To celebrate the German launch of the Pink Hotel, I spent last weekend in Berlin, which now tops my list of cities I plan to live in when I grow up. Bearded violinists in board shorts, urban beaches, locked graffiti-caked doors leading nowhere. Everywhere you look there’s some splash of high-drama: wooden art mannequins arranged in lemming-like suicide leaps from a window ledge, a single swing looking out over a park, a sculpture bleeding red paint. The top five ways we spent our time were, in no particular order:
Mauerpark Fleamarket – baskets of naked Barbie dolls, ragged jigsaws, teacups, albums filled with family snaps, comic books, ancient microwaves, hats, lamps, furniture, DDR memorabilia…
Bar Ravel in Kreuzberg – Eggplant tempura with honey, huge wheels of baked goats cheese, churizo, braised rabbit, garlic shrimps, white wine and crème brulee at tables out on the streets of Kreuzberg.
East Side Gallery – In 1989, after the Wall came down, hundreds of artists from all over the world painted the formerly untouchable east side of the Wall. It’s 1.3 kilometers of euphoric, colourful, emotional mural painting. Just behind is a beach bar on the water called Strandgut, where you can dig your toes in the sand and sunbathe.
Views from the clouds – If you happen to be walking through Mitte, the tower of a bleak, stripped-down church called the Zion Church is worth stopping for. You climb an increasingly narrow, worryingly lopsided staircase into a tower with giant clocks leaning against the walls, guarded by a man named Karl, who is an expert on Berlin viewpoints all across the city.
Street Artists – One of our favourites was a juggler performing in the middle of buzzing traffic, framed by the Brandenburg Gate in the distance. Close runners-up were: the break dancers in Pariser Platz, Turkish drummers in Kreuzberg, Jazz musicians in Prenzauer Berg, a violinist pacing the colonnades outside the National Gallery on Museum Island.