Our Trip to Berlin with Condor Airlines
Hallo, wie geht’s? We just spent a few days in Berlin and now we’re both fluent in ordering coffee in German. It’s something like “Bitte, zwei cappuccino. Danke!” But you have to say it slowly and as though you’re very unsure.
Anyway OK yes we just spent time in Berlin, which was our intro to European travel! We’ve been wanting to visit for a while now, so when the folks at Condor Airlines offered to send us to Berlin’s Pride weekend to check out their New Orleans to Frankfurt service and get a taste of Germany—we were obvi pumped and started planning immediately.
To start off, we flew nonstop from New Orleans to Frankfurt in Business Class which had us feeling hella special. That’s not to mention how convenient it was for us living in New Orleans to not have to connect in Atlanta, New York, or Houston. We don’t have very many nonstop international flights out of New Orleans, and I could totally see us taking that route again as a way to get to Europe affordably and hassle-free. Given how cheap and easy flying and train rides within Europe are, Frankfurt is a great central starting point for getting to other destinations either in Germany or neighboring countries.
Side note on Condor: we hadn’t heard about them until they added New Orleans as a destination. If you’re not familiar, it’s a German leisure airline with an extensive network of destinations across the globe, including 16 spots in the US. They offer competitive fares but still provide an exquisite service to get your vacation started right. Definitely check them out!
The flight itself was great! It was just under 9 hours to get there, and it departed at 10 pm so it’s timed perfectly to give you a night’s rest. They served us a five-course dinner within the first hour of takeoff that was actually very tasty, with a good selection of wine and beer, and they even offered me a glass of Cognac to have as a digestif.
Beau put his seat back the full 170 degrees and fell asleep quickly after dinner (and stayed asleep for 6 hours, which like lol OK boo), while I stayed up to check out their entertainment options—I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2 because Chris Pratt is bae and also the screens in business class are 15” so like I had to take advantage of that. The entire trip was lovely and smooth and the service was wonderful. The seats were extremely comfortable and roomy.
Once we got to Frankfurt, it was just a four hour train ride to Berlin’s central station, or Hauptebahnhof as we learned it’s called. We arrived a little too late to redeem our Berlin Welcome Cards (passes that allow you unlimited access to Berlin’s public transport) because the office had closed ten minutes earlier. We took that as a blessing in disguise—we were exhausted and grabbing a taxi to the hotel sounded ideal.
Side note: those Berlin Welcome Cards turned out to be incredibly useful for getting around the next few days. You pay a flat fee and they cover unlimited rides for the remarkably efficient subway and tram system, as well as discount entry to attractions. Shoutout to Berlin Tourism for giving us these!
Henri Hotel is part of the Pink Pillow Collection hotel group, which has LGBTI* friendly hotels around Berlin to ensure all guests feel welcome while traveling. And omg it was fantastic. The lobby had all these perfect design touches, like a beautifully lit farmhouse style kitchen where breakfast was served every morning. Our room had a quaint balcony with potted flowers that was completely delightful to enjoy a bottle of Riesling on. Our sleep was a little messed up because of the time change, but we tried to get mostly straight to bed because our very first full day in Berlin was the big day of the weekend, Christopher Street Day (Berlin Pride).
Christopher Street Day
If you’ve never been fully jet lagged on a pride parade float in Europe’s gay party capital...you should try it! We rode on the Condor Airlines truck and they had hats and branded “mile high club” condoms as our throws. We’re used to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, where every float has tons of throws (beads, toys, trinkets, snacks, etc) but here it seemed Condor was one of the only trucks with a big throw (the hat) and so everyone was going wild for them. It was such a sight and we felt so popular. And then the entire route was just dotted with people wearing the yellow Condor hats!
The whole parade lasted about four hours, and people were crowded in the streets wearing their best looks to celebrate. It really was so reminiscent of Mardi Gras, except we had no clue what anyone was saying and there were, notably, more fully naked people than we’re used to.
Once the jet lag came out to join the Prosecco + sun + techno combo, we decided to call it a day and went to grab two dishes we’d been hearing all about: currywurst and döner kebab. Currywurst is basically bratwurst covered in a ketchup and curry powder mix, and döner is a Middle Eastern rotisserie meat thing that’s sliced thinly and usually served as a sandwich (kinda like a gyro)—these are two of the main stars of Berlin street food.
We waited in line for döner at Mustafe’s Gemüse Kebab for about an hour which is longer than we normally wait for pretty much anything except for that one time we did a virtual queue for Lizzo pre-sale tickets. The kebab (and the Lizzo tickets) were so worth the wait. I’ve never had a sandwich that was so crispy and juicy and crunchy and fresh and yogurty and the bread was so fluffy and chewy…it was just really really amazing. Don’t show up too hungry, cause it smells so good you’ll elevate to hangry status quite quickly during that wait time.
Other notable food stops included one of the best dining experiences of our lives at Jaja Natural Wine Bar (now to be added to the short list of “best dining experiences ever,” which was previously just Shiro’s sushi in Seattle and Azul Historico in Mexico City). It’s a natural wine bar—read more about natural wine here—serving tasty tapas style dishes that literally made Beau happy cry which probably looked super intense. Most important to mention is the duck parfait, which was a fluffy duck liver mousse served with brioche that had definitely been dunked in butter and grilled. It was literally life changing.
We also took a note from Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown: Berlin episode and grabbed a traditional lunch at Fleischerei Domke, a modest German butcher shop and lunch counter. We had schnitzel and bratwurst, which both came on massive plates filled with cabbage and potatoes. Very very very good, and for only like 11€ total.
Besides Berlin Pride and eating as much as our bodies could handle, we had a few stops that really made our trip feel complete. We spent an afternoon at the flea market at Mauerpark, which is a pretty giant open air flea market that has food stalls and hand-dyed rugs and clothes and jewelry etc. We had the best sandwich ever (slow cooked pork with sauerkraut in a bun that got dipped in the gravy omg), and found an “unreleased edition” vinyl record of Brandy & Monica’s That Boy is Mine. So that was a successful outing.
We also spent a good bit of time on Museum Island, which is one of the most visually impressive parts of the city with five massive and gorgeous museums all right near each other, statue-lined streets, and open air parks where everyone just chills and drinks and takes selfies. Finally, we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial and East Side Gallery—two remaining portions of the Berlin wall where you can see firsthand a major part of the city’s history (and at the gallery, you’ll see some incredible art). Definitely schedule in time for them on your visit.
While we skipped the club scene (sorry I know, but we’re old men and the lines were wildly long and we don’t really like clubs anyway), we did spend some time at Roses which is a cute little divey gay bar where the walls are covered in red shag. Thanks Charlie for the recommendation!
And that’s about it! For only having three full days there we feel pretty good about how much we got done, and really had such a wonderful time. A huge thank you to Condor Airlines, Pink Pillow Hotel Group, and Berlin Tourism for making this trip possible. It was truly the best first three days in Europe we could’ve asked for. Now we’re off to Prague! Tschüss!