48 Hours in Berlin: Sleep Not Included
Jewish Museum Berlin
This is less a museum than an immersive retrospective. Here, architect Daniel Libeskind sets the stage for a jagged, often unsettling portrayal of German Jewish culture and history. The zinc facade and fragmented hallways create a foundation for the Holocaust Tower and Axis of Exile, which showcases documents, photos and personal items of those doomed by Hitler’s genocide. The permanent exhibition also illuminates the history of Jewish women and family life, and the revitalization of Jewish communities from 1945 to today.
Specializing in Russian and Jewish cuisine, Restaurant Pasternak is the perfect choice for lunch after my morning at the Jewish Museum Berlin. Named after Nobel Prize-winner Boris Pasternak, the café pays homage to the opulent cuisine of 19th-century Russia while maintaining a casual dining atmosphere. Be sure to sample the house-brewed beer along with blinis, borscht and vereniki (dumplings).
West Berlin Walking Tour
Hello, Schöneberg! Birthplace of Marlene Dietrich and hangout of Christopher Isherwood, this neighborhood has been a hotbed of gay activity since the 1920s. Today, it bustles with bookstores - and lots of boys. Along the main drag of Montzstraße, shops and cafés run the gamut, from Butcherei Lindinger, where you can order custom-made fetish apparel, to art, fashion and design galleries like Berlin Avantgarde. The new Stolz & Vorurteil café and bistro is the perfect stop for an espresso and to take in the eye candy. For a XXX keepsake, be sure to stop by Bruno’s, one of the largest gay bookstores in Europe. For a more curated selection, pay a visit to Prinz Eisenherz, Germany’s oldest gay bookstore, whose collection contains 10,000 titles.
"Loft" at The Chamäeleon Theater
What happens when you put a handful of 20-something, scantily clad acrobatic performers together and ask them to do some tricks? You end up with Loft, presented by the Montreal-based troupe the 7 Fingers. Expect to see everything from aerial performance to juggling and modern(ish) dance. Though the performers are completely captivating on a physical level, their emotional commitment varies and sometimes feels vacant. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of sexy swinging, spinning and people-tossing to warrant an evening of ogling at this Art Nouveau-style complex dating back to 1906.
One part Liberace, part Lou Rawls, this former Indian restaurant has been reincarnated as a swanky lounge, pop-up performance space and all-around scene-to-be-seen, where a cross-section of Berliners flock to the gold upholstered banquettes and 60 feet of bar space. Co-founders Rolf Heidrich and Oliver Schneider researched classic bar history from cities like Buenos Aires, New York and Shanghai, but what they have created is pure Berlin: unexpected, free-spirited and glamorous.
Chantal’s House of Shame
My newfound friend Henrik calls it "trash drag." I call it the most kick-ass time I’ve had since my arrival. Cheap well liquor, a frequently used amateur stripper pole and a partitioned back room that houses swarms of queers buzzing around an unnamed drag queen converge in a dirty, multilevel warehouse space where the fog machine and Bel-Ami chain smokers have me gasping for breath at every bump and grind. Stick a fork in me; I’m done.
If I partied like an authentic Berliner, I’d be eating currywurst at Kudamm 195 or Curry 36. Instead, I’m in a taxi en route to the airport, praying that I arrive in enough time to snag a window seat for my return flight. I pass posses of revelers, still flying high from another night on the town. Berlin really is a city that never sleeps (sorry, New York). I hope my next visit will include an obligatory all-nighter. But for now I have the sweet dreams of 48 hours in a world capital where walls have given way to a new generation striving to make its mark in history.
With limited time, be sure to take advantage of these great tools, which will help point you toward the best of Berlin.
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This article is part of our "Winter 2013" series. Want to read more?
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