Forget Lonely Planet (although be grateful they exist or that Bus About Tour you did back in the day would have been boring as), Finding Berlin is the home of what’s on, what’s fun, what’s new and what you should really know about Berlin. Started up by our mate Sara (no last name, like Madonna) in 2011, Finding Berlin has come to be a bit of a cornerstone of all that is good about the city.
Here are some facts about the old girl, because God only knows we like to save time:
- She’s 26 and hasn’t left Kreuzberg in 2 months (or something similar)
- but she does plan to venture out of her locale to celebrate Christmas.
- She isn’t our greatest authority on Christmas as her family is muslim and typically spends the time celebrating with other families – who also, aren’t participating in Christmas.
- That said, she wouldn’t miss out on any festive binge-eating rituals, no matter the culture. (We like the way she thinks.)
So as Sara has been mulling over her culinary festive options for 2014, we picked her brain for some tipps on celebrating Christmas in Berlin.
WARNING: it’s a strictly Glühwein-free zone, but we have an alternative.
Gott sei Dank.
1. CHRISTMAS FAIR AT ALEXANDERPLATZ
If you ride the S-Bahn between Alexanderplatz and Jannowitzbrücke, you will see the annual neon light minefield of the decadent and explicitly ugly – maybe the ugliest in Germany – Christmas fair of Berlin (photo evidence). Mind you, it’s not a Weihnachtsmarkt, it’s a „Volksfest“ with roller-coasters and sickening rides, otherwise known as the perfect excuse to get wasted while listening to horrible David Guetta vs. Taylor Swift mash-ups on blast and fighting with little kids over whose turn it is on the „Wilde Maus“.
TIPP: You wouldn’t believe it, but those rides are super expensive. Look out for the „family days“, usually on Tuesdays or Thursdays, when it costs less to celebrate the equivalent of the Oktoberfest for Berlin’s Christmas time.
I hate Christmas markets. First of all, they’re cheesy. Second of all, have you been outside in the wintertime in Berlin? Besides, Christmas markets aren’t the same as they used to be. When I was young, there was a solemn, serious mood about those events. Candles were lit and Jesus was born, you know. Nowadays, every Christmas market is a niche event for a brand, or bored housewives are trying to sell self-made wallets from recycled felt or trash bags for 25 € a piece. REALLY?! Every Weihnachtsmarkt is like Friedrichshain boutique flea markets conquered the city whole. A blessed exception is the Michelberger Weihnachtsmarkt. There’s great food, a blessed lack of DIY arts & crafts, drinks and usually super sweet living room concerts that will have you weep according to the tradition.
TIPP: Sign up to the Michelberger Hotel newsletter to stay updated on the artists who come and play.
3. INDULGE IN HOT VODKA-O
People throw Christmas parties just to have an excuse to drink Glühwein. I don’t get it, because I hate Glühwein. People seem to forget there’s a wonderful alternative to it: HOT VODKA-O! I know most people won’t be able to imagine that hot orange juice will taste good, but it does, especially with Vodka in it. It’s also cheaper.
TIPP: never drink the hot Vodka-O without vodka. It’s really not the same and you will regret it.
4. SCHROTTWICHTELN WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Apparently, „Schrottwichteln“ is „White Elephant Gift Exchange“ in English. I am not even going to try and make a joke about that. Anyway, so this is my favorite activity of Christmas time, because finally I get to get rid of the garbage that I have collected throughout the year in my apartment. Branded t-shirts? Broken coffee mugs with stupid motivational quotes on them? A couple of invoices I haven’t paid off yet? No problem. I can easily give all of that stuff away.
TIPP: I try to take part in as many Schrottwichteln-Events as possible, for all those shitty recycled felt wallets that someone gave me last Christmas must be passed on asap before I burn something down. Maybe you try that too.
What? This is THE Christmas party par excellence! No Glühwein, Bon Iver gets a break from playing 24/7, Jesus shows up naked and you end up doing Holy K with him in the darkroom. It’s also probably the last chance to get tickets for New Years if you’re so inclined. 2014 is the 10th anniversary and if you’re into really wild Christmas parties then this is your place to be.
TIPP: Don’t bother queuing up. Jump the line right to the division bars. Be smooth about it, but usually nobody speaks up since everyone’s terrified of the bouncers not letting them in. And a group of 7 people is not getting in anyway, so you’re doing yourself a favor (there’s a strategy to it that has nothing to do with what you’re dressed up as. Chances are somewhat better if you’re dressed in black and if you’re alone though). If there’s no way of getting in, don’t bother either, just wait til the bouncers change their shifts, try again. Depending on the line-up, the rush hour on Sundays doesn’t start til 3 pm. When you get closer to the door, try to shut up – it works magic.
I was supposed to write down only five things, but here’s an important one. I know that all of us like to complain about the cold winters in Berlin (although if you weren’t here in 2008/2009 you really should have no right to whine… I literally survived the apocalypse back then), but there are people who are actually freezing to death. There’s a number you can call that will take care of the people. If you see someone on the street, covered in blankets – or worse, not! – give them something warm to drink and make sure they’re breathing and call the number!