Meet our Germany experts: Kate Connolly, Guardian/Observer Berlin correspondent
After ten years in Germany, the Guardian’s and Observer’s Berlin correspondent Kate Connolly knows the country inside out. Here, she tells us why grubbiness is cool and why it is good to talk to Germans. And she might be one of the few who are for a speed limit on Germany’s motorways. We’re with her on that one, actually!
Where are your favourite spots?
Hiddensee on the Baltic Coast, Quedlinburg by the Harz Mountains, Lauenburg on the Elbe, and, of course, Berlin!
From a UK perspective, what in particular does Germany as a travel destination have to offer?
A huge variety of culture, high quality service, reasonable prices, fantastic public transportation, good value hotels (so long as you don’t travel to places like Cologne when trade fairs are on). And beautiful beaches.
Any stereotypes about Germany that UK visitors can safely leave at home?
If you think it’s clean and tidy, spend a few hours in Berlin – graffitied, lots of dog mess, generally a bit grubby, which strangely is what gives it a certain charm (until you step in the dog mess).
Any German quirks that you’ve learned to appreciate?
Berlin humour, which is dark and biting, but very insightful. Also the “Bio weather reports”, which predict when you’re likely to get a headache/aching bones due to the weather forecast for that day. I also like the Tatort crime series on a Sunday evening.
One thing I really hate is being tailgated on the Autobahn. A really ugly habit. I wish they’d reduce the Autobahn speed limit to 130 km.
Berlin is a favourite for UK city breakers. What are your tips when exploring the German capital and suggestions for current must-sees?
Go to the Tajikistan Tea Room (Tadschikische Teestube), Am Festungsgraben 1, to the tango salons of which there are many, and to Carsten Holler’s weird exhibition Soma, showing at the Hamburger Bahnhof. There’s also an exhibition of Nan Goldin’s Berlin photographs right now as well as a Yoko Ono art exhibition.
Christian Boros’ art bunker on Reinhardtstraße is well worth a visit. And a favourite place of mine is the Invalidenfriedhof – full of the ghosts of Germany’s past, where resistance fighters and Nazis lie more or less side by side.
Germany is Wunderbar because ….
… of its huge variety (beaches, mountains, cities), there is an opera house in almost every town or city, and they hold culture in very high esteem. Germans make very loyal friends. You can talk to them about any issue – from politics to culture – and not feel like you’re considered a show-off. There’s also great yeast beers, and the food has grown on me.
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