Arriving in Berlin last night for my 9th cruise on board the MS Victor Hugo, I felt like an absolute princess.
As I stepped out of the Arrivals section of the airport, I was greeted by a grinning man with a CroisiEurope sign – a private pick-up that had been arranged for all the passengers of our Elbe cruise. My late arrival had its perks. In fact, I got the car all to myself, along with its hilariously pleasant driver who entertained me for the 40 minute ride with history lessons and animated anecdotes. He explained to me that his job is quite peculiar, because he acts as both the driver for transfers and also the tour guide for all excursions. Hearing him gush about his job and his passion for the region, I knew that I would be having a good week. As we pulled into the parking lot by the MS Victor Hugo, the boat’s entertainer was there waiting for me, with a three course meal ready in the Dining Room. The hospitality I receive on all these cruises never ceases to impress me. I slept very well that night, recharged and ready to take on the city of Berlin in the morning!
Now, as a massive city 8x the size of Paris, Berlin is a magnificently diverse destination offering plenty to do for every type of visitor. While I have visited Berlin before, the few days I spent there last year were barely enough to scrape the surface. Simultaneously historical but modern, beautiful but grungy, there are so many sides to Berlin. It’s a city where you can enjoy world-class museums one second, then submerge yourself in street art and subculture the next. Berlin offers a little bit of everything, which is why it is one of my favourite cities in Europe.
In the morning, we had a chance to drive through the city and discover some of its main landmarks. Our panoramic tour brought us past many famous Berlin sights, including the Reichstag Building, the Brandenburg Gate, the Gendarmenmarkt, Museum Island, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and of course, Checkpoint Charlie. Despite the massive size of this city, I felt like our tour gave us a fantastic first orientation to Berlin, and judging by the genuine excitement of my fellow passengers, who eagerly snapped photos at every turn, it was a very worthwhile way to spend the morning.
We cruised all during lunch, taking in beautiful views of cloud speckled skies and sailboats as we ate. Soon, we found ourselves in Potsdam, Berlin’s neighbor and former residence of the Prussian Kings.
Our afternoon excursion brought us to Postdam’s most famous attraction, the Sanssouci Park, a large estate housing palaces and beautiful Baroque gardens. While time restraints didn’t allow us to enter the palaces, a walk around the grounds allowed me to appreciate why this was Frederick the Great’s place to escape and feel, as the name says, like he was without worries (sans souci in French). The Sanssouci Palace in particular is a beautiful sight. Designed in a whimsical Rococo style, it sits high above a hill lined with terraced vineyards, and is surrounded by an lovely garden packed with statues, water features, flowers and fruit trees. I wouldn’t mind calling this my summer residence, that’s for sure:
We completed our packed day with some free time in Potsdam’s Old Town. Venturing down the charming main street of Brandenburger Straße, I was surrounded by delightful paper shops, outdoor cafes and retail stores offering everything you could ever need. During my bit of exploration, I also stumbled upon the city’s Dutch quarter, built in the 18th century to welcome Dutch craftsmen to Potsdam. Spanning two streets, its neat rows of red brick houses are so lovely and a must-see if you’re in the area, even if it’s just for a quick photo:
Tomorrow presents another day packed with excursions, first to the Cecilienhof Palace and then to Berlin’s Botanical Gardens. Until, then I’ll leave you with this photo of the most stunning sunset ever from on board the MS Victor Hugo:
Talk to you all soon!