Ode To Berlin


If Berlin were a woman, she would be undeniably sexy…and enigmatic. She’s the type of seductress who pairs pink, silk lingerie with combat boots. Smudged eyeliner and tousled hair betray evenings at the nightclub. Her scent (vanilla + leather) represents the masculine and feminine of her persona.

Berlin is creative, gritty and independent-minded. Similar to Brooklyn, there is an electric energy that makes a visitor feel alive and young. One week was barely enough time to scratch the surface. But, here are some favorites:

1.   Vabali.

When an old back injury flared up on Day 1 of my trip, I did what any intelligent traveler does—I headed straight to the spa. 

Saunas are an integral part of my wellness routine—and Germans have elevated sweating to an art form. Vabali is a slice of Indonesia in the center of the city. This sprawling spa complex beckons the weary traveler to BREATHE. With a terrific and affordable onsite restaurant, don’t be surprised if you lose hours here. Check your inhibitions at the door, as the facilities are co-ed and clothing-free.

2.    Chiro House.

Feeling a bit more limber, I was lucky enough to score an appointment with one of Berlin’s finest chiropractors, Dr. Joan Monserrat. Dr. Joan is not a regular practitioner, but a healer of the finest order. His gifted hands (and kind bedside manner) eased my aching back immediately. We talked effortlessly of the mind-body connection—including the importance of exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet and mindfulness to ease chronic back pain. 

3.    Holzmarkt.

Dr. Joan’s office is located in an urban village (on the River Spree) called Holzmarkt. This self-contained community—conceived by Berlin’s best nightclub owners—is a hodge-podge of recycled wood, old windows, and swinging hammocks. Grab lunch at Fame Restaurant and experience real diversity as you watch punk artists and businessmen dining side-by-side.

4.   The Food. The Glorious Food.

Speaking of food…

Berlin has no shortage of culinary treasures on every corner. German bread is the stuff of dreams—coarse and dense, it’s composed of whole grains like rye, spelt, millet and wheat. Their organic salads were similarly transporting--brimming with buttery lettuce, bulgar, tomatoes, beetroot, grapes, chia seeds and a tangy avocado dressing. The fruit (especially tiny, jewel-like strawberries) was bursting with summer sweetness. Chinese teahouses, vegan gelaterias and Vietnamese hole-in-the-walls all beckoned my palate.

5.    BeCycle.

After embracing the culinary delights, you’ll want to burn some calories. 

No better place than Gundula Cöllen’s boutique cycling-yoga-barre studio. Styled like a West Elm showroom, this body-positive space hosts community events aimed to elevate physical, emotional and spiritual health. Gundula’s warm, effusive personality beckons you inside. The adjoining café serves healthy fare and invites you to linger for a while.

6.    KaDeWe.

As a minimalist, I curate my closet carefully. Berlin’s most exclusive department store is every woman’s dream—resplendent with beautiful, tailored, and stylish European clothing. More foodie than fashionista? Head to their top-floor food hall, where the abundance of culinary treats will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

7.    Berghain.

No visit to Berlin would be complete without crossing the hallowed threshold of Europe’s most exclusive and notorious nightclub. With one of the strictest door policies in the world, solo travelers allegedly have an easier time gaining entry. Worth the hype? 100%. Phone and camera-free, you can enjoy the thumping beats and positive vibes without distraction. Eleven hours later, I still hankered for more. 

8.   Public Transportation.

As NYC suffers under an infrastructure apocalypse, Berlin’s expansive train, tram and bus network is the perfect antidote. Affordable, clean and efficient, I rarely waited more than three minutes for a train. Totally crush-worthy.

9.   Monkey Bar.

One of Berlin’s hippest bars, the views over (you guessed it) the monkey cages at the Berlin zoo leave you slack-jawed in delight. A great place to see and be seen—I coincidentally stumbled upon the same international travelers I met on my walking tour a few days prior. The adjoining restaurant, NENI, serves decadent food with Persian, Russian, Arabic, Moroccan, Israeli, Turkish, Spanish, German and Austrian influence. 

10.  Public Parks.

On an afternoon amble surrounding Hackescher Market, I stumbled upon tiny Monbijou Park. Joining other Berliners, I sprawled out on the grass to gaze at the azure sky. As I contemplated my good fortune—I prayed this visit would not be the last time I saw Berlin.

**Round-trip airfare and 8-nights in Select Hotel Ostbahnof—a 4-star hotel in the heart of the city—cost $900.

travelMonica Parikh