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Every time I go to Berlin, I love it a little more truly, madly, deeply. I just got back from the annual ITB travel-industry trade show, and—while I may not love the overwhelmingly huge conference center madly or deeply, or even slightly—the event is at least a fantastic excuse to be in Berlin.
I spent the post-conference weekend exploring and hanging out. Based on a tip from our star European contributor Gisela Williams, who lives in Cologne, I stayed in a one-bedroom run by T&C Apartments, which rents extremely affordable (roughly 60 euros a night) flats in high-demand areas like the gentrified-hipsterville of Prenzlauer Berg, where there are virtually no hotels. My apartment was spotless, minimalist (in a non-ruthless way), and near the area's countless cafes, parks, shops, restaurants.
At the brand-new Tausend bar last weekend, I had one (actually three) of the most perfect Dark and Stormys—rum, ginger beer and lime—and watched a Macy Gray-ish vocalist rock the house.
Lunch the next day was an outrageously delicious pizza—made with pillowy naan bread topped with arugula, olive tapenade and Parmigiano Reggiano—at W Imbiss, a snack bar on Kastanienallee run by an eccentric, highly entertaining Canadian musician who goes by the name Gordon W.
One of my new favorite bistros anywhere is Café Jacques, in the scruffy-cool Neukölln area—across the canal from the lively Turkish-bohemian hood of Kreuzberg. I ate an intensely rich, Taleggio-cheese-and-walnut-slathered tagliatelle, then hit a couple of illegal bars nearby. Berlin has lots of those: fun bars with cheap beer and great DJs, in old apartments or abandoned spaces. I won't give away any addresses here; just a hint: Look down quiet residential streets or keep your eyes open for second-floor spaces with dim lighting and crowds just barely visible through a smoky haze.
I flipped through old family scrapbooks and ancient CDs at the Sunday flea market at Mauer Park in Prenzl'berg, then sat on the grass eating a juicy bratwurst and watching dogs run around, people throw frisbees, and locals generally kick back on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.