27 Nov Dorothée Lefering’s Berlin
Berlin Through The Eyes of Travel Blogger Dorothée Lefering
I metDorothée Lefering of http://www.thetouristin.com at a drinks and food party at Tbex in Athens this year. We bonded over Santorini wine and Greek cheese and Dorothee very kindly agreed to spill the beans on Berlin.
After 7 years in Australia, Dorothée Lefering moved to Berlin in 2013. Although she has only lived there a year, she seems to be truly at home in the city and is even starting to call herself a Berliner. And with good reason you’ll see, as she shares her wide expert knowledge with us here.
Dorothee, tell us one thing most people don’t know about the city…
There must be a zillion things I don’t know about Berlin and I can hardly keep up with reading about the city, to learn as much as I can. What surprised me most is how high the unemployment rate is with 10,7%. If you compare this figure with the Freestate of Bavaria, where it is at 3,4%, it is frightening really (both October 2014).
What do you to do to relax in Berlin?
That is easy, I sit on my sofa and read … doesn’t really help visitors, right? There are many parks and lakes in and around Berlin. I can wander for hours through Tiergarten to recharge my batteries, but I also like to see a play or visit a museum to relax. I love the “Komische Oper” in Behrenstrasse in the borough of Mitte. The Australian Barrie Kosky has been appointed Chief Director in the 2012/13 season, and at the end of his first season at the Komische Oper Berlin, the opera was awarded by critics to the Opera House of the Year.
Where is the best place to get away from the crowds?
Everybody sees the thing with crowds differently. I don’t mind to be around people, whereas others might say 50 people around them is too busy. Berlin isn’t New York City or London, hence it hardly ever gets heavily overcrowded (it is when there is fireworks or the union organises a strike). Like in any place, if it gets too much for you, move away one block from the attractions and you most certainly will have the streets all to yourself. Most people are simply too lazy to wander the extra mile.
Are there any bars or restaurants you can recommend for long lingering lunches or just people watching?
Long lingering breakfast, lunches, afternoon breaks or dinners: My very favourite place is in the western part of Berlin, it is true old-fashioned grandeur, and has got a very special charm. I visit the Restaurant/Café, housed in an old villa, for breakfast, coffee and cake, lunch, and dinner. The architecture, the fresh food and the authentic service amaze me every time I visit. You can either sit inside under very high ceilings, or in the very pretty conservatory, or in summer in the manicured garden. I love to take visitors for dinner here, it is stunning. Café-Restaurant »Wintergarten« im Literaturhaus, Fasanenstrasse 23, 10719 Berlin.
Here are a few streets with Cafés galore (plus everything that comes with sitting in one):
- Tucholskystrasse/corner Auguststrasse and corner Linienstrasse.
- Weinbergsweg. All in 10119 Berlin.
- Have dinner at Boetzow-Privat and eat Kaesespaetzle, a typical dish from Berlin (No, it is not from Berlin, but it is delicious). Boetzow-Privat. Linienstrasse 113 (corner Tucholskystrasse), 10115 Berlin.
Any must visit shopping recommendations (clothes, food, whatever…)
Groceries: For organic groceries I go to Bio Company, they are to find all over town.
Clothes: On Muenzstraße, Mulackstraße, and Alte Schoenhauser Straße in the borough of Mitte you find everything from Filippa K, ACNE, & Other Stories to H&M. I secretly call this the “Swedish Quarter.” There are also vintage stores to browse. If you are already there stop for coffee or lunch at Café Oliv, Muenzstraße 8, 10178 Berlin. They serve excellent espresso based drinks and are open till 7pm. To avoid disappointment, please don’t forget that stores are usually closed on Sundays (that is traditional German lifestyle at its best).
Clothes/Food: I often go to KaDeWe department store in the borough of Schoeneberg to have a browse. It has everything you could have ever wished for and probably even more. Don’t leave without having a glass of red and a platter of French cheese at their food department. If you go often, you soon realise that it is always the same people visiting late Friday afternoon (excellent for playing ‘spot the locals’).
Books: Soon after I arrived I found this absolute heaven of a store on Friedrichstrasse in the borough of Mitte. If you like to read, listen to music and browse coffee table books go there now. It is called Cultural Department Store and spread over a whopping five levels, and there is even an English book store on the ground level. They offer readings and concerts, and that all for free. And if this wouldn’t be amazing enough, there is also a restaurant/café serving dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. Opening hours are ground-breaking, considering you are in Germany: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. (midnight) and on Saturdays 9 a.m. to 11.30 pm. Closed on Sundays.
Dussmann das Kulturkaufhaus, Friedrichstrasse 90, 10117 Berlin.
What’s your favourite season there and why?
Having lived in Australia for so long, I am still fascinated by snow. It snows a lot in Berlin and there is nothing more special and romantic to me than to walk the very quiet and empty streets of Berlin on a freezing cold winter’s night. And then there is the Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt, it is simply gorgeous to drink mulled wine in such a historic setting. You should really come and visit in winter. Saying that, Berlin in summer is also great for all the obvious reasons … swimming in lakes, picnicking at parks, open air concerts. It really is a city for all seasons (wait, I sound like a promo ad …).
Can you recommend any free things to do?
Grab your camera, and go on a hunting trip … for street art. The street art in Berlin is vibrant and exciting. In many cases, it mirrors the anger and frustration about certain rules, regulations, and measures, put in place by governments. Bring a German dictionary (a smartphone should do the trick as well), in case you have to translate stuff to get the full picture of the message. Meander the streets of the boroughs of Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Mitte, to see a big variety of street art.
After your outing jump onto the computer and try to find out who the artists are, et voilà, you have got a new hobby (if you aren’t already interested in street art).
What city would you most like to visit?
This is a question I can’t answer. I still want to visit so many cities I haven’t been to yet, like the Free City of Danzig, Saint Petersburg and Chicago and then there are also all the cities I visit over and over again, like Cape Town, London and Paris.
Any practical advice for people visiting Berlin?
Don’t let anyone ever talk you into not visiting the touristy areas of Berlin, they are popular for a reason. There are tourist offices at Tegel Airport, at Airport Schoenefeld, on Kurfuerstendamm, at the Brandenburg Gate, and at Berlin Central Station, and people there are happy to help with everything Berlin related.
Download a public transport map (U-Bahn and S-Bahn), but don’t be shy to ask locals for directions. Most of them don’t mind talking English to you. Don’t be so hard on them if they can’t speak your language, Berlin is in Germany after all. Please don’t think they are rude, details might get lost in translation at some point. You might even feel cheeky and try your own German language skills.
Try to leave your sporty looking backpack and adventurous outdoor clothes at home. Berlin is a city, and you won’t go and climb a mountain or anything like that. You will feel much more comfortable when discovering the city. Do you carry a backpack in your own hometown all the time? See, why would you like to do so in Berlin?
Other than that, go with the flow, be relaxed, smile, bring enough time and have fun. You might want to shoot me a tweet when you are around, who knows, we might end up having a coffee date?
You can see more of Dorothée Lefering’s suggestions at http://www.thetouristin.com