East Side Gallery
Our last expedition to Berlin saw us pushing on through ‘til dawn amidst the louche goings on of the city’s quasi-legal club culture – hitting the warehouse dancefloors along the fringes of Friedrichshain. But on a recent visit to check out the new Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof hotel, our mission was of a bit less insalubrious nature.
We’d gone for the Moxy’s opening party, which turned out, it being Berlin, involved a rather impressive array of cross-dressing / androgyny / deconstructed fashion…and quite a lot of decadent behavior (including guests lining up at a schnitzel food truck outside to soak up the considerable booze intake.)
The hotel is the most recent addition to a Moxy collection that includes New Orleans, Nashville, Frankfurt, London and Milan, amongst others. It’s got plenty of groovy, “cool kids” atmosphere, and 24-hour-party-people prices (meaning, perfect for those who don’t need to spend all that much time sleeping). For about $120 a night, you can score a room with a smart sense of style, impressive comfort, and immersive views of a graffiti covered East Berlin just outside. As the name promises, it’s also very conveniently positioned right opposite the city’s easternmost train station, making late nightlife jaunts to Kreuzberg and Neukölln cheap and easy.
Downstairs, the Moxy has almost accidentally nailed a particular rising zeitgeist. Instagram, for better or worse, has obviously made breakfast a “thing.” And in the hotel’s stylish, open plan public area, it’s rather a scene in the morning, with a cool crowd shaking off hangovers via strong coffee and a refreshingly healthy breakfast.
Considering the Moxy’s extremely attractive rates, rooms are actually very well done, chic but cozy, and with reasonably sized bathrooms.
As the hotel sits on the perimeter of the perpetually cool Mitte district, we made a purpose of just hanging about the area, and getting reacquainted with what was East Berlin’s first post-Cold-War hip neighborhood. Here’s what we got up to.
The section the Berlin Wall that is preserved as an open-air gallery is ideal for conjuring a bit of DDR nostalgia (Ostalgie, they call it). It’s especially relevant in these times of rising populism – a poignant reminder of maintaining vigilance in regards to our most treasured freedoms.
A unique concept: Thomas Olbricht’s personal collection has been on permanent display since 2010. He also invites other collectors to share their works. Downstairs is mostly modern and contemporary; but it’s the gloriously creepy Wunderkammer upstairs that most greatly intrigues. An archive of morbidity and curiosity, there are scientific instruments, death’s heads, gruesome miniatures and all manner of macabre ephemera from the Renaissance up to current Brit agitators Jake & Dinos Chapman. (N.B. the area around Auguststraße is recommended for an afternoon of gallery hopping.)
Shopping complex flaunts luxury fashion brands, but is worth seeing for the surreal and spectacular architecture. It’s Berlin’s equivalent of Paris’ Galeries Lafayette.
This is the way Berlin does a contemporary art museum: fitted into a spectacular neoclassical railway station. Currently showing is Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Hieroglyphics, with 17 paintings by the exalted German Expressionist.
A cool little Mitte café that, yes, nicks its name from The Usual Suspects. Draws a curious but buzzy collision of crowds – hip kids, cool moms, visiting New York media types. A schnitzel and a glass of white Grauburgunder makes for a perfect Berlin lunch, and the attached bar is a good place to kick off an evening. Our Chinese waiter regaled us with stories of serving Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld in a pre-fall-of-the-wall Berlin.
Plot your night with cocktails in the Moxy lobby. The front desk doubles as the bar – another very zeitgeisty touch; and you can start your evening with drinks and a couple of rounds of foosball in a low-key-but-sexy, open-plan space.
For a glam night out, book ahead at the oddly named Crackers. The beautiful people and model types come to be seen in all their beautifulness; and while its pretty much “style first” here, the food is actually quite good. As well, and so fitting for Berlin, you’re allowed to smoke at the bar. Remember 2003?
People are generally having too much fun in Berlin to bother much about over-concepted food. But there are a few musts for epicurean types in the Mitte, namely Cookies Cream and Katz Orange. We hit up the new-ish Pantry, which is sort of awesomely bourgeois-hip in its vibe, with plush seating, a well-curated conceptual art collection and a clientele of well-heeled culturati types. The French-Asian cuisine is exquisite, without being precious. After dinner, traverse nearby Torstraße for various forms of trendy nightlife.