our view of Mauerpark's karaoke
When in Berlin's Mauerpark on a Sunday (a must-do for any summer visit), there is a slight upgrade from stairs to the stone amphitheater built into the side of a hill. Crowds of several thousand gather there each week to see Joe Hatchiban host Bearpit Karaoke, a pastime since 2009.
Hatchiban lugs the whole battery-powered set up on his Bullitt bike for showtime around 3pm (or 4 in our case, following some technical difficulties). People of all ages and nationalities volunteer to perform their favorite songs, as long as it's not Alanis Morissette (she's on the forbidden list). Bring a few beers and/or some bubbly (thanks Nils!) for an afternoon of free entertainment.
Berlin is a place of contrasts: the relaxed, tattoo-covered crowds of areas like Mauerpark make it hard to believe the horrors that divided the city until just 25 years ago. The infamous Wall itself is the most obvious evidence of this period in history, and is hard to miss as you wander through the streets. It can be seen at its finest (that is, if one can ever describe a thing of such terrible division as fine) at the East Side Gallery. Today, these graffiti-covered slabs of cement provide a groundwork for the street art that so distinguishes Berlin from its fellow European cities.
When exploring a new city, it is very important to nourish yourself not only with beer, but also with food. And so we ate - well and plenty. We ate Saigon street food at the lovely District Mot; Italian pizzas along the river at Il Casolare; American burgers from an old toilet house under Schlesisches Tor Ubahn station at Burger Meister; and schnitzels bigger than our heads at Austria. Oh, and the Berlin favorites, too: döner kebab and currywurst (both in a rush to the train station on our trip home, so I can't give a fair rating on those).
dinner @ District Mot
Eating and drinking wasn't all we did - there were a couple museums thrown in there: the DDR for a glimpse at life after WWII under Soviet rule and also the museum under the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe - emotionally tough, but so worthwhile. We did a free Sandman's walking tour - my fourth, they're always really interesting! And spent an evening watching a movie under the stars - or rather, a rain cloud - in a park by our apartment. Gorgeous, despite the rain (and the bad movie).
view from the An der Schilling Bridge
We also walked a lot in Berlin. There's so much to see - so many details to soak up on foot. Bottle caps between bridge bricks, street performers, playgrounds with crocodile swings. Oh, and an amazing trampoline (thank you again, Nils!) hidden away in one playground. Even more fun after a few glasses at the pay-what-you-want wine bar Weinerei, where you can fill your glass as much as you want and pay what you think it was worth when you leave. It's genius!
from Victoria Park
Thank you, Berlin, for giving us a peek into your craziness - we'll be back!