Lockdown Berlin

Lockdown Berlin

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Lockdown Berlin: “Celebrating” One Year of Pandemic Adventures

2020 was nothing short of astounding: a global pandemic and the first initial lockdowns, followed by a semblance of normality during a couple of brief summer weeks, only to jump into not one but two waves of Covid-19 infections. March 20201, and we’re not much further than we were a year ago – so it seems.

And, as you might expect, my travel gene did not get to flourish during all this time, with international travel being slighly tricky at best and straight up unadvisable and ignorant in the worst cases/times. That’s when exploring the very place you are in comes as the second best alternative!

Berlin 2.0: Exploring with Eyes Wide Open

Don’t get me wrong: I love my city. So even though Berlin might not, under normal cicumstances, be my place of choice to spend my vacation, it actually is a fantastic place to spend lockdown in. Check out what makes this coolest capital city a worthy candidate for a staycation!

A sign that reads "Auch ich in Berlin"
“Me too, in Berlin”

Size Matters: A Vast City with Multiple Identities

A big chunk of Berlin’s character consists of the fact there there is no one single ‘vibe’ that can be ascribed to the city as a whole. Each disctict has its own character, it’s own ‘center’ (or centers, even), and its own typical ‘look’.

Altes Museum in Berlin
The Altes Museum has the bust of Nefertiti! You can check it out, even in lockdown – but with a negative PCR test from the same day.

You like classic, turn of the century architecture, manicured streets, and cute cafes and swanky boutiques? Try Charlottenburg. Do you enjoy 3rd wave coffee culture mixed with middle eastern flair? Try Neukolln. How aobut yuppie ‘Kiez’-culture where main selling points are ‘handmade’ and ‘organically sourced’? Then Prenzlauer Berg might be more your speed.

Bridge in Prenzlauer Berg on a sunny day
The bridge that leads (pretty much) straight into Berlin’s Mauerpark.
An apartment block in Kreuzberg/Mitte
Keen for some mid 1960s architecture? There’s pleny of that at the border of Mitte and Kreuzberg!

Of course, these are very general (and some presumptuous) generalization. But the main point remains: Berlin’s character is a patchwork, where each borough feels like you’re visiting the same, yet somewhat different city; where you get to switch between perpectives with the same ease as you switch U-Bahn line. All this, joined not so much by common looks or atmosphere, rather a common Berliner attitude.

Berlin Parks and Surroundings: Nature Lovers Rejoice!

Another way in which living in Berlin during the pandemic has been a godsend is the fact that there is just so much nature to enjoy around here! Sure, you’re not in the French Apls or in the lush tropical forests of Costa Rica, but what we have and enjoy in Berlin is much better than many other capital cities can boast. First off, there are more than 2,500 parks in the city. Taking that recommended daily walk? There’s always a green area to integrate into that. Admittedly, some parks are nicer than others, but trust that each district offer more than enough for your greenery needs.

A meadow in Tiergarten, on a sunny day
Tiergarten never disappoints – no matter how many times you’ve been.
The Liebermann Villa at Wannsee
The Liebermann Villa has some gorgeous gardens to meander through

On top of that, there has been the whole of Brandenburg to enjoy (the state that surrounds Berlin). Being able to spend the hot summer days at some of the many, many lakes has been one of my highlights, and, to be honest, had it not been for the pandemic, I probably would have still belonged to those people who live here for years but rarely cross the boundaries of their own district.

Wansee in the summer Wannsee is one of the closer ‘city’ lakes and is perfect for boating, swimming or strolling aroung [/caption]

Sunset at Bernsteinsee
Bernsteinsee in Brandenburg provided a much needed respite from the summer heat
Gorinsee in Brandenburg
Gorinsee, located about 30 minutes north of Berlin, provided a lovely winter stroll opportunity

Tourist in My Own City

The notorious lockdown walks have been pretty much a daily occurrence for me – moving from office space into 100% working from home and drastically cutting down my commute time has left ample opportunitiy to let my feet taking me to places other than the tram stop. So, understandably, I’ve been exploring new streets and finding random gems almost every time.

A mural on a street in Prenzlauer Berg
Berlin’s always got some random finds hiding in plain sight!
Random wall art on a street in Prenzlauer Berg
Did I say ‘random’? 😀
The synagogue on Oranienburger Street
Looking up has become quite a hoby in this lockdown: the Oranienburger Str. synagogue does not disappoint

Especially lovely has been the fact that the city is much less crowded than I’ve ever seen. The places that are usually a nuisance to pass through are now pleasant and devoid of big crowds, and snapping that picture that you’ve always wanted is now actually possible.

Brandenburg Gate, without tourists
Never have I ever seen Brandenburg Gate/Pariser Platz this empty!
Berlin's government district, without tourists
Government district? Never really spent much time here before due to crowds. Nowadays? A breeze!
The World Time Clock at Alexanderplatz
World Time Clock? Delightfully empty surroundings – count me in!

Culinary Exploration, Beta Version

With the exception of a couple of months, between May/June 2020 and Noveber 2020, restaurants have been pretty much closed, safe for the takeway or delivery option. This has been one of the biggest bummers for me, since I love dining out every now and then. It breaks up the routine of cooking, is fairly affordable in Berlin, and, most importantly, it has beeen a very welcome alternative to being able to attend parties, clubs, or concerts – all activties that have been suspended since March 2020.

Tacos at a sit-down restaurant, pre-lockdown
This USED to be the life – sit down and eat

But – we make due, as we must. That means that the concept of ‘getting takeaway/delivery’ has grown to have a new, extended meaning. Eateries that were previously exclusively dine-in have started offering delivery or pick up options – from local bakeries to fancy tasting menu places.

Bibimbap takeaway
Nowadays we make due with takeway boxes – which is just fine!

Before the 2nd lockdown kicked in in Noveber, bars and cafes have gotten creative with their takeaway drink options as well, with many places offering pre-mixed ‘enjoy at home’ servings, and some places even running beer bikes to compensate for the unavailability of having patrons in their space. Yes, it has been tough on many places in the bar and restaurant industry -and there are some that won’t come out of this situation when we’re back to ‘normal’ (whatever that may mean). But the upshot has been the creativity and innovation that some establishments employed in order to keep the wheels turning.

Hokey Pokey icecream
And if all else fails, there’s always icecream!

Am I happy with the Lockdown? Hell no! But It Could Have Been Worse

It’s safe to say that the last 12 months have made me appreciate the city I live in. I mean – I loved Berlin immensely to begin with, but it’s a whole another level of being content when you’ve spent a year in the same spot and you don’t hate it. The pandemic has been a struggle on many levels for sure (looking at you, German goverment and your handling of the situation) but it has not destroyed my spirit in the same ways as it has for many others – thanks in a large part to being able to experience new facets of this city at almost every step. I hope you’ve liked this visual tour and that you will one day visit – trust me, if you think already that Berlin is nice, know that it is a 1000% cooler and more vibrant once we’ve turned the corner on Covid!

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