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Apartment Accommodation in Berlin

Berlin Bear - symbol of the city

This time we were Herr Schmidt

“Hello, we’ll  be at the apartment in 10 minutes”
“I will be waiting,” responds the man on the other end of the phone, switching into English. ” Press the door bell for Schmidt”

Twenty minutes later we’ve been shown over our home for the week – a spacious one, bedroom flat in Berlin’s Charlottenburg District – received instruction on how to adjust the heating in case it’s a bit “brrr”, at night, and handed over the payment.. in cash.

In all we have stayed in six apartments around Berlin, they’re our favoured type of accommodation for visiting the big ITB travel show in March when it’s good to have somewhere undemanding to flop and recharge at the end of a hard day’s walking and talking. We’ve booked through several online sites but the procedure has always been the same with payment split between a deposit, paid by card at the time of booking, and the rest in cash  in exchange for the keys.  Arrangements for meeting up with the person who is going to let you in (the contact) are made direct with the owner or landlord and generally involve texting or calling with an ETA as you home in on the apartment.

Berlin apartments - Friedrichshain - 1950's socialist neoclassical style buildings on Karl-Marx-Allee - Charlottenburg

Berlin apartments – Friedrichshain – 1950′s socialist neoclassical style buildings on Karl-Marx-Allee – Charlottenburg

It happens that we’ve usually arrived late, after dark, adding a certain interest to the rendezvous.  The first time we were having serious doubts about finding the apartment as we stood in thick falling snow and sub zero temperatures, faced with five identical, tall grey blocks of flats.  We were rescued by our contact who drove up in a car, there wasn’t anyone else about so it was easy to guess who we were.    We’ve been met at a metro station, and not even asked what we’d be wearing -  no need to carry an identifying newspaper here, Berlin is a very quiet city.   My favourite meet though, could have been a moment of cinema: picture an empty street, rain wet pavements, around the corner comes a woman lit for a moment by the street light, she’s wearing stiletto boots and fur coat, her face framed by the high collar – spotting us sheltering in the doorway she hurries forward with a smile …

OK, I can see I might not be selling the idea with these tales, and should hasten to reassure that the key handovers have always been business-like and we have always ended safely tucked up in our rented apartments, even when our flight was delayed and we didn’t arrive until gone midnight.

For the show, we pick studio or one bedroom apartments at modest cost, as near as possible to the East – West S Bahn route through the centre of Berlin to save time and aching feet.  The strategy works if you’re sightseeing too, as many of the key attractions, like the Brandenburger Gate and Reichstag lie in this belt. Over the years the range and amount of accommodation has been steadily increasing as Berlin attracts more visitors and a quick search across the sites now brings up options from “über-cool” studios in artsy Friedrichshain to family orientated apartments in leafy suburbs.

Berlin: Friedrichshain - Hackesche Höfe - TV Tower

Artsy Friedrichshain – Art Nouveau frontage Hackesche Höfe – Glimpse of TV Tower

Part of the fun of having an apartment in Berlin is in getting a feel for different neighbourhoods.  The first flat, at the very top of one of those east German built blocks had a glimpse of the TV Tower (Fernsehturm) built by the former German Democratic Republic administration to cast a shadow over the west, bringing to mind scenes from “Goodbye Lenin”.  Another overlooked the River Spree, within an easy walk of Alexander Platz or the fashionable Hackesche Markt area.    One year we were in a fairly new block of flats overlooking a park just down the slope from a bohemian feeling area of cafes and shops surrounding the Zion Church (Zionskirche) – the church sits on the bump of Berlin’s highest natural point.  These flats all fell in the Mitte district.  In the west the apartments have been older.  The best was superbly located, just two minutes from Savignyplatz station in a street of restaurants, galleries and boutique shops. The rooms had very high ceilings and the building a slightly faded cultured charm. There was a lift but I preferred walking up the broad, spiralling, staircase with its carved wooden rail,  polished smooth with use. Sometimes from behind our neighbour’s double doors would come the sound of a piano being played – classical pieces, of course.

Apartment accommodation in Berlin

Decor usually comes in standard white, green pot plants and something orange and bold in the form of wall decoration or floor rug are on the cards.  What you can guarantee east or west is that the buildings will be solid with good plumbing.  In our experience the apartments have all been well equipped with bedding and towels supplied – sometimes there are goodies in the kitchen cupboards, we’ve enjoyed previous occupants organic honey and strong coffee and left our half eaten jars of pickled gherkins, black cherry jam for the next inhabitants. And it definitely gets to feel like home when you can curl up on the sofa with free wi-fi instead of trekking to the foyer as so often seems to be the case in hotels.

Well I’m off to peruse the options for our next visit.  Go on – you too can be a Berliner

Berlin S Bahn

S Bahn Station, Berlin

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