The journey to Berlin succeeded in meeting my expectations and proved to be a complete eye opener. The final leg of the trip gave me a chance to explore parts of the city such as Checkpoint Charlie, a local street market and the famous Sky Bar, before closing with a final meal at Nocti Vagus – a completely unique dining experience.
On the final day, I headed to Checkpoint Charlie which was close to the Eurostars Hotel on Friedrichstrasse in Mitte. This point marks the checkpoint that was referred to during the Cold War for people passing between East and West Berlin. It is also the point where Soviet and American tanks faced each other during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. The site was designated as the single crossing point for foreigners and members of the Allied forces as they were not allowed to use the other checkpoints issued for foreigners. Today the point stands a reminder of the divide that once existed.
From there, we went to a Saturday market – always a fantastic way to mix with local people in the street market. As a food market it was a great place to see local produce and explore a more urban area to pass a Saturday afternoon. Depending upon the season, Kollwitz Platz Market in Prenzlauer Berg is a perfect way to sample fresh food with everything from organic fruit and vegetables to locally made pasta, meats and fish.
The true highlight of the final evening in Berlin was a visit to Nocti Vagus, a unique experience of dining in the dark whilst being served by blind waiters. The concept of the restaurant is very well organised and something that I was nervous yet excited to try.
To start the evening, drinks are served whilst guests peruse the menu. The staff talked me through the menu explaining the two set menus and then the surprise menu, that as you may have guessed – is a complete surprise! I explained my dietary preferences and then sat considering all the potential options that I might have for my meal. It’s a very strange feeling to be in a restaurant and about to eat a three-course meal with no idea of what will be received (if there is something that you cannot tolerate eating then simply let them know – the team will ensure you aren’t served it).
We were led downstairs where the lights are then turned off before being guided into the restaurant and to the seat by the waiter – in our case we were served by Wolfgang. It was fun having to completely trust Wolfgang to lead me to my seat (in fact helping me when I missed the chair), and then having to locate my cutlery and wine glass whilst in the process of desperately not wanting to spill my red wine. The restaurant is in complete darkness for the duration of the meal but once you relax and adjust to the experience it is less intimidating.
After a few minutes the first courses are brought out. Try as I may, I couldn’t locate my mouth in the dark with the fork, therefore I resorted to eating my food with my hands, which made me all the more grateful that we were in the dark! After each course, Wolfgang would explain what I had been eating before clearing the table and serving more drinks and food. I was always completely wrong in guessing what I had been served, something that really made me question my tastebuds.
Wolfgang proved to be the perfect host, talking to me and my boyfriend throughout the evening, checking that we were comfortable and that we were happy with the experience – which we were. At any point you’re able to call your allocated waiter who will always assist. If you want to visit the bathroom, then you do need to ask to be led to the door.
Once we had completed our food, we made our way to leave the restaurant (after asking for assistance of course), but not before we bumped into a fellow winner of the Expedia trip, Thomas from Archaeology Travel.
We wrapped up the evening with a visit to the world famous Sky Bar, Berlin to sample the range of cocktails that they offer. Perfect for a late night drink and located within walking distance of Nocti Vagus, it’s visible from most parts of the city reaching 368 metres high. Drinks are priced from around 9 euros each and you do have to pay to enter the tower.
Overall, Berlin provided a fantastic break from the UK. Berlin has allowed me to:
- Witness that street art isn’t seen as a crime unless somebody has specifically complained. So much so that there are tours available that promote learning about such activities.
- Consider that actually, it’s fine to drink alcohol in public. The approach to alcohol completely differs to that of Britain, it’s readily available yet you’re treated like an adult with regards to consumption. Most noticeably, you’re encouraged to drink water in between drinks and quite simply know your limit!
- It feels very safe despite the lack of police presence. At no time of day or night did we feel threatened or intimidated.
Sincere thanks to Expedia UK and readers of the Ad-lib Traveller for providing this opportunity for me to visit Berlin, Germany.