I spent the best part of the week attending the ITB Travel Show in Berlin. This is the largest travel show in the world, held every March. It is spread over 26 halls so it is huge and if you cover more than one geographical area, you really have to plan your days. I dedicate a day to each of our three main areas: Asia, Indian Ocean and Middle East and the Med. ITB is full on appointments from opening to close.
And some countries have grown so huge in their displays they are spread over certain areas, so you have to get your bearings and specific stand numbers in advance.
The ITB Travel Show is an expensive affair, and hotels max their rates, but I find it so useful in meeting serious decision makers from our main areas.
I have lost track how many ITB’s I have attended, but it’s close to 30. I first started coming in the mid 1980’s when the infamous wall still divided the city and that came down in 1988.
I must say I just love Berlin. I now know it reasonably well and travel around the city on public transport with confidence. Some of the old buildings in the former eastern section are just incredible. I fully immerse myself in the history of the place, especially the events of the last 100 hundred years. I have spoken to many travel colleagues and they just do not get the appeal of the city. I fully see on face value it might not appear the most attractive or interesting place, but delve under the surface and it is amazing.
The innovation and creative vibe is incredible. I would put it right up there with Barcelona.
I try to stay in different areas as I want to explore the place. Whilst my main objective is attending the trade show, I do make an effort to find new things, rather than revisiting the same haunt year after year, and even in some cases night after night.
This year I stayed in the Friedrichstrase area and I seemed to be one of the few delegates who have chosen to be away from the central Kdam area. I had visited Friedrichstrase before, but never stayed. I was delighted with my choice. It took me 25 minutes by direct train to the show. I was 10 minutes from Kdam if I needed it, but my area was so interesting. It has an almost Hoxton London creative vibe, and my hotel was directly on the banks of the Spree river which added to the attraction. Many really funky cafes and restaurants and in most I was the only non German, which to me adds to the appeal. Small intimate places.
A particular favourite was Bose Buben Bar, pictured, which was like entering a 1970 coffee shop library. A real faded chic vibe, super veggie food and some suitable chilled music. I ended the day three times here, invited some curious friends over to join me, and it was a fantastic discovery – I don’t usually revisit places, but this is the kind of place you just want to show off.
Things like this, plus dinner last night at Bar a Vin restaurant, which has to be one of the cities smallest, with just 5 tables and no kitchen. The food is brought in from the larger sister restaurant three doors up but what a great atmosphere.
I spent a morning walking by the river, the sun was out and it has an Paris Seine type atmosphere. I visited the Berlina Dome Protestant church which is just stunning and climbed the 400 plus steps to the roof for a great view of the city. I then took a one hour boat tour around the old city with its narrow waterways before venturing into the ultra modern buildings of the Government. So much contrast, and I was constantly reminded when I first came here, the city was divided and the access we now take for granted was denied. It is too complex to sum up here, but invest in a good guide book and it all comes to life.
Simple things like this are what still makes travel so enjoyable to me. It is taking the time to go beneath the obvious. To get lost and see where a small road or alley leads you. Loved it all – and the ITB Travel Show was quite useful as well!