of interesting artefacts and, thankfully, a narrative in English. There are lots of influential art “schools” around the world but Walter Gropius turned his into a hugely ambitious physical school with teaching from figures such as Klee, Mondrian, and Kandinsky. The objective was to create a ‘single art’ which spanned everything from drama to architecture based on simple principles of space, colour and balance. They publicised their work through magazines and exhibitions. The material on the walls, the furniture (they loved a lamp or three) and models demonstrated their huge influence. They were way ahead of their time and were inevitably closed down as suspected subversives and Communists by the Nazis in the 1930s. As a result the members spread across the world and took the ideas with them. Tel Aviv has the world’s largest collection of Bauhaus architecture.
Still going strong from the enormous breakfast I walked back along the edge of the Tiergarten. The architecture on the way was spectacular. It felt as if it is all part of an enormous World Expo with each architect trying to outdo his neighbours. There were cool avenues with swanky shops full of edgy design. The aquarium and zoo feature some more of the older architecture and then I stumbled into Breitscheidplatz. The heavens opened so I went into the spectacular Berlin Bikini mall. It’s full of designer stores selling clothes, furnishings, and even a place doing steampunk portraiture. There is a huge window backing on to the monkey enclosure in the zoo and a lounge area where you can just go and chill. Outside is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church which was bombed in the war and never restored. In a striking parallel with Coventry Cathedral the old shell stands next to a modern structure and there is a crucifix inside made from nails from old Coventry Cathedral. A food festival occupied the space around the Church which appeared to loosely commemorate the Olympics but sold German food and beer while live bands played throughout the day.
In the evening we returned to the same area and had an Italian at a touristy trattoria – Ferri. It was busy and we sat outside. If we had seen TripAdvisor we would have seen the 2 and 3 star reviews. It was average. My stuffed gnocchi with ricotta and spinach was ok but the sauce was bland with little wedges of chicken meat in it. My daughter’s lasagne was cold in the middle and had no trace of bechamel sauce. Picking a restaurant close to a tourist area is almost always a mistake.
After a short break we went to Monkey Bar. This is a restaurant and bar on the tenth floor of the Berlin Bikini hotel. There was a queue to go in which controls the numbers at the top. In the entrance way, to emphasise its coolness, was an old Mini Clubman and some hanging bicycles. The queue was worth the wait. There is something nice about sitting out in the summer with a cocktail and views over the city. Berlin comes to life at night. The lighting gives it a landscape which isn’t there as much in the daytime. We looked down on Breitscheidplatz and the old church is illuminated but the new bell tower and church building glow deep blue with flecks of green and red. A huge bright white Mercedes Benz star slowly rotates on top of a neighbouring skyscraper.
It was a lovely way to end a busy day in Berlin and I was starting to appreciate the excitement and variety of the place.