Surprise, Surprise! Berlin, Germany

Todd Hanlon, Bright Ideas Design, Berlin, nwyrktodd, Rather Dapper

Berlin Wall

Berlin by day is really no fun. Especially in the cold weather. Summer, I imagine beer gardens, German food and good times. This last visit to Berlin in March was good, despite the weather. I met with two friends who were coincidentally there. Berlin is huge, vastly spread out, and you need cabs or transportation to go from one place to another. It is like one gigantic suburban-type city. I spent close to six hours a day wandering around getting a bearing on my location.

There were many clubs and bars to choose from. I only had five days there, but wanted to get to about 10 clubs. The gay bars were fun, although it was snowing and they were empty two nights. I enjoyed walking around Schöneberg at night, despite the snow. It was very village-like with two or three streets lined with gay bars and cafes. First stop was Tom’s Bar on Motzstrasse, which was completely empty. I stalled there for some people to talk to, but barely anyone came. Four beers later, I meandered down the same street, stopping into various bars. It was a ghost town. There were tons of shops selling dildos, and sex toys, not to mention the XXX video booths in the back. I met this Polish guy at one of the bars. He was younger, and living in Berlin without a VISA. He told me his life story over a beer. He recommended going to Club Connection over the weekend.

There were a few days until the weekend though. The phone rings, my friend Jen is in town. She stops by my room at the Hotel Mövenpick for a glass of Prosecco. We then went to the mall where we found a German restaurant that served Schweinshaxe. We had some pints of good German Beer and talked about the weekend. Later, we went by the Sex Museum for a gag. We later decided to go to Berghain on Saturday for a drink at the Panorama Bar and some serious dancing. The DJ was playing some progressive house. It was really like hard trance, but had this echo from the wet sound created by the cement walls of the remade electric power station. It was way cool there, and we got it on with several people. The club didn’t get moving until 2 AM, when we showed up. I had a flight the next day at 4 so I could not stay until they closed – probably around 12 noon or even later.

Like I said, I spent hours walking around from West to East Berlin. I noticed the differences of the neighbourhoods, although they are subtle. In the centre, Potsdamer Platz, is under a major reconstruction. There were cranes, bulldozers and so much scaffolding you can barely see. I walked up the famous Unter den Linden where Hitler used to stage his parades. He went as far as to cut down the trees and remove any obstacles that would hinder the crowd from seeing him. There are plaques that give a narration of what happened and where. I went inside the museum Topographie de Terrors where there were hundreds of photos of the former Nazi Party and the heinous crimes they committed. This documentation centre was the site of the former headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office during the “Third Reich.” Nearby is the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Still in the city centre, is Checkpoint Charlie where the military allowed certain diplomats to enter to East Berlin, but barred everyone else. In October 1961, J.F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev’s tanks faced each other here in a standoff to what almost became WWIII. There are sandbags, soldiers, and all sorts of memorabilia in the area, most importantly painted segments of the Berlin Wall. Paintings include Muammar Al-Gaddafi, Then Sein, Kim Jong-Il, Robert Mugabe, Omar Al-Basi-Ir, and Bashar Al-Assad, with the words “More Walls to Tear Down.” Other exhibits show “Next Wall to Fall is Wall Street.”

I really enjoyed the saunas and steam rooms in Berlin (or Europe in general). I went to the Apollo Splash Club as well as Treibhaus Sauna. I never realised that many of the dry saunas that I had been in, had heated rocks that were meant to have cold water poured over them. This creates steam which makes the room a sort of steam bath, not a room of dry heat. In Europe, this is called a Finnish Sauna. Anyway, they have a technique called Aufguss where a man or woman enters the room with several cups of water. Sometimes the water contains menthol, or other aromas like banana. Apollo Sauna used several different aromas one after another. They passed frozen fruit around during the hottest moments. Each session lasted about 15 minutes which is a long time in that heat. It was totally refreshing, because afterward is the cold shower. Apollo had a shower that sprays water from all angles, like a car wash. There were iridescent lights, with a button offering cold or hot water. Of course the cold water is best after the sauna. I sat two or three sessions, but the third one I was on the top seat, which is hottest. I could not breathe and asked to leave. They let me out, but after the guy who administered the water to the rocks threw a bucket of ice cold water over my head. I guess that was because I could not make it. His job was to fan his towel around the sauna while the steam rose. This adds a warm breeze to the room. I’m telling you this is a great way to detox, as well as soften up your skin. Later, in the hotel, Jen and I found a private sauna like the ones I mentioned. The hotel allowed us to use it, so we both went down there. In Europe, it is not uncommon to see people naked in the saunas…

The food is great! I enjoyed the Weiner Schnitzel most at Austria Restaurant. This place was so quaint, but very rustic and country-lodge looking. There were moose-heads on the walls that boasted large spiky antlers. The cutlet was larger than the plate – I could not believe it was so big! The meal came with a light cucumber salad, in a white vinegar dressing. It was so light and refreshing. I enjoyed a small bottle of Austrian Sparkling Wine. I left the dinner table feeling like I could run a mile, instead of passing out from overeating.
Austria Restaurant, German Restaurants Berlin, German Cuisine bErlin, Austria,

It’s checkout time and I am barely conscious from the night before at Berghain. Second surprise visit: my friend Klara stopped by the hotel. It was so weird, we only had touched base on Facebook, when she told me she was living in Berlin. She decided to surprise me in the Lobby, at checkout time. I had told her what time I was leaving early. How nice – thanks Klara!

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