Thursday, 19 February 2009

Locus


Marteinekeplatz 4, 10961 Berlin
Tel 6915637
www.locus-berlin.de
U-Bahn Line U7: Gneisenaustraße

Open daily 10.00 – 01.30 (food served until 23.30)

Situated on what you'd have to describe as 'a charming little square', complete with trees, fountain and birdsong, this Mexican cafe/bar/restaurant is a lovely place to while away the afternoon with friends over a leisurely lunch, or just to drop in and gather yourself with a coffee and cake combp. The mouth-watering menu boasts all manner of Mexican specialities; truly scrumptious homemade cakes and a rather impressive breakfast list. Yes indeed, there is little doubt as to which is the most important meal of the day here. Whether it’s Rome-, Paris- or New York-style; the massive two-person morning platter, or just a bowl of cereal you’re after, you’ll be set up for the day ahead after breaking your fast at Locus.

Not a morning person? No matter. With its tranquil setting and attentive service, Locus is popular at any time of day. Great coffee, homemade ice tea, delicious home-bakes (try the redcurrant meringue pie) and after-work cocktail offers ensure there is no lull between mealtimes. While the street-side dining feels distinctly continental, the beautiful, high-ceilinged cantina in back is markedly Mexican and it’s not difficult to forget for a moment that it’s Berlin you’re in.




You may feel this picture has little to do with anything... Does that really matter? It was on the door of the café though.

A Tour or Two


Brewers Free Walking Tour

Starting from the Altes Museum on Museum Insel daily at 1.30pm
www.brewersberlintours.com

One of the best walking tours in the city and it’s free. Good news, no?

From the initial meeting with your guide, on the steps of Berlin’s first museum, you’ll pick up on the relaxed tone that makes this tour what it is. Beginning with a quick and casual context-setting in the Lustgarten, your out-going leader will take you around the most important and impressive places from the city’s history, starting with a stroll along once-upon-a-time royal boulevard Unter den Linden and finishing up at the impressive icon that is the Brandenburg Gate. The tour lasts three and a half hours with a short break for lunch at Checkpoint Charlie, where you can pick up a quick bite from one of the many fast food vendors around. Bearing in mind the chatty style of trip, you might be surprised to come away having learned rather a lot with zero effort.

Brewers guides work on a tips-only basis, paying 5€ to the guys in charge for each person who takes the tour. If you reckon it was worth it, be generous.

Sandeman’s NewBerlin Free Bike Tour

Starting from the corner of Oranienburger-straße and Tucholsky-straße daily at 11am and 3pm
S-Bahn Line S1: Oranienburger-straße

www.neweuropetours.eu

Another lovely free tour and this time with bikes. Oh yes.

Sandeman’s New Europe has been on the go since 2003, offering informally informative tours aimed at the budget-minded traveller. This two-wheeled version of the already popular walking tour is perfect if the idea of seeing the whole city on foot isn’t your cup of tea. The group meets outside the old post office, which during WWII was the base for the SS to keep tabs on mail. From here, you’re led to the bullet-riddled shed round the back of the building to get acquainted with your bike and then you’re off. The three-and-a-half-hour tour covers all of the must-sees, plus a few extras, starting with Berlin’s first Jewish synagogue and ending with an energetic, solo re-enactment by your guide of the events leading up to the fall of the wall. Graduates from top universities around the globe, the laid-back guides are seriously clued-up on the city’s history and able to answer even the most obscure of questions. Seriously, just ask.

The tour and bike are free but you will need to bring some photo ID and a 15€ deposit.

The NewBerlin guys earn only what they receive in tips from you and have to pay 5€ per head to the big administrative types for maintenance and the like. Bear this in mind and pay what you think the tour was worth, or at least what you can.

Tukadu

Rosenthalerstraße 46/47
Tel 4455196
www.tukadu.com
U-Bahn Line U8: Weinmeisterstraße

Open: Mon – Saturday 11.00 – 20.00

A jewellery shop with a difference, the idea behind Tukadu is to provide customers with the means to make their own trinkets - whether that's at home with bits and bobs bought, or in-store with the help of the envy-inspiringly cool team of creative types that work here. Drawers, compartments and boxes are full to brimming with all manner of beads, bows, feather, flowers, butterflies... Basically anything you need to make some serious statement jewellery. Inspiration is crammed into every spare space: completed pieces hang, gilt-framed, all over the walls; a golden cherub fights for airspace with a crystal chandelier overhead, and earring-sporting blowfish dangle in the display window. If you’re not all that artistic, or you see something you like, or you just can’t stand the heat (the beast of a fan in the doorway isn’t all that effective) you can actually buy up any of the pieces on display and bask in endless the compliments on your creativity wherever you go.

Crafty.

The Circus Café


Weinbergsweg 1a, 10119 Berlin
Tel 28391433

www.circus-berlin.de
U-Bahn Line U8: Rosenthalerplatz

Part of the “famous” Circus Hostel, this café is rather a good spot to meet other, English-speaking travellers. With the customary cream and cappuccino-coloured walls and dark wooden furniture; low-lighting and an acoustic playlist of James Blunt-a-likes, Circus has that familiar feeling. Offering gourmet coffees, freshly-squeezed OJ and a range of sandwiches and salads at not unreasonable prices; it is a formula we’ve seen before. The staff is made up of bright, friendly and multi-lingual young things, some of whom are good for a chat. A nice touch is the novel idea they’ve had of creating a space where customers can sit and listen to “The Sounds of Berlin” on a set of headphones. Order your coffee; set yourself down on a pouf and start your “free ride into the acoustical landscape... and into one of the most diverse and inspiring musical cultures worldwide!”

Mmm... nice.

*If you are one of the three people unfamiliar with how to operate an iPod, instructions are handily provided and framed, even.

Stiefelkombinat


Eberswalder-Straße 21-22
10437 Berlin

Tel 51051234

If you’re the type of person whose outfit is not complete without a conversation piece, Stiefelkombinat simply must be added to your itinerary. As you walk up Eberswalder-Straße, on the left hand side, you’ll stumble across what looks like the yard sale you’ve been waiting for all your life. Pick your way through the tempting taster rails out front (careful not to tread on the deliberate scatter of shoes and bags) and you’ll arrive at an impressive display of red short-shorts. Darling, you have arrived! And you may not be back for some time...

To cross the threshold of the women’s store (once again looking out for stray shoes) is to enter a wonderland of vintage one-offs. It’s all a bit exciting. From gorgeous 40s dresses to loud 80s shell suits, this place has everything you could wish for in terms of original designs. The range of unique accessories is scrumptious, with silky scarves spilling out of dressing-up boxes; chunky belts and bangles piled up-up on a 70s dresser; stacked hat boxes full to brimming with gloves, muffs and hoods, and pretty parasols propped at odd angles along the wall. If you’ve forgotten to pack your bikini, this is the place to pick up the kind of seriously stylish swimwear that’ll score you major cool points at the Badeschiff. The choice of footwear on offer is ridiculous and if you can’t find what you’re after, I’m sure one of the disgustingly stylish assistants will eat their fedora.

The boys need not feel left out, as right next-door is menswear. A little smaller than its sister, this store ought to please jacks of all tastes; from the classic and smooth, to the bold and edgy – it’s all here. The variety of spiffy hats on offer is particularly wonderful.

And it doesn’t end there. Knick-knack junkies are also catered for. From 70s light fittings and coat hooks; to baby-dolls and cuddly toys; to out-of-print banknotes and retro magazines, there’s many a nostalgic delight to be had at Stiefelkombinat.

Not extortionate but hardly thrifty, you get what you pay for here.

You are aware that they just don’t make ‘em like they used to, right?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

SpaceHall


Zossenerstraße 33, 10961 Berlin
Tel 030/6947664
www.spacehall.de
U-Bahn Line U7: Gneisenaustraße

Mon - Friday 11.00-20.00; Saturday 11.00-19.00

“I don’t give a f*** what’s on your iPod.”

Not one for mincing words, SpaceHall has a clear idea of what good music means and is dedicated to providing Berliners with it. Claiming the city’s best vinyl collection of Techno and an offensively impressive range of electronic music, this multi-levelled grotto is one of Berlin’s most famous record stores. Unlike a lot of specialist retailers, SpaceHall doesn’t immediately smack its visitors with that you’d-better-know-everything-there-is-to-know-about-music feeling the second you cross the threshold.

The atmosphere in the main part of the store is relaxed; with Downbeats interrupting light Drum ‘n’ Bass only to be cut off again as the guy behind the cash desk decides it’s time for the next tune. Here you’ll find a nice variety of CDs and DVDs; button badges and accessories, and what appears to be the entire Kraftwerk back-catalogue hanging on a wall flanked by Flat Eric dolls in cuffs and studs. Obviously.


Through to the back of the store and down the few steps to the right, that feeling of being the little kid in the big boys’ playground could creep up on those unschooled in the art of Techno. Though the assistant casually having a fag behind the counter does insist on playing his choices just shy of full-blast; six decks with ‘phones are lined up, ready and waiting for customers to sample whichever of the vast selection takes their interest. Downstairs again is the huge Electro and Minimal section: oddly quiet considering the absurd amount of sound housed in here, you’re practically guaranteed to find what you’re after in terms of electronic vinyl.

And if you’re after House... It’s in the attic.

SpaceHonda
Zossenerstraße 35
10961 Berlin
www.myspace.com/spacehonda

Mon – Friday 11.00-20.00; Saturday 11.00-19.00

SpaceHall’s little brother in both senses, this store sells only vinyl. New and second-hand; stock includes imports, overstocks, singles, maxis and LPs. An array of everything from Dubstep to Gothic to Disco can be found here with a bit of digging. Some t-shirts, picture discs and VHS tapes are also on offer.

Lŭxŭs International

Kastanienallee 101, 10435 Berlin

Tel 44324877
www.luxus-international.de
U-Bahn Line U2: Eberswalderstraße

Open: Mon – Saturday 11:00 – 20:00

Want to buy something good, but can’t quite think what it is you need? Set coordinates for Lŭxŭs. Next door to Hot Dog World, it would be all too easy to just walk past the three postcard stands out front of this wee shop, and keep on going. But a glance at the stunning snaps of old and new Berlin will make you stop; and the naughty “pulp fiction” covers (with such eye-catching titles as ‘Queer Beach’ and ‘I Married a Dead Man’) will reel you right in. Lŭxŭs provides a space for Berlin-based designers to sell their wares, with each artist renting a cubicle in a large shelf. Just about anyone can sell their creations from here - the only stipulations are that designs are unique and cost less than 30€. Need to stock up on Mapkins? (That’s napkins with maps on.) This is the place. This is also the place to splurge on street scene lampshades; cool canvas prints; impressive coffee table books; quirky button badges; cheeky flick-books and of course ‘Top Trumps: Popes Edition’. Lŭxŭs’s cracking range of Berlin souvenirs is the good kind of kitsch, and a refreshing change to the usual junk found on the tourist trail – and there’s not one fragment-of-the-Berlin-wall-on-a-keychain in sight. No, sir.

Check out the wall-mount behind the door for flyers and free passes to the best clubs and don’t forget to pick up your complimentary cherry lollipop before you leave.