Six months on and Katharine finally gets her main Christmas present: a weekend in Berlin. And we amazed ourselves on Friday morning, fitting in a last visit to the gym and packing Critter off to the cattery by 9.30 when we didn’t need to be at Liverpool Airport until gone 11. Inevitably, we procrastinated a little so as to stick with our customary just-in-time approach. So when we boarded the plane I had no option but to sit next to an incredibly fat man who required a seatbelt extension and oozed across onto my seat. Fortunately, a stewardess went some way to restoring the boundaries by insisting the armrest come down as far as possible (three-quarters of the way) and he spent the flight curled up with his eyes closed.
Anyway. We got to the hotel, Art’otel Berlin City Centre West, around half five-ish (Germany’s an hour ahead). I’d not told Katharine where we were staying, but she guessed on the plane after reading a feature on the hotel in her magazine. Art’otel Berlin City Centre West features 221 works by Andy Warhol and Christopher Makos, a photographer who documented many of Warhol’s celebrity encounters. Each floor exhibits a different Warhol series on its main corridor with Makos prints at the end. We took a late night stroll on Sunday night and while the hotel capitalises on the art in its literature, it could do with following through and providing a guide to the pieces on show. We landed an executive room – exactly as in the brochure – with a proper wet room for a bathroom; walk in shower area at one end with a bath and second shower at the other and a deep contemporary sink in the middle.
The hotel’s just behind Kurfurstendamm, which is often compared to the Champs-Elysees in Paris (a little exaggeration here). We walked down towards the Europa Centre, an unfortunately concrete shopping centre in front of which lies the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The old church was all but destroyed in an Allied bombing raid on Sunday 22 November 1943. All that remains is a ruined clock tower – nicknamed the ‘hollow tooth’ – around which a new unapologetically modernist church was built in 1961. The two towers shouldn’t complement each other, but somehow they do.
We ate in a surprisingly good Italian restaurant: the Allegro. I say surprisingly because it’s in the Europa centre shoulder-to-shoulder with gadget and games shops. We were craftily tucked in a corner from which we couldn’t see the rest of the centre and had proper Italian – none of your pizza and pasta.