This week marks my first birthday in Berlin. Last year, we moved here just a few days after my 28th birthday – so I got to celebrate it in Holland with my friends and family over there. This year I won’t organize anything (or will I? I’m still not sure). Not because there’s no reason to celebrate, on the contrary really. But let’s face it: this past year in Berlin has been one big party, with on-going festivities. I’m celebrating every day I’m living in Berlin and sometimes it feels like the party just never stops. Time for some highlights + tips to experience this atmosphere for yourself.
There’s King’s Day in Holland, but it doesn’t feel the same. The street parties in Berlin are less organized (or so it seems) and, at least to me, more fun. May in Kreuzberg is the best example: on the 1st there was Labour Day, which means a big open-air party in Kreuzberg. There’s live music in every street and the beer and mojitos are perfectly affordable. Sounds good? Let’s do it all again two weeks later at the Karneval der Kulturen, when there’s even more live music, more great street food and more cocktails and beer.
May 1st in Kreuzberg. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans
Labour Day, 1 May in Kreuzberg
Karneval der Kulturen, every year on Whitsun weekend in Kreuzberg
Fete de la Musique, 21 June across the city
Bergmanstraßenfest, 3 days in June (this year: 24-26 June) in Kreuzberg
No party without cake. I’ve always loved cake in all variations, but it wasn’t until I moved to Berlin that I discovered cheesecake. Sure, I had some before, but I didn’t know it could be this divine. It’s with a little embarrassment that I admit Mark and I have got pretty addicted to it. During the end of summer, there were no weekends without cheesecake. We had our favourite sources, but every now and then we would try a cheesecake at a new place. This nearly always ended in true disappointment and a bad mood. Our winners so far (suggestions are welcome):
Cheesecake heaven: Berlin. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans
Kaffee A.Horn: Carl-Herz-Ufer 9, Kreuzberg
Five Elephant: Reichenberger Straße 101, Kreuzberg
Barcomi’s: Sophie-Gips-Höfe, Sophienstraße 21, Mitte & Bergmannstraße 21, Kreuzberg
Truth be told: I was a little afraid when people started announcing they wanted to visit us in Berlin. This meant they would stay at our place (privacy?!) and we would have to entertain them for days on end. There was a period last summer when not a single weekend – actually, hardly a single day – went by without visitors. And we loved it. It’s like going on a short holiday with some of your best friends, having great conversations and at the same time showing them the city you love so much.
No one gets to go back to Holland before taking a picture at a Photoautomat. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans
One of the things I love so much about Berlin are the city’s beaches. No, there’s no sea here. But there is the river Spree and the people of Berlin sure love to spend time on the banks of this river. Every city beach is different; one has big bean bags that are perfect to spend an entire hung-over afternoon in (Sage), the other is like a day in Jamaica (Yaam). But there’s one that is by far our favourite: Pampa Holzmarkt, a small village and festival grounds in one. We kept our fingers crossed all winter, hoping they’d open again this spring. And they did, even bigger than last year.
Last summer at one of Berlin’s city beaches. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans
Sage: Köpenicker Straße 76, Kreuzberg
Yaam: An der Schillingbrücke 3, Friedrichshain
Holzmarkt Pampa: Holzmarktstraße 19-30, Friedrichshain
Talking about Pampa Holzmarkt: they probably serve the best pizzas in all of Berlin. And that means something. It seems like the entire city is on a constant quest for the best pizza in town, with Berlin websites publishing best-pizza lists on almost a weekly base. Not surprising – after all, pizza is probably the best food of all and there are, according to the phone book, 709 pizzerias in Berlin (and probably some more that are not listed). Where to go? We tried quite a few of them – which means about 1% – and our verdict is anything but definitive. But these are our favourites so far, serving great pizzas in a good setting and for a decent price.
No need to leave Holzmarkt Pampa after sunset. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans
Pizza in a very stylish setting at Stranero in Wedding. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans
Pampa Holzmarkt (see above)
Stranero (hipster stylish, but not in an annoying way): Liebenwalder Straße 11, Wedding
Rathaus Pizzeria (classic Italian restaurant in Germany, lovely staff): Otto-Suhr-Allee 94, Charlottenburg
Not only did we get the – unexpected – chance to get to know many of our old friends better now that we live in Berlin (see above), but moving to a new city also means having to make new friends. And this is surprisingly easy in Berlin. Going to a party? Just bring some friends along! Having a nice chat with someone in a club? Let’s invite them over for dinner next week! Starting a new job? Let’s have lunch with the colleagues every day (budget allowing) and have regular dinner parties as well! It seems that everyone in Berlin is always willing to make new friends – or maybe I’ve just been lucky to meet the right people.
Why not have a barbecue on a Tuesday evening in March? That’s what friends in Berlin are for. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans
I saved this one for the last, since I didn’t want to scare anyone away too soon. But as a historian who literally lives surrounded by the ‘remains’ of her favourite research theme (namely the GDR), every day is a party for me. Our apartment was part of the most prestigious building project ever to take place in the GDR and the history of the country is still everywhere around us. I love walking around in the neighbourhood and discovering new stories, even after a year. When I want more, I can just take my bicycle or a train to other parts of the city, where abandoned buildings are waiting to be ‘discovered’ by me. At the same time, I’m afraid it will be only after we move back to Holland (whenever that might be) that I realize how amazingly special the city of Berlin and my building are.
Reliving the history of my apartment for one of my first blogs. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans
Remember what Ernest Hemingway said about Paris? “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” It was translated into German as ‘Ein Fest fürs Leben’, a party that remains with you for the rest of your life. And that’s exactly what Berlin will do.