These were not the words I was expecting to hear at 4am on a Friday morning. But those were the words coming out of James’s mouth.
I blinked in the brightness of the bedroom lights. I’d just been woken up from a dream where I was drinking hot chocolate with Kanye West and now my boyfriend was looking at me with a panicked look on his face, my rucksack lying on the bed in front of him with a few of my cosiest clothes thrown in halfhazardly.
After telling him to eff off (he didn’t) and asking him if he was serious (he was) I remembered that I’d put the washing machine on the night before and we’d need to empty it or the clothes would end up stinking. Best reaction to a romantic gesture ever? I think so.
As we shuffled down the stairs to the taxi rank I started to get really excited. A few months back James had told me not to buy him a Christmas present, and to make sure I didn’t have any work to do on the 6th December. He told me he had a special Christmas day out planned for us, and we’d get our presents on the day. I thought it would be pottery making or a cooking class, or maybe even some hippie dippy couples retreat where we had to write each other a poem.
I definitely was not expecting a surprise weekend in Berlin.
I got even more excited when I saw we were flying with TAP: it’s been a long time since I’ve flown with a non budget airline. It was like going first class. We got a free brekkie, free drinks, and there was even a TV with Mr Bean playing. I was in heaven.
I knew the holiday was going to be awesome when we landed at Schonefeld and it was snowing. It almost reduced me to tears. We don’t get much in the way of snow in Lisbon, so seeing big chunky flakes of the stuff was the best Christmas present ever. As the icy wind blew into the cabin, I grinned. I haven’t been cold for ages, and as a true Scottish lass I appreciate a nice bit of chilly weather.
So what did we get up to in Berlin?
We drank a lot of gluhwein
It’s hot, it gets your gloves all sticky, and boy it’s expensive, but nothing warms you up on a cold day quite like a steaming hot glass of gluhwein. I was really impressed with the frosted mugs that we were served our drinks in. Each one had a different pattern, advertising the market where we bought the wine. If we had room in our hand luggage I’d have kept a couple: three euro deposit be damned.
We visited a lot of Christmas markets
Nobody does Christmas like the Germans. Even the sex shops get in on the act.
Unsurprisingly Berlin is absolutely teeming with Christmas markets. If there’s a spare patch of land, you can bet your boots a Christmas market is going to appear there. And whenever I spotted one, poor James got dragged in for some gluhwein.
Our favourite market was one that we stumbled on by accident after buying some gloves and hats in C&A on our first night in the city. We ate a hot dog that had cheese actually cooked inside the sausage. That was basically the highlight of my life.
Honourable mentions go to the quirky Nordic Market (which we got lost trying to find), the market on Potsdamer Platz (where we bought a schneeballen to enjoy later), and of course the huge market in Alexanderplatz where we were lucky enough to see Santa go by: while we were on the big wheel.
My least favourite was the one where you had to pay a couple of Euro to get in. I just didn’t think it was worth the ticket price. It was crowded and just had the same old tat as all the other (free) markets. I wouldn’t mind if the gluhwein was a bit cheaper, but it wasn’t.
We bought a lot of souvenirs
Despite the fact that I’m usually quite tightfisted, I dug into my coffers a few times on this holiday to pick up some souvenirs. These included a vintage photobooth photo taken at a booth near Checkpoint Charlie, a CD by a ska band we saw busking near Potsdamer Platz, a cheesy postcard with our faces on, and some arty farty prints from an art market along the banks of the Spree.
We went on a walking tour
You guys, I can’t recommend the Sandeman’s New Europe walking tours enough if you want to do a bit of sightseeing. Our tour guide, Stephen, was hilarious and dynamic and really brought the history of Berlin to life. The tour lasted around three hours and he showed us loads of interesting landmarks that we might have missed otherwise.
He also filled us in on a lot of history, so instead of just looking at things like the Brandenburg Gate and thinking “oh that’s nice”, we actually learned a few interesting stories about it. I particularly enjoyed the stories about the Berlin Wall: I honestly had no idea that it only went up in 1961. I was shocked: the swinging sixties and people were getting shot because they were looking for a better life? Ugh.
Hearing about what went on in East Germany has made me realise why Americans are so feared of Communism.
We went to the ballet
Dragging me out of my bed and onto an aeroplane wasn’t the only surprise up my boyfriend’s sleeve, oh no! He’d also bought us tickets to see a Tchaikovsky ballet on the Sunday night. Unfortunately we were both a bit knackered after our walking tour and our wild goose chase looking for the Nordic market, so we probably didn’t appreciate the first half of the show as much as we should have.
An espresso at the interval sorted us out, and as we watched wide eyed it dawned on us: there weren’t many female performers. In fact, the ballet was rather homoerotische! I spent the rest of the show in my element, watching hunky ballerinos swoon in each others arms. James was a wee bit disappointed at the lack of flexible ladies: but you win some you lose some, eh honey?
We posed at the Holocaust Memorial
Oh I feel a bit daft now, but at the time I thought it would be funny to pose like these guys on Grindr. Now I just feel a wee bit disrespectful.
The Holocaust Memorial is an amazing and overwhelming place to visit. It’s hard to describe the experience of walking through those big concrete blocks: one word that springs to mind is “oppressive”. As you walk deeper and deeper in, the blocks get higher and higher and you start to feel more and more claustrophobic. It’s brilliant.
There’s lots more that I could say about Berlin: how beautiful Kurfurstendamm was with all the trees lit up for Christmas, how delicious everything we ate was, and how laid back and friendly all of the people were.
In fact, we loved Berlin so much that we’ve decided to move there for the summer!
Have you ever been to Berlin? What are your favourite things to do there?