Berlin Calling, It Delivers and More!
Berlin has always been one of my favorite cities, distinctive and always changing. This Thanksgiving visit was at the top of over 20 past trips there. 2018 was my last experience there. Even that short amount of time away presented me with major and exciting changes I enjoyed.
My flights this time were on British Airways Club Business Class via London/Heathrow Airport. I was fortunate to be in the new Club World Suites on the flight over with lots of storage, all-aisle access and even privacy doors. The catering by DO & Co raises inflight fare to new levels. It is not airline food in the traditional sense. I was very pleased and the attentive crew worked well together. On my return, the catering was still very good, but the Club World seats were the old ones with the eight across and backward facing options. During these times, you cannot be guaranteed which arrangement you will ultimately have on any flight. The new seats are expected to be more widespread by the end of 2022.
While the streets of Berlin were a bit less busy, most everything was open and welcoming. Covid rules are ever changing. I was able to get the coveted EU Covid Certificate QR Code early with little effort and at no cost. I submitted my documents at a local pharmacy just five minute’s walk from my hotel. When the certificate came back on my phone about 2 hours later, I was then able to enter museums, restaurants and even the wonderful Christmas Markets. In Berlin, the QR code is not only shown but electronically scanned for accuracy and authentication.
The Hotel de Rome was my very comfortable home in a prime location just off Unter de Linden near the Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island and Alexanderplatz. The 125-year-old building was originally built as the headquarters of the Dresdner Bank. It later became the headquarters of the East German State Bank of the GDR on the East Berlin side of the wall. Rocco Forte Hotels did a careful and complete renovation of the building with modern comfort but still preserving the past. The large vault downstairs and the chute used to deposit those German Marks are now part of the spa. Bullet holes can still be seen in the former Director’s Offices now used as suites. This is a singular property in Berlin that reflects the past but is comfortable with personal service reflecting today.
The “Beverly Hills” of Berlin Christmas Markets is the long running one at Gendarmenmarkt in one of the most beautiful squares in the city. This market has the advantage of always charging a 1 Euro admission. Access has always been controlled. This year the EU Covid Certificate is required and the crowds limited. Other markets are still ongoing, particularly at the Kaiser Willheim Memorial Church and Alexanderplatz. Masks need to be worn, but otherwise it is normal.
I enjoyed so much of seeing familiar highlights such as the Brandenburg Gate, the area around the Zoo Station and others. There were new sights like the new U5 U-Bahn extension up Unter de Linden. It finally connects the major old Western Zone to the former East Berlin showpiece Alexanderplatz. I also did a partial exploration of the newly opened Humboldt Forum Museum with a large series of exhibitions. I selected an innovative one on the history of Berlin and one on the serious issue of ivory, past and present.
My brief stay culminated with my first departure from the 10 years delayed and way overbudget Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. BER has replaced all other Berlin airports as the sole commercial post for the city. It is about 40 minutes drive or a 35-minute Airport Express train from Central Train Station. The popular Berlin Card, if all zones are purchased, includes this valuable service. It is good for U-Bahn and S-Bahn city services as well as many museum discounts. The city has over 200 museums so this card can be very valuable and is a reasonable cost.
BER Airport itself is a big improvement to Tegal Airport but still has short comings. It is vast but all services such as food, drink and duty free are concentrated in the center of the terminal. Once you head for the gates, there is not much there. Also the premium lounges such as Tempelhof for oneworld or the Lufthansa Lounge are before passport control. You must allow extra time leaving the lounge to get to your gate.
Mytrip had been postponed twice due to Covid-19 but the third time worked. It took a few extra steps understanding the current rules, the EU Certificate, Verifly App and Covid-19 Testing requirements for my US return. All went smoothly. It was indeed a successful and fulfilling adventure to a city that will satisfy your travel wonder lust in a big way.
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