We love to travel, but staying at home can be a lot of fun too. To inspire you to explore your own backyard, we’ve asked a few friends to guide us through a perfect day in their home town. Second in this series is Wyndham Wallace, who takes us around Berlin.
I’ve lived in Berlin almost fourteen years, but I still often travel for work, and – thanks additionally to the decade I spent criss-crossing London before I moved here – I’m perfectly happy without ever really leaving what the Germans call my ‘Kiez’: my ’hood. It’s not because I’m lazy. It’s just I’ve got almost everything I want here, and the opportunity to stay close to home for a while is one I appreciate.
So, on a perfect day off – and that means I may be a little optimistic here, right from the start – I’ll first try to clear my head and lungs with a jog along the Landwehr Canal. This keeps me off the streets, reminds me of the city’s greenery, and offers shade, too. Plus I get to people-watch all the other freelancers avoiding work by taking a stroll.
After that, it’s time to satisfy my appetite with brunch at Le Bon, where the Eggs Benedict are sublime, homemade lemonade refreshing, and service always charming and friendly. If it’s warm, I’ll try to get a table outside, but the main room is light and airy too.
From there, I’ll work off the carbs with a cycle ride to Berlin’s former central airport, Tempelhof, which was once intended as the entrance to Nazi Germania. It’s an astonishing, vast construction that was closed a few years back, and now lines one section of a huge park providing lungs for the city. How long it will stay like this – with folk cycling and kite surfing down the runway, jogging around the perimeter, enjoying picnics, tending to allotments, and generally giving the finger to the city’s awful past – I’m not sure, but there’s surely a while left yet before they ‘gentrify’ it i.e. sell it to the highest bidder for luxury apartments.
I’ll then cycle back through Volkspark Hasenheide, where, if I’m feeling especially daring, I might grab a beer at Cafe Hasenschänke, an outdoor space that’s so unglamorously functional it appears unchanged since the 1970s, much like its prices. I watched England getting beaten by Iceland here a few years back, and it’s been associated with a stiff upper lip and a good laugh ever since.
For dinner I’ll head to Cocolo Ramen, hopefully to sit in the garden out front, though it’s fun sharing tables with other customers inside too. Their soups have unsurpassably restorative powers, and a mug of Calpis always goes down well. Should I want something a little more solid, though, I’ll instead go to Ammazza che Pizza. They took over what was once my favourite German breakfast spot, so I was ready to resent them forever, but their pizza is astonishing, even better than the nearby Il Casolare’s.
If I still need to quench my thirst, nothing beats going old school for a Pilsener Urquell at Ankerklause, where I’ll either sit at a table on the pavement outside if I feel the need to observe life, or I’ll hide down by the canal to escape it. A last one for the gutter might also be possible at Posh Teckel, a British indie music and dachshund-worshipping bar. That a bar answering to that description even exists is one of the reasons why I live here.
Wyndham is the author of Lee, Myself & I, a memoir about Lee Hazlewood, the man behind ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’. A regular contributor to Uncut, Classic Pop, The Quietus and more, he co-writes guidebooks about remote Norwegian destinations, subtitles German films (including Victoria) for English audiences, and plays ‘Cynical Music Journalist’ in the forthcoming Almost Fashionable: A Film About Travis.