The morning started at 6AM. We packed, checked-out and headed two hours west to Berlin. We checked in at the Cosmo Hotel Berlin Mitte, walked around the city in the direction of the Reichstag. We would walk and ultimately we would cave to taxis as Berlin is nine times bigger than Paris.
- In 2002 Michael Jackson dangled his son ‘Prince Michael II” out of one of the windows of the luxurious Hotel Adlon Kempinski
- 1936 Summer Olympics were held in Berlin. Best know as Hitler’s failed attempt to prove the white race was superior as American Jesse Owens won four gold medals. Two weeks later, Tiger Woods picked up golf, leaving the whites with only hockey and cricket.
Platz der Republik 1
11011 Berlin, Germany
A trip to the Reichstag, an architectural and design marvel, is a must in Berlin. In 2010, a terrorist scare closed the Reichstag. After that reservations were required. Ours was for 9AM. It’s home to the Bundestag, the national dish of Berlin. But, we weren’t here to eat. We did a bee line straight to the mirror cylinder. If you’re not a morning person, you could also visit the Reichstag at night.
Next stop was Berlin Museum Island, which is home to five museums: Pergamonmuseum, Bode-Museum, Neues Museum,
Alte Nationalgalerie and Altes Museum. It also houses a Berliner Dom church. That was our first stop.
10178 Berlin, Germany
Berliner Dom is a Protestant church that was completed in 1905. Even if you don’t believe in an imaginary being in the sky, it’s a beautiful church worth visiting and the deceiving long winding stairs to the top can work off some calories.
10178 Berlin, Germany
Of the five museums, we chose to visit the Neues and Pergamon museums. The Neues museum was constructed between 1843 and 1855. It constituted a key work in the history of art, public museums and technology in the 19th century. After being closed for 70 years, it opened to the public again in 2009. The building suffered sever damage in the Second World War. Three of the museum’s prized possessions included the bust of Egyptian queen Nefertiti (~1340 BC), Xanten Youth (mid-1st c.) and the Golden Hat (~900 BC). It is also the most visited museum in Germany with over a million visitors annually.
10178 Berlin, Germany
The other museum we visited was the Pergamon museum that was completed in 1930. The museum houses reconstructions of several imposing archaeological structures – the Pergamon Altar, Market Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar Gate. Unfortunately, the Pergamon Altar was being used for a Bar Mitzvah this morning, so we didn’t get to see it. That aside, both museums were worth while and I’d recommended them to anybody spending at least two days in Berlin.
37, Admiralstraße 36
10999 Berlin, Germany
According to the census 2011 there are almost 3 million people with Turkish background in Germany forming about 3.7% of Germany’s total population. Large-scale migration of Turkish citizens to West Germany developed during the 1960s and 1970s. West Germany suffered an acute labor shortage because of the economic boom, in 1961, the Bundesrepublik and officials at the Turkish Republic negotiated a trade of labor. Turkish workers were invited to move to Germany to fill in this void, particularly to work in the factories to do simple repetitive tasks. Turkish citizens soon became the largest group of guest workers in West Germany, laboring alongside Italians, Yugoslavs, Spaniards, Greeks and other immigrants. The perception at the time on the part of both the West German Government and the Turkish Republic representatives was that working in Germany would “only” be temporary.
After 3 or 4 years, the migrant workers showed considerable signs of distress and were permitted to re-unite with their existing and abandoned families. Eventually, many became settled permanent residents by default with the birth of offspring, school and other obligations in the new lands.
In recent years, some in the Turkish minority have shown cultural problems in integrating into German society. A recent non-governmental telephone survey, carried out jointly by Liljeberg and the Berlin-based INFO polling company sampled 1011 Turkish migrants living in Germany. It showed 72% of the Turks surveyed in Germany believe that Islam is the only true religion, 62% prefer social contacts only to fellow Turks, 46% wish that one day more Muslims live in Germany than Christians, 25% think atheists are inferior human beings and 18% felt that Jews are inferior people.
The point is these people are crazy and crazy people cook good food. I grew up in a Muslim “prison”, but anything coming from the correctional commissary was splendid. So, an opportunity to get Turkish food wouldn’t be avoided.
Doyum Grillhaus is situated in a suspect neighborhood, not far from the picture of the apartment complex with graffiti. Nonetheless, both of us loved this place. Middle eastern food is very similar to pizza in the sense that even bad middle eastern food is still good. I’d say the same about Indian, but I know my Punjabi brothers would dissent.
10967 Berlin, Germany
From Doyum Grillhaus, we walked to Kadó, a store the specializes in black licorice, or star anise flavored, candy. It’s dubbed the masochist’s heaven and for good reason. I just don’t see how anybody could enjoy the medicinal flavor. I had to exit the store because I kept on getting light headed. This was Jen’s pick to put it on the agenda. She loved everything about it and grabbed a few sampler packs.15 minutes had passed and we were on to something more dually enjoyable.
10117 Berlin, Germany
Checkpoint Charlie was the main crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War until the Berlin Wall’s fall in 1989. The West Berlin side represented Capitalism and transformed to evil Communism once you crossed with a strong warning sign that read, “YOU ARE NOW LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR”, knowing crossing back was in the hands of the East. Between 1961 and 1963, nobody was allowed to cross either side.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
10117 Berlin, Germany
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the center of Berlin is the German Holocaust Memorial honoring and remembering the up to six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It is located within walking distance of Brandenburg Gate. The memorial consists of 2,700 concrete slabs and has been open since 2005.
(Walking through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Germany)
10117 Berlin, Germany
The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most important monuments – a landmark and symbol all in one with over two hundred years of history. A former symbol of the divided city, it drew visitors who used to climb an observation platform in order to get a glimpse of the world behind the Iron Curtain, on the other side of the barren “death-strip” which separated east from west Berlin, geographically and politically. It was here that on June 12, 1987, Ronald Regan issued his stern command to his cold war adversary admonishing him with the words: “Mr. Gorbachov – tear down this wall!”. The speech delivered to West Berliners was also audible on the east side of the Gate and echoed President von Weizsacker’s words which translate as: “The German question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed.”
Unter den Linden
10117 Berlin, Germany
The Bebelplatz is a public square in the Mitte district of Berlin. It’s historical significance is that is was one of the sites of the Nazi book burning ceremonies in 1933 that accounted for the loss of 20,000 books. We were visiting the memorial that consists of a glass window peering into an empty bookcase that coincidentally has a 20,000 book capacity.
So far Berlin seems filled with constant reminders of WWII. We’ve split our time on this trip between Christmas markets, food and memorials from a sad time in Germany’s history. But still I can’t help but wonder if Germans get tired of this being their representation. Now several generations have passed and they still endure, they drink their sorrows away on a nightly basis, they built better cars. I wonder at what point this will be the end.
(Driving 85 MPH on the autobahn outside Berlin, Germany)
Aqua – The Ritz-Carlton
38440 Wolfsburg, Germany
At the time of our visit AQUA was ranked at #28 on the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It is one of 11 restaurants in Germany with three Michelin stars. More and more, we’ve been leaning on the Top 50 list to decide between the high-end restaurants. Michelin can be hit or miss and we aren’t aligned with their values of decor and service being as important as the food. This trip proved to be no different. Aqua, Vendome, Geranium, Noma and Tim Raue were all successes and all on the Top 50/100 list. I could see any one of those being our top restaurant. Other people may disagree and perhaps we were just in the Christmas spirit. Or maybe we were just happy to done with Bavarian cuisine.
The chef, Sven Elverfeld, is known for his own style of cooking. His approach is a convincing combination of simplicity and cleverness. In search of new flavor combinations Sven Elverfeld transforms the ordinary and trivial into a work of art. Unusual dishes are topped with artistic grandeur. All to delight the guests at AQUA. Sven Elverfeld’s philosophy is reflected in last year’s awards and recognitions.
The restaurant is located in Wolfsburg, about two hours west of Berlin. It is situated with the Volkswagen Autostadt attraction and the signature restaurant in the Ritz Carlton. We drove from Berlin, but if you can afford the stay, get a room at the Ritz. The train apparently and conveniently runs from Berlin. And if we had more time, we would have visited the Volkswagen Autostadt.
The Autostadt is a visitor attraction adjacent to the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, with a prime focus on automobiles. It features a museum, feature pavilions for the principal automobile brands in the Volkswagen Group, a customer centre where customers can pick up new cars, and take a tour through the enormous factory, a guide to the evolution of roads, and cinema in a large sphere. It is also home to the largest glass doors in the world and the longest printed line. The line starts from outside Wolfsburg and travels through Autostadt to a point on a farm. It is about 4 miles long.
The idea for Autostadt was started in 1994 when the concept of documenting the stages of production of Volkswagen vehicles and how the company’s operations were showcased at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany. In 1998, Autostadt, which is German for “Car City”, broke ground on the former site of a fuel company bordering Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg production plant. Like the adjacent car plant, the site of Autostadt is on the north bank of the Mittellandkanal. The resulting complex is the work of more than 400 architects, created as a new urban center, close to downtown Wolfsburg.
aqua Visions menu
- 4 courses 145 € (premium wine journey 95 €)
- 5 courses 155 € (premium wine journey 95 €)
- 6 courses 170 € (premium wine journey 135 €)
- 7 courses 185 € (premium wine journey 135 €)
aqua Impressions menu
- 6 courses 170 € (premium wine journey 115 €)
- 8 courses 200 € (premium wine journey 155 €)
- 9 courses a 215 € (premium wine journey 175 €)
We ordered the 7 course Visions menu and the 9 course Impressions menu. The snacks were the same for both menus.
The chef actually came out to present this beautiful dish that he referred to as loup de mar with alien sperm. He was confused as whether it translated over well to my wife and was persistent on the matter. Then he began to jerk his left hand around his pant region as some sort of German sherade. Jen let him know that she got it and he eventually left us alone. Besides that, the dish was pretty good, but Jen latter mentioned in the car that she could still feel the dish on her palette. I can only assume this was intended by the chef to get the full effect.
As with most non-American top restaurants, the chef was present in the kitchen and made the rounds to each table. He stopped by to apologize for earlier in the evening and that he doesn’t get out from the kitchen much. After some small talk, I mentioned that we loved the meal, but weren’t looking forward to the two hour drive back to Berlin. He pointed outside and explained that guests from Berlin either spend the night at the Ritz or just take the train from Berlin and it drops them off down the street. And it only takes an hour. From there, you can either hail a cab or call and the hotel will send somebody. He kept asking why would you drive from Berlin, that’s almost three hours away. After an enjoyable meal, he just comes by to make me look like a foolish foreigner in front of my petunia. What an a-hole. Now we know, take the train if you can’t afford a room at the Ritz.