I had been to Prague and Vienna in the early 1990s, as well as Berlin and Krakow in 2000. I had always wanted return and to take my family there. And so, we decided to take Clara’s two-week spring break in Eastern Europe as a family (with West, Clara’s boyfriend joining us). Our itinerary included Berlin, Krakow, Vienna, Prague, and short stayover in Reykjavík on our return home.
Berlin received us before noon, courtesy of Icelandair‘s early arrival. It was a sunny Saturday morning and although we were exhausted from the long flight, we were excited to start exploring the city.
A taxi wound us through the streets of Berlin to the hotel Provocateur, where we found our rooms would not be ready until after three-o-clock. A shower and change of clothes from our trip would have to wait. The helpful hotel staff pointed us towards nearby Kurfürstendamm, the local shopping district. Shopping sounded fun so we headed off in that direction to find stores and something for lunch. Unfortunately, Kurfüerstendamm disappointed us for shopping since most stores were either large multi-national chains or luxury goods which held little interest for treasure hunters like us. We steered off off the beaten path of polished boulevards and lavish window displays and wove ourselves up and down side streets in search of a more authentic Berliner experience.
We stumbled across a quaint little restaurant filled with local pensioners called Café Maitre Munch. It proved our first taste of Berliner food to be a win (although the green and overly sweet Berliner Weisse was far too much for our taste).
After lunch, we headed back to our hotel to shower and change. Our rooms were ready and better yet we had been given an “upgrade”. We picked this hotel because it was part of the Marriott collection and had booked it through the Marriott website. Perhaps we should have looked more closely at the Provocateur’s website first. While the hotel was certainly small and intimate…that intimacy took on new meaning as we found it was listed as a “sensual” hotel. We entered our red velvet ensconced rooms and were greeted by ample mirrors, erotic art books, the latest German edition of Playboy (they still print full nudes in Playboy Germany BTW), unmentionables availabe in the mini-bar, and a switch on the wall for something called “Provocateur mode”. Of course when we discovered that we had to flip it on. The lights automatically dimmed, some sexy music came from hidden speakers in the walls, and then artsy black and white risqué moving images were projected upon the wall from a hidden source in the wall. We laughed it off, but with two seventeen-year-olds traveling with parents, it was….awkward…
As soon as we could differentiate our blushes from our velvet curtains, we caught an über to trendy Prenzlauer Berg to visit Paul’s Boutique (not Paul’s Boutique) – a major mission for our Berlin itinerary. It did not disappoint. Paul’s was an overwhelming assault of visual stimulation and vintage picking which helped fend off our mounting jet lag.
After a few prized purchases at Paul’s we headed down the street of hipster bars, beergardens, cafes, and vintage boutiques in search of more treasures. We found OYE – a record store on our list of places to visit. It proved fruitful in producing a dozen or so 7″ 45 rpm vinyls for our new juke box back home. As we strolled the streets looking for somplace to eat we came across a seemingly abandoned photo booth sitting in front of a large empty lot on the edge of the neighborhood. Clara and West did a photo session.
We topped off a rather long day (which started on Friday morning in Seattle and it was now 7pm in Berlin on Saturday) with a traditional German meal of beer, pretzels, schnitzel, and stuffed peppers at a beer garden called Georgbraeu Brauhaus we found near Alexandererplatz before nodding asleep in an über on our way back to the velvet couches and curtains of the Provacateur for a much needed sleep.