Sunday, 26 June 2011

Summer in June in Berlin

Its the middle of winter in Muswellbrook, NSW Australia with cool days, cold nights, and heavy frosts in the mornings. Its is hard to comprehend that on the other side of the world it is summer Where could you spend a lovelier vacation to escape the winter of Muswellbrook than in the summer of Berlin in Germany? Where a 1.3 kilometer long sand beach is just a commuter rail ride away, where on one street corner you can buy Peruvian ice cream and on the other a classic Berlin drink: a hefeweizen beer with a shot of raspberry syrup. In Berlin, there are beach bars next to operetta stages, and the parks are transformed into dining rooms in the great outdoors. No one has to decide between nature and culture – often, both possibilities are just a few steps away from each other.


Vacation on the City Beach

“A villa in the green is such a treat, in front lies the Baltic, behind - old Friederich’s street” was how Berlin poet Kurt Tucholsky put it in 1927. He would probably be astounded how close the city has come to his ideal in the mean time. No other German metropolis has as many beach bars as Berlin – often lying on top of original Baltic sand. Not far from Friedrichstraße and Museum Island, for example, lies the Strandbar Mitte, which opened in 2002 as Germany’s first beach bar and continues to be one of the clear favorites. No matter in which part of Berlin you may find yourself, the beach is never far. In Friedrichshain, the Oststrand attracts its patrons with a view of the Spree River and reclining beach chairs on the deck of an old cargo ship. In the west lies the Ku’damm Beach with lounge furniture on an illuminated lake terrace. So much competition breeds creativity. It is no wonder, then, that Berlin is also home to the first “sky beach bar”. “Deck 5” is located on the top floor of a parking garage. Visitors can arrive by elevator or via a hidden side entrance and end up high above the roofs of Prenzlauer Berg. The spot where cars used to park has now been covered by the “open-air rebels” with eighty metric tons of sand and equipped with reclining beach chairs and umbrellas (


Shady Green Spots

Berlin is filled with tree-lined locations which, in summertime, tempt passersby to pause in the shade. Added to this, scattered across the entire city are numerous parks for picnics, barbecues, or simply the fine art of doing nothing. It is particularly idyllic in the Botanical Garden in Berlin-Dahlem. Between greenhouses filled with palm trees, man-made lakes, and blossoming wetland meadows are found isolated benches on which visitors can rest – surrounded by green. Directly next to the Botanical Garden is the “Königlicher Gartenakademie” [the “Royal Garden Academy”]. Not only can the brilliant display of flowers be enjoyed there, you can also learn more about cultivation and landscape architecture. The educational institution was founded by legendary Berlin garden designer Josef Lenné, and Gabriella Pape has now made it blossom again. During the summer, it offers courses and tours through the historical hothouses and the “living gardens” (

And things are also both living and lively in the other Berlin parks. Younger visitors and residents are drawn by the parks in the happening districts, such as the Volkspark Friedrichshain or the Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg. On the weekend, it’s best to get there early in order to stake out one of the few spots on the meadow. Or else you can stroll around and be amazed – because on sunny days, Berlin’s parks are transformed into playing fields for some exotic kinds of sports: jugglers practice next to capoeira dancers, while slackliners balance on lines strung between the trees. And on the rocks in the Volkspark Friedrichshain, climbers regularly train their muscles. Particularly good conditions for leisure-time athletes are offered by the Tempelhof Airport, the runways of which were transformed into a giant park in 2010. Where airplanes once dropped from or hurtled into the sky, rollerbladers and bicyclists now make their rounds. In the spring, a Segway rental is also scheduled to open there. The spacious area is located on a hill, so a light breeze is always blowing. That makes it especially pleasant during the summer, and it also offers the ideal conditions for kite surfing or just plain old kite flying.


Outdoor Culture and Dining

A map and a pair of sunglasses – you don’t need much more than that to spend a couple of relaxing summer days in Berlin. Life moves outside, chairs and tables line the wide sidewalks, and in the Mitte district of Berlin, the street becomes a big footpath. Anyone wishing to keep pace can be decked out in vintage sunglasses from the eyeglass agency Lunette. The owners have put together a huge stock of sunglass models from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, many of which have never been worn before, and have made sure that they have been equipped with lenses meeting the latest UV standards. In the shop on Marienburger Straße, there are classics from Ray Ban, unknown models that are reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn’s style in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, and even a small independent collection that is inspired by retro models ( And then be sure to keep the shade-covered eyes open for “Yo’Munchy”. The pistachio-colored ice cream truck set off a virtually feverish hunt among Berliners in the summer of 2010. Operator Matthias Schwach regularly reveals his location in the city on Facebook. Anyone who finds him can be served exquisite frozen yoghurt with a whole variety of fruits, cereals, and syrups ( Probably the most exotic ice cream parlor is found in the Schöneberg district of Berlin. The owner of the Inka Café comes from Peru and specializes in Latin America ice cream. Instead of chocolate and vanilla, the flavors here are called algarrobina or chicha morada and taste like carob beans or blue corn (
Food in general plays a big role in summertime Berlin. With the first rays of sunshine, the entire city is transformed into one big dining room, and the scent of barbecues wafts through the parks. Grilling is allowed in designated areas in many public spaces, such as in the Tiergarten, at Tempelhof Airport, or in Kreuzberg’s Viktoriapark. These are used not only by large extended families, but also by students who enjoy passing a relaxing day there with friends. Anyone who wants to enjoy dining al fresco but doesn’t want to haul a grill along can make use of the Picnic Service of the Jewish Museum in Kreuzberg. With an order in advance, the museum’s restaurant Liebermanns will lovingly put together picnic baskets that include hummus and pomegranate tabouleh. They can be consumed in the spacious gardens of the museum that was designed by Daniel Libeskind ( When the heat lets up, residents and visitors to the city move into the city’s beer gardens and open air bars. The Pratergarten is a genuine classic – centrally located and yet hidden in a courtyard off of Kastanienallee. Berliner Weiße, the local hefeweizen, has been served here since as early as 1837 – accompanied by honky-tonk and march music. Today, the people from the cool scene mix with families from Prenzlauer Berg in the shade of the old chestnut trees ( Not far from the Pratergarten lie two of the loveliest open air bars in all of Berlin: the Mädcheninternat and the Mauersegler, in an idyllic setting in the middle of the metropolis, overgrown with plants, at the edge of the Mauerpark.


Party under the Stars

The nights in Berlin also do not necessarily need to be spent between four walls and a ceiling. Many of the trendy clubs have outdoor terraces where the party goes on under the starry skies. During the summer, the legendary Berghain is expanded by a beer garden. From the terrace of the Watergate Club, there is a spectacular view of the Spree River and the Oberbaumbrücke bridge. And the Sage Club on Köpenicker Straße even lures its guests with a pool and reclining beach chairs. Anyone looking for particularly original locations for partying should take a look at . With the motto “Berlin, Beats & Boats”, the organizers have chartered boats as swimming dance floors that bring party guests to remote beaches along the Spree River. The meeting point is the arena area in Treptow, home to two of the finest outdoor locations: the Restaurant Freischwimmer and the Badeschiff swimming pool ship.
The highpoints of the outdoor party culture are the music festivals. Every year on June 21, the Fête de la Musique transforms the city’s squares into stages. Last year, some 750 bands and DJs played before 90,000 audience members. And of course, free of charge: . June will also see the second edition of the “Berlin Summer Rave” in the hangars of Tempelhof Airport. Some of the groups that have already been announced include Westbam and the Berliner DJ Lützenkirchen, who wrote the Berlin hymn “Drei Tage wach” [“Up For Three Days”].


Open Air Events

Culture in Berlin does not go on vacation for the summer – quite the opposite. At least one major event takes place nearly every weekend, such as the Carnival of Cultures (June 10-13) or Christopher Street Day (June 25, 2011). Berliners take advantage of any opportunity to celebrate. For example, the 125th anniversary of the magnificent boulevard, the Kurfürstendamm. On September 3 and 4, the street known for shopping will be transformed for forty-two hours into a stage with concerts, fashion shows, and sporting events ( . And the FIFA Soccer Women’s World Cup, which gets underway on June 26 in Berlin, is a welcome occasion for fan parties and for watching games in public on the big screen.
No matter whether it’s culture or sports, with Berlin’s summer events the motto “outdoors and free” usually holds true. For example, the Street Theater Festival “Berlin lacht” [“Berlin Laughs”] take place around the Mariannenplatz in Kreuzberg in June and the Alexanderplatz in August ( And with the summer concerts in the English Garden (in the Tiergarten), entrance is traditionally free. Last year, a total of fifty bands and ensembles appeared over nine weekends. The program spans the spectrum from funk and jazz to klezmer and the sounds of the Balkans ( A good opportunity to get to know the new cool scene district of Neukölln in all its artistic facets is offered by the festival “48 Stunden Neukölln” [“48 Hours Neukölln”]. For 2011, the organizers have issued the motto “Luxus Neukölln” [“Luxury Neukölln”] – an incentive for artists to have a critical look at the gentrification in their district (June 17-19, 2011). Visitors can follow different routes to discover installations, projects, and performances – some of which may be found in hidden courtyards or private homes (


Built on the Water

The hottest day in Berlin in 2010 was measured at 36.9 degrees Celsius (98.4 degrees Fahrenheit) – an historical record. Fortunately, there are many cafes on banks or shores in the city, where a breeze from the water cools things off. Also not to be forgotten are the thirty-eight official swimming sites within the city limits. For instance, things are family-friendly and uncomplicated at the Strandbad Weißensee. During the day, little children splash around in the non-swimmer area, while their parents savor coffee under the palms in the “Überseebar”. After swimming hours, the bar also stays open in the evening, becoming the perfect place to stare at the water in peace and forget the hectic pace of the city. The Strandbad Wannsee exudes historical charm, with its 1.3 kilometer (3/4 mile) long sand beach and hooded wicker beach chairs. It was more than a hundred years ago that residents of the metropolis came here to relax by the clear water. After a complete renovation that was finished in 2007, the Strandbad is also becoming more and more popular as an event venue. The newest coup is a lake stage in the style of the Bregenz Festival, on which a spectacular production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute can be seen starting on August 11, 2011 (
Another way to cool off is tours on the water. Numerous excursion boots sail over the Spree River and the Landwehrkanal. They often provide delightful perspectives, such as of the architecture in the Government District or of houseboats that lie at anchor in the side canals. Anyone looking for something just a little different can rent a “grill boat”. On the circular electric boats complete with an umbrella and a grill, those on an excursion can sail over the water and grill their own meal at the same time. The orange-colored boots are moored at the Müggelsee, the Wannsee, and on the Spree River in Treptow ( Or else all gazes will be drawn to those who rent a raft and leisurely float around the Spree River just like Huckleberry Finn (


Seeing the City by bicycle

Bicycle tours offer the perfect combination of sightseeing and cooling off in Berlin. The city boasts a comfortable 950 kilometer (600 mile) long bike path network. Twelve signposted routes, including the European Bicycle Route R1, take cyclists off heavily trafficked streets and onto paths that run through the city’s green spaces, often past interesting sights and landmarks. One especially interesting route is the Mauerweg [Wall Trail], which runs along the former path of the Berlin Wall and conveys an impression of the formerly divided city. Organizers such as “Berlin on bike” or the Fahrradstation specialize in guided rides on themes such as architecture or the history of the city. Fat Tire Bikes and Berlin Insider have similar offerings that are specifically targeted at English-speaking visitors. Anyone wishing to get to know the city without a guide can also rent a bicycle for one or more days at most of these providers.

For tourist information on Berlin see the website:-

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