We met Berlin local Gerd Tepass in Buenos Aires about four years ago when we were writing a guidebook to the city. Now back in his home city, he gives us a local Guide to Berlin.
Gerd owned a funky boutique in Buenos Aires, with a good little restaurant and a bar. It was the kind of hotel we like, the kind of place that locals drop in to for a drink. There would be DJs a few nights a week, occasional parties, and other arty and literary events. Gerd was a great resource to us in Buenos Aires, introducing us to all kinds of interesting people, so he was the first person we contacted when we landed in Berlin.
Often the best way into a local culture, the best way to discover a place, is through a local, and while many people complain that meeting locals can be hard, sometimes we overlook the fact that contacts might be right under our nose — they could be friends of friends or family members, or friends of people you’ve met before in other places.
Meeting up with someone needn’t involve a lot of time if you’re worried about meet-ups eating into your 3-day itinerary, but sometimes that quick coffee or beer with a local contact might just turn out to be one the highlights of your trip. At the very least, it will probably produce the kinds of off-the-beaten-track travel ideas and quirky local tips that our Local Knowledge locals, such as Gerd, have provided here on these pages this year.
A local Guide to Berlin — Gerd Tepass
Q. So, what do you most love about your work as an event manager?
A. I work at the Michelberger Hotel, which is like working in a kind of ‘Upside-Down Kingdom’. The reception manager is in reality a singer in a Swing band, the service manager is also a model, the chef likes to dress up as a woman, one of the bartender’s is a film director, the woman in charge of the interior décor is an actress. It feels a bit like being in Alice in Wonderland.
Q. Why should people come to Berlin?
A. Berlin is one of Germany’s poorest but sexiest cities.
Q. 3 words to describe Berlin?
A. Raw, creative, sincere.
Q. 3 words to describe the people?
Q. Your top recommendations for visitors to Berlin?
A. Take one of the city tour buses, for example, the Berolina, which has 16 stops where you can get off and see the most important spots in just a few hours, and exterminate any sight-seeing-mania from your mind, so you can dedicate yourself to more important things like the arts; getting drunk in the King Size Bar; clubbing (try Berghain, Suicide Circus, Golden Gate, and Wilde Renate); or feeling like heaven at the Spa Liquidrom.
Q. Best souvenir from Berlin?
A. Buy a hand-knitted, gold or silver ‘Celine’ watch at www.wollex-berlin.de and as the time stops… just stay in Berlin forever!
Q. Must-do eating experiences?
A. If you want to have a quick break after running around a lot through the city or in case you have a terrible hangover try one of the amazing soups at Gerüchteküche (Oranienstrasse 16, Kreuzberg). After, you will feel like Tarzan! For lunch or dinner, one of my favourite restaurants is an Italian restaurant, Noodles e Figli (Skalitzer Strasse 94b, Kreuzberg), with the nicest waitress in town and a guarantee of a fantastic, relaxing and delicious dinner. For great German food in Berlin, I like Markthalle in Kreuzberg (Pücklerstrasse 34), but as it is always crowded, so don’t forget to reserve a table (030-611 82 50).
Q. An essential thing to know before coming to Berlin?
A. Don’t get depressed when the big, meaty, tattooed doorman of the Berghain Club doesn’t let you in. It happens to 50% of the people! And please don’t forget to tip at least 10% of your bill to waiters to guarantee the love of the person who looked after you!
Q. Most important phrase to learn in German?
A. “Einmal Kurzstrecke, bitte!” (“Short distance, please!”) When you stop a taxi in the street and say this phrase to the taxi driver, you only pay a sweet 4 Euros. You can make an unforgettable 2 km long Berlin Taxi Tour and drive, for example, along the Avenue Unter den Linden to see the Brandenburger Arc, the golden Victory column, and, of course, finally stop at the Parc Tiergarten to join the locals for some funny naked sunbathing. Only in summer of course!
Q. Any other advice?
A. Don’t miss the Mauerparkon Sundays at Prenzlauer Berg. A kind of gypsy-fashion-trashy fleamarket, crowded with freaks from all over the world, with bizarre bands playing, the worst karaoke you’ve ever listened to in the amphitheatre, and funny snacks.