To celebrate two special occasions I planned a surprise visit to Berlin with my husband and daughter, not telling my husband where we were going until we reached the airport, and telling him that we were staying in a “budget” hotel, when in fact I’d booked the fabulous Ritz Carlton for a real treat.
When we arrived it was a lovely bright sunny (altough cold) day, so imagine our surprise as we travelled to the underground station close to the hotel and came out to see snow blowing across the street! There was a ski slope with artificial snow being blown out onto it and a mini Christmas market which we walked through to the hotel, so we were immediately put in a festive mood. The look of shock on my husband’s face when he saw where we would be staying was priceless.
The staff at the hotel were amazing and as soon as we checked into our huge room we were brought champagne and cake.
It was the hotel’s signature cake of honey and lavender, made with honey from the bee hives which are on the roof of the hotel. It was a flavour combination that worked really well and it was a mousse-like white chocolate cake with fruit jelly layer and the decoration included a little model of a bee.
Our daughter wasn’t forgotten either, with a little chocolate teddy bear with the hotel lion logo on it’s tummy which was really cute.
So we didn’t have to venture far to sample some traditional Christmas specialities at the Winter World market in Potsdamer Platz which was just outside of the hotel. It was nice in the evenings to stop off for a warming glass of mulled wine as a night-cap before going back to the hotel. The way it seems to work at all the German Christmas markets that I’ve been to is that you pay a deposit on the glass, which you can then keep, or return for your money back, and then you can walk around and get the glass topped up (for a charge) at other stands.
It was the food stalls that we were most interested in, and there was one stand with all the traditional gingerbreads, decorated in royal icing. I love gingerbread decorations, particualrly as they last for such a long time. I’ve found that when I make gingerbread houses the gingerbread will often go soft in a couple of days, but then seems to dry out again and it will keep for several weeks, although I wouldn’t recommend eating it after 1-2 weeks, and make sure it’s covered to protect it from dust.
My husband has a very sweet tooth, and we couldn’t walk through the market without passing by the crepe stand. More of a French speciality than a German one, but he just loved them! His favourite were the Nutella and banana ones, where the nutella melted to give a lovely creamy chocolatey sauce.
After doing the usual tourist things such as visiting the aquarium and zoo, doing a bus tour etc, I always like to find a good department store or cookshop to see if there’s anything “different” that I haven’t got and that I “need”. For my retail therapy we visited the department store KaDeWe, which according to the tour guide on the bus tour, is the second largest department store in Europe after Harrods. What I always seem to buy on every trip to Germany is cookie cutters, and I thought I had quite a good collection, and I’m not sure how many I bought on this trip but somewhere between 30-40 new ones!!! I don’t know exactly how many cutters I bought, but I had the credit card statement this week and my husband couldn’t believe anyone could spend so much on cookie cutters! But the way I look at it is that I won’t be going back there for a very long time, so it’s better to buy them when I see them than wishing I’d got them when I return home. Several of them are Christmas ones which I’ll probably do with gingerbread.
My husband doesn’t enjoy shopping, so after spending a couple of hours in the cookware department I suggested that we went to the restuarant to revive him before continuing with more shopping. We decided that we’d try apple pie as that seemed to be one of their specialities as there were several different types, but for someone with a sweet tooth it had to be the one with the glace icing on top for my husband.
The slices were so big, that one slice was enough to share, and I enjoyed a bottle of the department stores’ own brand of bottled beer which actually went really well with the spicyness of the apple pie. In fact, we both enjoyed it so much, that I think I’ll make an apple pie for dessert this weekend.
The question for us is now “where do we go next……..”