For the second time in less than a year, I returned to beautiful Berlin with Pimoroni. This year, Maker Faire Berlin had moved forward to June, from September, and the Pimoroni crew were attending again, with a couple of days before and after to relax and take in the sights of Berlin.
Having seen most of the main attractions last year, I spent some time seeing a couple of different things, and visiting some shops and restaurants that caught my eye. I’d recently got a new camera, the Panasonic GH5, so I was keen to give it a thorough test drive on this trip.
Siegessäule and the Reichstag
Last year, I’d missed out when the others went to climb up the Siegessäule (the Victory Column); I think I’d been shopping at the Schoene Schreibwaren stationery shop and Werstück Flickli patch shop. On the Thursday, when I’d decided to climb the column, the weather wasn’t that great. It was one of those grey, cloudy days that isn’t really conducive to photography, but I was happy to end up with a couple of decent shots.
The column is similar in a lot of ways to the Monument in London, a similar height and both are fairly simple columns with gold adornments on the top. It was a fair old hike up the spiral staircase to the top, but boy was it worth it! Once at the top, you could look directly up at the winged gold statue of Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, and the viewing gallery had attractive, decorative railings through which I took the photo below of the Fernsehturm (the TV Tower).
Equally as impressive as the view was the mosaic wrapped all the way around the base of the column, which depicts the events of the Franco-Prussian war. The detail in it really was stunning, especially the metallic tiles that really seemed to glint in the light.
I hadn’t planned to visit the Reichstag, but was fortunate enough to be able to reserve a place at 18:45 on the Thursday evening. All of the slots for the next 10 days or so were booked out. After a quick return visit to the Markthalle street food market for a slow-cooked beef Bao and a shot of pure ginger, I headed across to the Reichstag.
“I could’ve spent literally hours exploring the myriad different views from the dome.”
The Reichstag dome is a fairly new addition to the German parliament building, designed by Norman Foster. As you would imagine, security was fairly tight, with full bag checks and staggered entry through two sets of reinforced glass doors. The dome itself is incredible. It has a pair of spiralling walkways around the outside of the huge glass dome, one to walk up and one to walk back down. In the centre, there is a huge mirrored column that fans out towards the top of the dome. At the top, you can walk out onto the roof of the Reichstag to take in the views of the city. I could’ve spent literally hours exploring the myriad different views from the dome.
After setting out our stall for Maker Faire on Friday morning, I decided that I was going to go up to the viewing deck on the TV Tower, the Fernsehturm. Last year, I’d spent ages photographing the TV Tower from various spots around the city, but didn’t make it up there. I just loved the retro-futuristic looks of the tower, and I wasn’t disappointed by the view.
Despite the tower being 368 metres tall, the viewing deck is at 204 metres; the remaining 164 metres being mostly the spire on top. The journey to the deck in the lift is quite an experience! The lifts ascend at 6 metres per second, reaching the deck in just 40 seconds, and have glass ceilings so that you can watch as they shoot up inside the lift shaft.
“I think my favourite view was of the Brandenburg Gate and out across the huge expanse of the Tiergarten…”
The views from the viewing deck are just breathtaking; you can see every little bit of Berlin. I think my favourite view was of the Brandenburg Gate and out across the huge expanse of the Tiergarten, as you’ll see below.
After a busy couple of days at the Maker Faire on Saturday and Sunday, I had a more relaxed Monday. We had an incredibly filling lunch at Spaetzle Club. Spaetzle is a dish consisting of thick noodles fried in butter with onions, melted cheese, and various other additions like ham, bacon, and mushrooms. I could only manage about half of my plate, and I like to think that I have a pretty good appetite!
I had a quick trip back to Silo for a flat white, and then picked up a few patches from Werstück Flickli, before walking down Karl-Marx-Allee. You might remember from last year’s blog post how much I’d enjoyed my walk all the way down Karl-Marx-Allee to Alexanderplatz, taking in the bold communist architecture. This year, I got a few nice shots of the old signs on top of the buildings with their very Russian-looking typography, including the one below that was on top of a block of flats.
Bonanza Coffee Roasters and Cocolo Ramen
Our final full day was a day full of good food! We set out to visit the Modulor stationery shop in Kreuzberg first thing on Tuesday morning. I wasn’t quite prepared for how vast the place was — two huge floors of every sort of stationery and craft materials you could imagine. They had a whole wall of MT washi tapes, two or three aisles full of pens and pencils, and a whole section devoted to notebooks of every size and colour. I ended up getting a small selection of things, since I was limited for space in my carry-on luggage. My favourite thing that I picked up was this Koh-i-Noor automatic pencil; I just loved the feel of it and the retro typography on it.
“The hot chocolate looked gorgeous, and I loved the raw earthenware mug in which it was served.”
Just a few streets away was the Bonanza Coffee Roastery. Bonanza have a smaller coffee shop elsewhere, but the roastery in Kreuzberg also has a cafe in the same spacious warehouse as the roastery itself. In fact, you can look straight into the roastery from the cafe at the front. I decided to test both the pourover and the espresso, both Kenyan beans, and they were delicious. The espresso was really light and fruity. Mark tried the cascara soda water, which tasted better than my attempts at brewing cascara, and Lou had the hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow on top. The hot chocolate looked gorgeous, and I loved the raw earthenware mug in which it was served.
“The gyoza… had been fried quickly so that they were a little crispy on the outside, yum!”
We’d asked the barista at Bonanza if he could recommend somewhere for us to grab lunch, and he mentioned that Cocolo Ramen near Kottbusser Tor was good. We hopped into an Uber and arrived at Cocolo a few minutes later. Their lunch menu consisted of a couple of rice dishes, three or four different ramen dishes, and a few starters. I had the gyoza and kimchi to start. The gyoza had a tasty chicken and vegetable filling and had been fried quickly so that they were a little crispy on the outside, yum! The kimchi was nice and spicy.
For my main, I had the Negi Shoyu, a ramen dish with chicken, spring onions, and vegetables in a soy sauce broth. It was really light and flavourful, perfect for a light lunch. I washed it all down with a lovely hot bowl of rice tea.
“I can’t recommend Cocolo Ramen highly enough.”
Funnily enough, we decided to go back to Cocolo Ramen for dinner, after a quick trip up to the Panorama Punkt viewpoint, and an hour or so relaxing at Kaffeepur with a Vietnamese coffee (iced espresso with condensed milk).
In the evening, I tried the Tantan ramen at Cocolo, a spicy dish with pork mince on top, and one of each of the starters that we all got to share, including edamame beans, cucumber with soybean paste, and more gyoza and kimchi! I can’t recommend Cocolo Ramen highly enough.
I can’t wait to go back!
Despite having been a couple of times now, there are still plenty of things I want to go back and do. The Templehof Flughafen (a disused airport) looks well worth a visit, and I still haven’t made it to any of the museums or galleries. And, of course, I’ll be sure to return to my favourite spots, especially Cocolo Ramen and Modulor!