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Travel Mail: The Berlin

Travel Mail: The Berlin

Take a boat ride on the lake (above) or dig into tasty fare such as Pike Perch fillet, a favourite with novelist Theodor Fontane in Neuruppin.

No experience of Berlin is uncomplicated, consistent, or symmetrical. Even if you’ve visited the city just once, you’ll know that many factors come together to contribute to its consistent appeal. On the subject of museums, art galleries, opera houses, retail temples, or nights on the town- Berlin is dynamic.

The city is always on the move with an ever-evolving cultural scene, always pushing boundaries in art, design and fashion and you’ll find a reason to re-visit. On my most recent foray, I focus on exploring immediate draws for the travelling hordes.

Bauhaus alert

2019 marks the founding anniversary of Bauhaus (that was perhaps the most influential architectural movement of the 20th century) in Germany. The aim of the school founded by architect Walter Gropius was to teach arts, crafts and design in an interdisciplinary manner. The idea underlying the movement was that the individual and material environment should be freed from all that was unessential- form follows function, being its main credo. Weimar, Dessau and Berlin were key places in this hallmark movement.

There’s a litany of exhibitions on in Berlin at the moment to mark the anniversary- from photography shows to walking tours. Taking its relevance, a step further is Bauhaus Imaginista, that’s on at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. It explores transnational correspondences and the worldwide interdependencies of the movement. For instance, it discusses avant-garde art schools in India and Japan as parallel histories of modern reform.

Musical chairs

Innovative. Distinctive. Landmark. This trio of words has perhaps been overused when describing the Berlin Philharmonie- a building that has been at the center of the musical scene since 1963. The structure is a haiku of unusual architecture with its tent-like shape, bright yellow colour and innovative concert design.

Visit to see a concert hall that has long been inspiring other halls, with its ideal performance space- the musicians constituting a central focal point. And even if you’ve only ever visited by armchair you’ll know of the Berlin Philharmoniker, a German orchestra based in Berlin- that has long had musical aficionados throng for its proficient conductors and virtuosic sound.

Culinary poetry

Restaurants boasting ingredients, both regional and seasonal, are found abundantly. Travellers vote with their feet at Franz, that serves among its range of offerings- traditional Berlin meatballs with hearty sauce, green beans and mashed potatoes.

If you’re interested in Place Poetry, the 3 Schwestern with its high ceilings and arched windows situated in the former hospital Bethanien, also ranks high on traditional classic dishes. Finally, if you’re keen for the experience of an old-fashioned corner pub think walls lined with books, frames and collages and a cozy atmosphere frequented by locals as much for its warmth as its hearty fare, Joseph Roth Diele (named for the Austrian-Jewish writer) ticks all the boxes.

Cultural musings

The district of Kreuzberg and its experimental lifestyle and diverse cultural offerings is always a buzz. You’ll know it perhaps as historically the home to the Berlin Punk Rock movement. Best explored on a walking tour, you only have to throw a stone and you’ll hit an art studio, a nightclub, or a piece of living history. Walls punctuated with ever-changing street art, graffiti and murals draw attention.

Seeing as it’s the 200th birth anniversary of novelist Theodor Fontane, who became the key representative of literary realism in Germany, a visit to the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien is in order. Now an international cultural centre, it’s also where Fontane worked in 1848, as an assistant in the apothecary that still stands- albeit with a few reconstructed bits.

Day trip

If you’re hungry for more Fontane, drive the hour and fifteen minutes it takes to get to the quaint town of Neuruppin. This, the birth place of Fontane, with its organised streets and clear lake, is also referred to as Fontanestadt. Follow in the footsteps of the city’s most famous son- past a haiku of fine churches, old homes, cafes, and green spaces. The museum has on offer an excellent, interactive exhibition that deals with how Fontane’s texts were constructed, and how each of us deals with this creation.

The floors are carpeted with words and texts, a landscape in its own right. You don’t have to be a lover of his novels or travelogues- to get swept into a world that examines writing in general. Appetite worked up, head to the Altes Kasino. This atmospheric venue offers a special menu, based on Fontane’s diary entries.

You’ll be treated to pike-perch fillet, traditional bread pudding with vanilla sauce and Chestnut liquor, for example. The courses will of course be punctuated with quotes from his work.

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