From Copenhagen we travelled to Berlin. Well, my son and his friend to Stockholm, and my friend and I to Berlin.

I had heard from everyone with whom I had spoken what a terrific city it is, and I was still very pleasantly surprised. It is much prettier, greener and bolder than I imagined. First of all it has - to my immense astonishment more waterways than Venice. It is traversed by the river Spree and canals, of which I too was unaware. Much more green space - and well maintained with artwork - than I ever imagined. It is more cosmopolitan and the architecture while not always pretty is bold. So I have joined the bandwagon and it is my new favourite European city, much like being in the first flush of love or infatuation! 

We rented (again courtesy of airbnb) an apartment in the Neukolln district, simply because it was close to a couple who live there and the husband is my travelling companion's high school friend. Neukolln is located in what used to be East Berlin and is mostly Turkish. It seems to be the equivalent of our own Queen West West/Dundas/Ossington area. While quiet during the day, it turns into party central - in the nicest way - each evening and well into the wee hours. The area, where we spent most of our time seems to be occupied (besides recent Turk immigration) by artists. A lot of the buildings are older, some have been renovated (like our small apartment complex) quite nicely. Most of the city seems to be within easy access of both the parks and waterways. Many of its denizens cycle, walk and take it's wonderfully efficient and clean public transit system. We certainly could take lessons!

The museums are simply superb; the jaw-droppingly amazing Pergamon amongst others on Museum island in Mitte - the centre of the city. It is possible and advisable to purchase time-slot tickets via the internet, otherwise the lines are interminable! The smaller and quite beautiful Museum Berggruen, which the collector and dealer gave to the city as a 'token of reconciliation' for well below it's actual value. It was his personal collection of Modern classics; he was a friend of Picasso. Then the amazing Neue Nationalgalerie designed by Mies van der Rohe with it's fanatastic permanent collection. The architecture as I mentioned, isn't all pretty but it's definitely not retiring either and a great mixture of old and new. We only scratched the surface. The Holocaust Memorial is very sobering and reflective. 

We had very good food, mostly in our hood. Cafe Jacques a French bistro on the water which has been around for many years and the writeup says is a favourite of off-duty chefs. Well, we walked in without a reservation, sat at the bar and were charmingly served by the waitress and Jacques the owner who was hands-on the entire evening. We let him choose our food; started with an excellent plate of middle-eastern apps, followed by fish and steak which we shared, all paired with wine suggested by him. We closed - seemed to become a pattern! - the restaurant, and this allowed us to share an after dinner drink, as well as a chat with Jacques. One night we went to the excellent Defne on Planufer.

Another gem to which we were taken by our friends, is Mama Kalo - modern German but kind of fusion, which despite what is sounds was really good. We went back there on our last night. Via Tripadvisor - again not a disppointment - was Follerei (the 'o' needs an umlaut which I can't locate on my keyboard!) - German/French fusion. All of these were small, owner operated neighbourhood places with excellent food, casual ambience, excellent value and therefore very affordable. We also went to the local market by the church on Sunday, had several bottles of local bubbly and picked at food from the stalls, all at a communal table, one of several set up in the centre aisle of the fair.

Currywurst, the specialty was a bit of a disappointment; maybe it needs a special palate. We tried a roadside stall by Tiergarten as well as Witty's, a well known stall on K-dam where everything is organic and made by the owner/operator/chef. Home grown tomatoes which made the ketchup, home made sausages and his own 'curry' powder. I am going to have to give it a whirl myself - maybe butter chicken sause and currywurst, made with merguez perhaps? 

And then the parks, Tiergarten, Treptow and Templehof. The last used to be an airforce base which was closed, and when they tried to develop it the pressure from the community was so great that the plans were shelved and it is now a park enjoyed by everyone. 

The East Side Gallery, part of the Wall which is still up and artists were commissioned to paint it as a permanent piece. 

Oh yes, Berlin was indeed sublime and deserves its well-deserved reputation.