I had a birthday recently. And while I’m not a fan of making a big deal out of the day, I do have two simple rules for the occasion: to do something nice for myself, however small, and to buy myself a present — however small. As luck would have it, this year my birthday fell on a Saturday, which gave me a whole day to do nice things. Seeing as I’ve been working like a goddamn madwoman for the past half-year and free time has been at a serious premium, this was finally my chance to enjoy an entire day indulging in some favourite pastimes: walking, boating, reading, eating, drinking, and more eating and more drinking.

First, coffee at home with the best birthday gift, combining two of my loves: Woolf and gardening.

woolf garden

A walk to brunch, and a sighting of the best DIY car bumper ever.

van succulents

Next up: decadent brunch at Le Bon. Two hours, three granola pancakes, one pulled pork breakfast burger, two Cortados, and one fresh-squeezed OJ later, we were ready to hit the water.

le bon brunch

And by water, I mean the canal. Little-known fact: Berlin’s two main boat tour companies, Reederei Riedel and Stern und Kreis, both offer free rides on your birthday. Both have the same BrĂĽckenfahrt, or “bridge tour,” which I’ve been on, oh, five or six times in the seven years I’ve lived in Berlin. Something of a birthday tradition, I guess.

The bulk of the ride is along the lovely Landwehrkanal, and the tour is as much about people-watching as it is about scenery. First you pass through the scruffy bits of Kreuzberg, getting a peek at teenagers smoking joints by the water and couples groping each other on grassy embankments, then comes the high-rises of Potsdamer Platz, the flora and fauna of Tiergarten zoo, and the elegant bridges of Charlottenburg. The last segment of the tour goes through the bland, touristy bits of Mitte, so I prefer to get off a little early in Moabit.

canal boat

After disembarking, a stroll along Moabit’s riverbank to the quaint, 162-year-old Konditorei Buchwald bakery, where it was very necessary to warm up with a pot of Darjeeling.


After late-afternoon tea, it was time to head back to the home ‘hood to feast on polenta with braised pork cheeks at La Pecora Nera, one of my favourite Italian restaurants in the city, then to join some friends for many rounds of Moscow Mules. And, last but not least, an exceptionally lazy Sunday in bed to recover. Not a bad birthday for someone who doesn’t like birthdays.

dinner drinks

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