My trip to Berlin and Poland

So the time had come to finally make my journey to collect my final letter for the parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I wanted to get this done before the end of the year for arbitrary reasons and because it’s getting cold.Kyle humoured me in joining me – he’s good like that 😉 And we flew to Berlin Tegel from Gatwick on a Thursday evening. Now I had only just got back from New York Tuesday morning so this was quite the turnaround for me!

It has been a while since any Anna-Related Incidents have occurred so it was only right for one to crop up. Everything had been going all fine and dandy until we reached the car hire place in the airport. I was down to drive the car (Kyle doesn’t have a car licence – he rides a motorbike instead). So when the man behind the counter says, “Can I see your driving licence?” I had a sudden feeling that someone had poured cold water over me. Driving licence… ah yes. That thing I did not pack.

I turned round to Kyle and said “I’ve forgotten my driving licence”. Kyle, bless his heart, has the patience of a saint and just sighed a little. When I asked the man what would happen if I didn’t have my licence he looked at Kyle and asked if he could drive instead. Kyle showed him his licence, technically not lying by saying nothing, and the man nodded and said “OK, he drives then. You just need to pay the extra fee for changing the driver”. Riiiight. Seems legit. I tentatively asked if I could still drive the car (remember, Kyle can’t actually drive) and the man said “Sure, but I didn’t say it”. OK then. We paid the added fee of being able to take the car out of Germany and £100 later we were out of there (I paid £61 for my mistake – ouch).

We arrived at our hotel, nicely located less than three miles from the Brandenburg Gate, and got very lucky with finding the last parking space where we wouldn’t have to pay. Thank god. The hotel was called, wait for it… Apple City. I mean, how perfect right? They did indeed have apples in the lobby.

So the next morning we woke up early and headed out for a gentle plod round the sights of Berlin. Genuinely I was so chuffed with where the hotel was located. It was a lovely run along the Spree River to get to the Tiergarten.The autumnal colours were beautiful and we stopped several times to take photos and enjoy our surroundings. I love runs like this.We ran to the Brandenburg Gate and then to the Reichstag building and it brought back all the memories of running the Berlin Marathon.It was nice to get some photos without hoards of people milling about.It was also nice to finally get to showcase my new New York Marathon vest that I got at the expo (love the colour!). Kyle and I took the run nice and gently and ran just over 5 miles in the end. A lovely start to the day – and a great way to tick off some “must-sees”.We then got showered and ready and headed out to walk the way we ran to get back to the centre. After numerous recommendations from people, we decided on the Steel Vintage Bikes cafe for brunch.It was such a unique and cool place. There were bikes hanging from the walls, the artwork was really cool and even in the bathroom the tiles had little bikes on them. The service was super friendly and the menu looked great. I went for a tea and it came out in this very cute little teapot and cup affair. For food I had scrambled egg and we shared some maple bacon pancakes (which also came with scrambled egg).Brunch was really tasty and helped fuel us on our Berlin wanderings. We went to Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Memorial and the big cinema area where they have all the premiers.

I was so chuffed as there was a small Christmas market around that area and I was able to grab myself a chocolate covered apple (something I adore – can you quite believe, eh?).We then walked to the Berlin Mall where I was amazed to see that there was a slide that you could take from the third floor to the ground floor!I mean, how cool is that? Of course I had to give it a whirl. After that we walked back to the hotel.We passed a small bakery and we couldn’t help but buy a delicious looking iced thing (I have no idea what it was but it looked amazing) and a pretzel.It was delicious! And so lovely to sit outside this very small German bakery and enjoy the chilly but lovely weather.

We then packed up and got going to Zary. Driving through Berlin was a little bit stressful (not to mention being on the “wrong” side of the road and using the wrong hand to change gear) but we made it onto the autobahn. The road to Zary from Berlin is basically all motorway and one long road. It was very dull driving but with good company and good music (and a pretzel) it flew by.

When we arrived in Zary (blink-and-you’ll-miss-it size of town) it was dark and very misty. I’m not going to lie, it was quite eerie. Almost like we’d wandered into a horror movie.Big pine trees towering over long dark roads, not many people about with oldie-worldie feels.That said, we checked in to our very lovely ApartHotel and everyone was met was very friendly (that we could tell, to be honest most people couldn’t speak English and we ca’t speak Polish).

We checked in and then headed out to walk to the local town (a 5 minute walk) to find some dinner. We happened upon a pizzeria. I mean, there wasn’t a huge choice of restaurants because Zary is a small town but this place was fantastic. The menu was great (they had an English version, hurrah!) and the pizzas we had were very tasty and not to mention ridiculously cheap.We both had large pizzas and a beer each and it came to £8, which is insanely good for a restaurant meal! It was very tasty as well (even if we weren’t hugely hungry due to all the snacks and food we’d had earlier…).

Then we headed back to the hotel ready for a good night’s sleep before Zary parkrun…

Have you ever been to Berlin or Poland?

What is your brunch option of choice?

Have you ever driven abroad?

Berlin Christmas markets

Well that’s my second Berlin trip this year done and dusted. And I must say I don’t feel quite as in pieces as I did after my last one, having not run 26.2 miles this time!

Though I’m still shattered. I left for Gatwick Friday afternoon and met up with two of my friends before flying into Berlin to meet the other two. We were staying in my friend Charlotte’s parents house so the whole trip was very cheap (let’s not talk about how my taxi there and back from the airport cost more than the flight itself…). We got to her house late that evening.

The next day was a whirlwind of Christmas markets, Starbucks, SO much food and lots of girlie chatting, as you can imagine. It was cold but thankfully we had no rain so we wrapped up warm and did lots of walking so it was fine.

The first Christmas markets we went to were on the grounds of a beautiful German palace in Schloss Charlottenberg.

Berlin Christmas marketsCharlotte is German so having someone there who can fluently speak the language is just perfect. She knew how to get everywhere and where was good to go. Like our own personal tour guide 😉

There were so many Christmas markets all over the city and they were all such good value for money. The food and drink was very well priced and not extortionate like it can be in the UK for this sort of thing.

German Christmas market food The food on offer was just incredible. Chocolate covered fruit, gingerbread, stollen, marzipan everything, cookies, biscuits, bread, cheese, meat, chocolate, sweets…I could go on. I tried as much as my stomach would allow.Berlin Christmas market food I shared a skewer of chocolate grapes with one of my friends (surprisingly refreshing) and later had what I can only describe as a marzipan teacake (bottom left). It was marzipan-flavoured marshmallow fluff covered in dark chocolate. Lovely but messy! Top left was a big blob of sponge filled with plum jam (sauce?) and covered in vanilla custard. I shared that with two of my friends but I only had a couple of bites as, disappointingly, it did nothing for me. A bit bland and not that sweet for my tastes!

One of my friends had a waffle with Nutella on it and it looked AMAZING.

IMG_8696We then enjoyed a nice walk around the palace grounds and then hopped off to the Postdamer Platz area for a bit of normal shopping and sushi lunch.

IMG_8686Berlin has so many sushi restaurants and we all love it so it was the obvious place to go. I do love a conveyor belt as well – you can be very choosey! 😉

There were a few markets here as well to mooch around which were also very good.Berlin Christmas markets 2

As evening was drawing in we headed to our final market in Ku’Damm, where the broken church is (I ran past this in the marathon as well).Ku'Damm Christmas It was beautiful with all the lights. It did get busier as it got darker but it was still very pleasant. My friend and I decided to share a ginormous cheese pretzel and a ginormous sweet pretzel (covered in sugar and chocolate – words cannot describe jut how bloody delicious this was).


Cheese pretzel heaven right there

We later also shared a meat skewer. She was my partner in crime in trying different foods. We managed to get lost from our other friends when we became distracted by large meat skewers. These things happen 😉

IMG_8739 Though we did find the problem with wandering off… we lost our German translator and struggled to work out what kind of meat it actually was. Turns out the guy just didn’t understand the English word “pork”. It was very tasty though.

We then spent the evening in PJs with our duvets and hot chocolates watching Love Actually. I think I’m pretty set on Love Actually being my favourite Christmas film now. It’s just perfect.

The next morning we left before eating breakfast so we could have a late breakfast/brunch out. Though it turned out we didn’t actually start eating until about 1pm due to the length of time it took to get somewhere good for restaurants and then the service was so slow! But it was worth it in the end.

IMG_8759 We then did some more shopping and moseying around the sights and then headed for an early dinner (we had to leave for the airport at around dinner time).

IMG_8768 I think my favourite sushi are the ones with butternut squash (the dark brown filling ones) and the egg ones. SO good. With miso soup I was literally STUFFED.

Then we headed back to Charlotte’s to pack and get ready to go. But first Charlotte’s mum had made an epically amazing sticky toffee pudding (funny to eat such a British pudding considering how Germany everything else had been!)

IMG_8774Just to tide us over for the flight, you know? 😉 As you can probably tell, it was delicious.

A perfect weekend of fun, catching up with friends and indulgent food. I fully recommend Berlin for the Christmas markets. Very cheap, lovely atmosphere, lots of home-made items in stalls selling clothes, jewellery, decorations, etc. and all the food and drink was to die for!

Have you ever been to Berlin? Or Germany?

Do you enjoy Christmas markets? What do you look out for the most? For me it’s all about the sweet treats!

Post Berlin Marathon

Gosh it feels like ages ago now that I was in Berlin and running the marathon. The days after Berlin were a lot more relaxed (for me at least) than the days before, but a lot more painful as you can imagine!

Post Berlin marathon (1)

After the debacle of finding Ben and my dad after the race and then trying to find our way out of the race area, we headed back to our hotel. The boys had a drink and some nibbles in the hotel bar while I went upstairs to shower. I was so thankful that this time around we didn’t have a bath-shower. After the Paris marathon I remember how painful it had been to get my legs over the bath sides to get into the shower *shudders*.

I did however have fun finding all the places I’d chaffed. Not under my arms this time but weirdly just above my bum on my lower back!


The top of my shorts must have rubbed. Fun times.

After enjoying a luxuriously warm and bubbly shower, I headed downstairs all cleaned up to see Ben had got himself possibly the most disgusting looking meal possible.

IMG_8133 You can see a fellow marathoner’s foot in the background – there were so many in the lobby!

A curryworst. He loved it so what can I say! Looks a bit funny to me 😉 My dad ordered some chips and like a vulture I landed on those chips with a vengeance. So salty and good.

Then sadly my dad headed off to catch his flight as he was only staying to watch the marathon and had work on Monday (sucker). Ben and me had an early evening meal in the hotel restaurant. It was rather posh!

Hotel Berlin Restaurant eveningWe had another one of those sharing platters with lots of antipasti style bits and pieces (I got the veg and salad, Ben got the Parma ham and bread – we work well as a team). For main I went for pork schnitzel with fried potatoes and cranberries with a side salad (well, two side salads as Ben didn’t want his). For pudding I went for a peach crumble (it was microscopic in my marathon hungry eyes…but very nice regardless).

Hotel Berlin restaurant meal Then we went to the hotel room. I chilled in the best way possible.


We did consider renting a film (like we did in Paris) but we were both so tired we read for a bit and fell asleep around 7.30pm. I’m not even joking. I woke up at midnight thinking it was like 3am. I had a banging headache and struggled to fall back asleep but eventually fell asleep until 7am-ish. Headache gone and we both felt so refreshed!

We decided to do some sight seeing so headed off to wander through the Tiergarten and then to the Reichstag.


IMG_8170We saw lots of sights, like the Brandenburg Gate, the Jewish Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie again and a huge mall. Both of us staggered along, me because I was aching everywhere from the marathon and Ben because his knee was playing up a bit after all the walking the day before 🙁

We found a crazy American-style diner (called Andy’s Diner) that took our fancy for lunch. We were both in need of a nice sit down and some food.

I chose a salad and honestly it was possibly the best salad I’ve had in a while.


Chicken, kidney beans, hard boiled egg and lots of salad in a huge crispy tortilla bowl (which is underneath all the salad in the above photo) with a creamy ranch dressing. It literally took me like 20 minutes to eat all of it.

IMG_8184 Literally bigger than my head – my kinda salad!

Then we plodded on. In total we walked 34,000 steps (15.5 miles). We were shattered and honestly me legs felt like they would fall off. Ben found it hilarious watching me trying to get down stairs.

IMG_8182 My dear husband finding it far too funny that I was in pain

We stopped in the afternoon for another respite. And lo and behold! I found a cafe that sold beer, coffee and cake! A winner all round 😉

IMG_8198 I went for a delicious vanilla chocolate cake. It was all spongy and delicious. So good. Ben went for a cheesecake.

IMG_8195It was a huge thumbs up from us. We then chilled for a bit people watching. It was a great spot – down the road from the Brandenburg Gate and the number of people we saw hobble past was quite amusing. There were so many people who had clearly run the marathon.

Dinner that night was a quick meal in a local, but lovely, restaurant and then another early night. Honestly, sleep (and cake) was the best recovery for me!

And the next day we headed home. It was a lovely little mini-break and I loved Berlin and the marathon but, as I’ve said before, it was bittersweet. I really wish Ben could have run. But he’s deferred his place so next year I think we’ll be returning! I might run it if I get in the ballot but we’ll see.

What’s your normal ‘go-to’ meal in a restaurant? For me it’s always a salad.

Do you like to try the local food when you’re abroad? The curryworst did not appeal but the schnitzel was amazing.

Would you ever want to run the Berlin marathon?

Pre Marathon in Berlin

It’s hard going on holiday to run a marathon. The days before you’re so nervous that it’s difficult to fully enjoy yourself. Or eat and drink whatever you want, or walk lots and lots. You’re always thinking “will this help for the race?” and that’s not particularly how you want to be on holiday.

But saying that, there is something truly amazing about running a marathon in a foreign country. Ben and me caught a mid-morning flight to Berlin so we left the house at 6.30am. Though an early wake-up call it meant we could have a nice breakfast at the airport. Sadly not Jamie’s Italian, but Giraffe (which is also very, very good).

IMG_8008I had an omelette with lots of roasted vegetables and an avocado salsa (ooh err!) with sourdough toast. Thankfully this was quite filling as we missed lunch entirely because we wanted to get to the marathon expo ASAP when we got to Berlin. When we landed, we got a taxi to the hotel and then headed straight to the old disused airport from there where the expo was happening.

IMG_8019 It was huge inside with so many running-related stalls selling clothes, trainers, gels, nutrition…basically everything running-related. It wasn’t like anything was cheaper than normal so Ben and me just by-passed it all and headed straight to the bib collection. IMG_8027

One of the big rooms of running stalls

FYI it’s the furthest possible point – just to ensure you do indeed walk past every flipping stall possible. Not particularly fun for poor Ben who couldn’t actually run at the moment. Almost like a big “F*** you” from the Berlin marathon 🙁 especially when he wasn’t allowed to come with me to collect his bib: “runners only”. I’d have probably burst into tears at this point if I was him but Ben was a true trooper and just waited patiently for me.

IMG_8022 There was no queue to speak of which was a relief as I’d heard horror stories of hour-long waits. Friday late afternoon is the way forward!


There was a huge crowd of people all trying to get a photo like the one above and we patiently waited until it was my turn. Embarrassingly as it got to my turn and I stood there ready for my photo a woman pointed at me and said “your bib’s the wrong way up”. Nailed it, Anna.

Ben and me proceeded to then walk a million miles ages to find food. We headed in the direction of our hotel (which was a 45 minute walk away) and hoped to find somewhere en route, or worst case just eat in the hotel. We hadn’t eaten since 7.30am (except for an apple or two for me and an airplane snack for Ben) and it was now coming up to 6pm…Things were tense.

Hilariously we walked up the red light district without realising it. The first lady I saw I was about to say to Ben “oh those boots and skirt combo are a bit risqué, aren’t they?” when I saw her shake her wears at a passerby. Yikes! Ben and me just kept our eyes down and power walked on. It was rather funny though. Finally (away from the red light area!) we found a lovely little restaurant.

Berlin meal We both had beef Carpaccio to start (delicious!) and I, erm…had Caesar salad. It’s embarrassing to admit I know. I just love it! It was just alright: no bacon and no anchovies but good pieces of parmesan shavings and nice chicken. I went for a brownie and ice cream for pudding. It wasn’t dense enough a brownie for a true wow factor but it hit the spot.

IMG_8032 And Ben began as he meant to go on…sampling the local wheat beer. I had a few sips and must say I quite enjoyed it. Very light.

We stayed at the Hotel Berlin, which I highly recommend.Hotel Berlin We had a lovely spacious room with a 70s theme. It even had a mini balcony.

Hotel Berlin Bathroom The bathroom was lovely. It had one of those monsoon walk in shower things and a normal shower head for proper hair wash action.

Basically, lovely rooms, great breakfast (buffet – hello!), brilliant service, a gym (which I did not step into) and about 15 minute walk from the Tiergarten and a 30 minute walk from the Brandenburg Gate.

The next morning I got up at 8am and went for an easy 3 mile run around Tiergarten.

IMG_8039My best “I’m a dork” face


Beautiful scenery to run around in a capital city!

My dad had arrived the night before at a nearby hotel and so joined us for breakfast after we’d showered. He paid for breakfast while we had ours included.

IMG_8161I’d be lying if I said this was all I had. Honestly, this was the best hotel breakfast ever. Roasted vegetables with pine nuts and sundried tomatoes – heavenly! Little meatball things – so good! Eggs – delicious! Crispy bacon! All so good. And I had a pretzel style roll as well to go with this. Then followed it by a bowl of fresh fruit salad. The choice was amazing. From sweet pastries, donuts, muffins, to normal bread, German bread, fruit bread, pretzel bread, smoked salmon, all kind of egg, beans, cheeses, meats, cereals…honestly there was so much to choose from. So I ate everything. Joking. Though I did make a fair dent 😉

Then we headed out to see some sights. We walked past the Tiergarten and up to the Victory Column (the Siegessäule: the gold gold statue thing below) and then headed down the long road to the Brandenburg Gate. The roads had been closed off and ready for the marathon (and the skating marathon that would be happening later that day – yes, people skated on rollerblades the marathon).

Berlin Saturday After walking for an hour or so Ben and my dad demanded a refreshment stop…the beer marathon was to begin 😉

IMG_8069 I got a sparkling water and popped a High5 Zero tablet in it to make sure I stayed hydrated – it fizzed up quite dramatically! My dad and Ben got strange pink beers which made for a humorous photo 😉

IMG_8064 It was strange to see so many marathon signs and road blockages and made me very nervous!

We walked to Checkpoint Charlie and saw the remains of the Berlin wall (which separated the East and West of Berlin and only came down in 1989!) at the Topography of Terrors.

Berlin Saturday Sights It was very interesting but also quite depressing. What a scary time to have lived.

Then we headed to Postdamer Platz which is very urban and modern.

Postdamer PlatzAfter sight seeing for a bit we got fairly hungry and started to look out for a nice place for lunch that wasn’t outrageous in price, which meant walking a fair bit from the main tourist bits.

Italian meal in Berlin We seemed to eat a lot of Italian-style meals over the holiday! Ben and me had a sort of platter of dried meats, Carpaccio and roasted vegetables and then I had a feta and olive salad. There was so much feta! I was defeated. This has never happened before with a salad, it was just too salty to eat so much.

I had a major panic when I realised I didn’t actually bring any safety pins with me from home and at the expo I didn’t pick any up (if they even had any there). What a numpty!! I didn’t know what to do. We looked in a few supermarkets but found nothing. Suddenly we were surrounded by hundreds of children who had just finished the mini-marathon and all brandishing their medals…and they were all wearing bibs with safety pins. It was a cruel mocking of my idiocy. I tried to ask one lady for if she had any spares or if I could have her son’s now unneeded safety pins but she looked blankly at me and talked to me in rapid German. I was started to fret when I spotted a boy who was just taking his bib off. I leapt over to him and asked for his safety pins. He was German but could speak English and was more than happy for me to have his pins. Thank you!!! Panic over. And I could resign my position from being weird English girl trying to steal safety pins from unsuspecting children…

IMG_8089Then we walked back. We were almost at our hotel when we saw the skaters fly by! They were amazing. So fast. Though some of them were holding on to each other, creating a long train. I guess they were in teams?

Berlin marathon skaters

We then killed some time just chilling in the hotel lobby (Ben and my dad now on their 6th or 7th beers?!) We had walked quite a long way! Not a brilliant plant the day before a marathon…

Hotel Berlin lobby My dad, bless him, started falling asleep while reading a magazine.

Then later on we headed for another Italian meal in a nearby restaurant. We got there fairly early but within an hour or so it became packed with marathon runners wanting their carbolific meal.

Like I said in my marathon post, I had a large pizza and a massive bottle of sparkling water (I love European sparkling water, it just tastes amazing). Then Ben stayed with my dad in the lobby of hotel for more beers while I went to bed. In the end Ben and my dad had 12 beers each!!

Despite maybe too much walking (33,700 steps: over 16 miles!) it was a lovely day to just take my mind off things and enjoy the scenery and sights. It was so nice having my dad there as well as Ben had a partner in crime 😉

Have you ever been to Berlin before?

Do you do lots of walking on holiday?

How do you prepare for a big race?