By Carlos Melia
Greetings everyone from the western side of Turkey in Istanbul. I am transitioning along Europe and Asia, for over a month, but this is for another post.
This week for my column on Luxury Gay Travel, I will be sharing with all of you my 48 hours in Berlin, Germany for the CSD Pride Event and more. I will be brief, since I am on the road and taking most of my time to explore a new destination to bring all the inside tips to you.
Invited by Lufthansa to test and review their brand new Boeings 747-8 and Business Class configuration in between United States and Germany, I packed my bags and head once again to the old Continent.
Last time I had been in Berlin was over ten years ago, when I remember my one and only obsession at that time was Check Point Charlie and the Berlin Wall. I was young at that time, not that I am not anymore, but on this last trip I feel I got to discover and experience the city at its full splendor.
I was there for over three nights, but I feel that I can condense the whole experience in 48 hours, for those that might consider taking a chance to explore the Pride holidays in Germany next year.
Did you know that Berlin is 10 times as big as Paris? Or that it is the city with the most singles in Germany? That they like to express their emotions by street art and that such actions are encouraged by the local authorities? That it is one of the cheapest cities in Europe to live…? I didn’t.
CSD Pride Berlin
The local CSD – Christopher Street Day Pride Fest and Event – took place last Saturday and we joined as part of the international press, on board of Lufthansa’s float. The event began around noon at Kreuzberg in Gitschiner Strasse, and flowed along the city in full joy of the local/international LGBT community and citizens from all ages and walks of life, till 6PM.
The parade went silent in respect to the Holocaust Victims while passing by the impressive Holocaust Memorial Square, to later blast the music till end.
As I have taken part in many Pride Events and Parades in the world, and despite that I truly enjoyed the CSD Pride Berlin, my recommendation to the organizers, knowing they want to attract more international visitors, would be to increase the energy of the event. Some parts felt quite dull and boring. I am only commenting on the festive and marketing side of the event, which says nothing against the spirit of why the parade is held year after year in full merit.
The closing event was the GMF @ Weekend Disco Berlin in Alexanderstrasse, with lots of people, great music, and over 3 dance floors, which went till 6AM in the morning.
Highlights you cannot miss
During this visit, I was open to learning more about Berlin, the local lifestyle and the districts beyond the Wall. So I was shown around by expert Fashion and Lifestyle Guide Henrik Tidefjard at Berlin Agenten
My favorites were:
MauerPark and Flea Market
Mauerpark is a public park in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district in the former West Berlin. The name translates to “Wall Park,” referring to its status as a former part of the Berlin Wall and its Death Strip. Panoramic views, street art, live performers, flea market and lots of food and beer. It takes place every Sunday and it is FREE.
Walking the City by Night
This is one of my hobbies as a photographer, and what I enjoyed the most while in Berlin. Walk around and see the lit domes, bridges, mausoleums and towers. The striking contrast between old and new architecture.
Especially if you get there before July 29th 2012, you must see the Fashioning Fashion exhibition, which I loved.
And of course the classic visits to: Brandenburg Gate, located west of the city centre at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, former city gate, rebuilt in the late 18th century as a neoclassical triumphal arch, and now one of the most well-known landmarks of Berlin. Check Point Charlie, the name given by the Western Allies to the point between the East and the West of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. The Berlin Wall “Berlin Mauer” itself, should not be missed, and also the visit to the museum. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also know as the Holocaust Memorial designed on a site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field.
(video) Check Point Charlie
Where did I Stay?
At the stunning, strategically located and chic Hotel de Rome by Rocco Forte Hotels. If there is a hotel to choose and be in while visiting Berlin, this is your ultimate option. Located on Bebelplatz, with easy access to the Branderburger Tor, Alexzander Platz, Check Point Charlie, Berlin Wall among main commercial areas, attractions and highlights. Beautiful suites, great views, nice spa and fitness center. My favorite was the Bebel Bar and in particular the Velvet Room. The Parioli restaurant serves an excellent and complete breakfast every morning, with your choice of indoor or outdoor seating.
(video) My SUITE at the Hotel de Rome
Where did I Eat?
I tried several options, on the luxury side and on the budget side, and all were lovely. The first day we went very local and low profile, to eat on the streets of Berlin. We had the classic CurryWursts with french fries and beer. The best place to try this option is Curry36.
(video) Traditional CurryWurst in Berlin
From there on we topped the notch to fancy and trendy. We had our first dinner at Katz Orange with delicious organic gourmet food, old school drinks and a friendly welcoming ambiance, hidden inside a lovely indoor patio. The following Sunday we moved to the local version of SoHo at the area known as Pregnant Hills, on our way to the Mauer Park, and we enjoyed a fantastic Champagne Brunch at Anna Blume at Prenzlauer Berg area. Finally on my last night there, on my own once the rest of the group was already gone, I decided to go for my favorite Asian option and tried the recommendation by a local friend at Monsieur Vuong for delicate Vietnamese dishes, with still great memories of the taste of cilantro in my mouth. But from my research I can also recommend the following, at your own risk: The Grand Berlin, Fridas Schwester, Bocca di Bacco and Lokal.
How did I get there?
In style of course, comfortable and smooth onboard the brand new Boeings 747-8 and Business Class configuration by Lufthansa. Two wonderful movies, a 3-course dinner, light breakfast and 3 hours sleep passed, and I was landing in Frankfurt and walking to the Welcome Business Lounge to take a quick shower, a second breakfast (if you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a big foodie and huge Dirty Vodka Martinis fan).
Lufthansa will be rolling this brand new Business Class configuration to other international flights originating in the US, but for the moment only the flights departing from Dulles Airport in Washington are the lucky ones. Full bed ergonomic seats, that take over 3 windows, excellent entertainment system and the award STAR Chef meal service.
Business class is located on the upper deck, featuring mood lighting and all the exclusive amenities that Lufthansa passengers are used to. For more info check my full post.
BER – Berlin Brandenburg Airport
By mid 2013, Berlin will have a brand new airport with top technology and easy access by speed train, connecting Berlin and other destinations in Germany and Europe. The brand new airport will be name BER – Brandenburg Airport and we had a sneak peak during our visit. This airport will overtake the traffic of the two current operational airports, being one of the Tegel, hoping this will boost the tourism to Berlin and the international connections making Berlin a new hub of distribution in the region.
(video) BER – Berlin Brandenburg Airport
That is all for now from Berlin. I continue my tour through Europe this weekend when I fly to London for World Pride and to visit Bath, Costwolds and Stratford. So stay tuned for my future contributions. Happy Pride everyone. Carlos Melia
Carlos Melia is a Travel Expert, Blogger, Niche Marketing Consultant, Jetsetter, and Bon Vivant, who travels around the world discovering what’s new and cool in Luxury Travel and Hospitality. His reviews on hotels, restaurants, destinations, and attractions, based on his own experiences as an OUT Gay Traveler can be found at www.carlosmeliablog.com