Get acquainted with the city by taking a guided tour with Berlínur, a company formed by two Icelandic women living in Berlin.
Berlínur are Margrét Rós Harðardóttir and Katrín Árnadóttir who both have strong ties to Germany. Margrét Rós is an artist and has lived in Berlin since 2012 and Katrín studied media and communications and started working in Berlin in 2007, first for the Icelandic Embassy and later for Sagenhaftes Island - Iceland Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2011.
“I moved to Berlin with my husband after I received my diploma from the University of Siegen. I got a job here and then fell in love with the city. I'm glad that I got to know other cities first. It's very hard to top Berlin!” says Katrín.
A perfect match
Katrín and Margrét Rós were neighbors in Berlin for over a year before their paths crossed in 2013 at a group for Icelandic mothers. Once their children started kindergarten they were both at crossroads in their life. “We were both ready to get back out into the workplace but we wanted to do something fun and rewarding,” they agree. Katrín was used to introducing Iceland to Germans, both at the embassy where she worked and at the Sagenhaftes Island, and now she wanted to introduce Berlin to Icelanders. Margrét Rós had similar ideas, albeit a more artistic approach.
“We started seeing each other more often, talking about what we wanted to do,” they both say and add that Katrín has the planning abilities while Margret is a natural born performer. “We felt we might just be a perfect match and we both wanted to invite Icelanders for a walk around Berlin. Margrét Rós dusted off an idea she'd had about a gourmet tour in Reykjavik and we made it about Berlin instead. As soon as the Gourmet Tour was ready we thought it would be good to have a historical tour so we put together the Mauer Tour (Berlin Wall Tour) which has been very successful. We dubbed ourselves Berlínur and took off,” says Katrín.
Getting the knowledge
The dynamic duo has sought information about Berlin from books, numerous documentaries and museums. “The most valuable knowledge though comes from conversations we've had with our German friends and family. Suddenly we started interrogating them on historic events. Their stories mesmerized us and we wanted more. We started listening to strangers that came up to us on the streets (yes, that happens quite often in Berlin) and became best friends and heard their stories,” Katrín and Margrét Rós tell us.
Tours to take
Berlínur started out with one tour, the Gourmet Tour around Prenzlauer Berg where they educate their guests on German food and food traditions. “Everybody gets to taste the food and sense the multi-cultural influence when it comes to food in Berlin,” says Margrét Rós and Katrín. “We also talk about the different styles, especially vegetarian food, sustainable food and vegan food, as Berlin has become the mecca of vegans,” they add. The Mauer Tour was soon added to their repertoire in which they walk around the area where the Berlin Wall once stood and tell their guests about life in a divided Germany from 1949-1989; personal stories of people who lived through it, and about The Stasi and what events finally brought the Berlin Wall down. “The Mauer Tour is our biggest hit as it is somewhat of a “must” for anyone interested in history or visiting Berlin for the first time,” Margrét Rós and Katrín say. Their latest addition is the Multikulti Kreuzberg tour, a walk among the multicultural Kreuzberg neighborhood that hosts a lively community of Muslims, Gypsies and Africans to name a few. If you take this tour on a Thursday it ends at the Street Food Thursday market in Markthalle Neun, held each Thursday. Berlínur also offer bike tours around Berlin where guests can see the most popular monuments and landmarks of the city and get a rough history lesson on the way. “Right now we are working on an idea about World War II tour, the city kind of calls for it. Every day history is right in front of us and all we have to do is grab it and make sure to tell others,” say the Berlínur duo.
Favorite places in Berlin
Margrét Rós and Katrín obviously feel good in their adopted city but do they have a favorite place to hang out? “I've just discovered the perfect place that joins together a great concept and a location with a view,” says Margrét Rós. “It's called Klunkerkranich and is located at the top of a shopping center in Neukölln. The place is very raw but they have good food and drinks and you can listen to music and do some gardening. They have a rooftop garden where everyone can join in and learn about urban gardening; that's very “in” these days. In my opinion this is one of the most romantic places in the city,” Margrét Rós adds.
“My favorite place is Clärchens Ballhaus in Auguststrasse in Mitte,” says Katrín. “It's a dancehall that was first opened in 1913. They've been dancing there ever since and the atmosphere is like nothing else. Everybody comes to enjoy themselves and dance; nerds, hipsters, grandmothers and that rare breed of real Berliners,” she adds.
What to taste?
Seeing as this issue is food themed we thought to ask the duo about their favorite food in Berlin. “The spaghetti ice cream is something you must try,” says Margrét Rós. “For a long time the idea repulsed me but when I finally tasted this dish I was pleasantly surprised. It's really just pressed vanilla flavored ice cream but the cream in the middle and the puréed strawberries make all the difference,” she adds. The spaghetti ice cream can be found at any real Italian ice cream shop in Berlin. Katrín has a different taste. “I'm totally hooked on Häppies, a restaurant in my neighborhood and I'd been meaning to go there for two years. A short while ago I finally went and was shocked to find I'd lost out on two years of their delicious stuffed buns. I usually order a bun stuffed with tofu and curry and coconut sauce with peanuts or the one with goat cheese, cranberries and rocket pesto. Devine!"
Berlínur offer their tours around Berlin in Icelandic and English. Check out their website at www.berlinur.de for information about their tours and all sort of useful information such as how to travel from the airport, what train tickets to buy and where to shop. They regularly post new articles on all things Berlin with great tips for travelers. You can even like them on Facebook so you won't miss a thing, just search for “Berlínur.”
You can never get enough of Berlin! WOW air offers cheap flights to Berlin from USA and Iceland. Auf Wiedersehen!
Photos: Courtesy of Berlinur.de