Blogging, Berlin and the BMW X4

I had the honour of being invited to Berlin by BMW recently and they arranged for me to be shown the city by Christine Neder, a famous German travel blogger and author of Lilies Diary, as part of their #BMWstories campaign. Christine, herself a resident of Berlin for 4 years, had been given the task of showing me around and I honestly can’t think of a better way to get to know a city than from someone who is local.

Reichstag

We were handed the keys to the brand new cherry red BMW X4 and took to the roads – and even the autobahn – to explore the city. After a short demonstration of some of the main features, which included having our iPhones synced with the car via Bluetooth (yes, you can pull in your contacts, your music, and so on…), we were ready to explore Berlin!

The X4 at BMW headquarters

Pretty smart, eh? The car has some rather neat features, too, such as the ability to integrate with Google Street View data. It even uses data from Vodafone antennae to work out where cars are stationery (information that comes from all the drivers’ mobile phones) for its Real Time Traffic Information, so you know where not to go to avoid congestion. Simple, but rather ingenious… one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” moments!

BMW

Inside, you’ll find a full leather interior, combining sportiness with exclusive style. If I was to choose, I’d go for the xLine equipment package to give a really individual feel to your X4. Drivers enjoy an elevated seat position and there was more than enough room for me in both the front and rear of the vehicle (I’m 6 feet tall).

BMW X4 interior

Anyway… on to the journey… having passed the Brandenburg Gate and circled Siegessäule, our first stop was Viktoriapark in the Kreuzberg district of the city. Driving on the right hand side of the road, with the driver position on the left, always takes a bit of getting used to for me at first, but I expected it to be even more of a test when having to also parallel park quite early on. Amazingly, though, it proved to be a straightforward task thanks to the BMW X4’s Connected Drive Services which allow you to see a realtime rearview camera image as you reverse, with lines superimposed on top to show you the precise direction you are heading as you turn the wheel. I surprised myself by getting into a fairly tight space at the first attempt!

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

BMW X4 satnav

With the task of parking out of the way, we crossed the road to Viktoriapark which dates back to the late 19th Century. Although the park’s waterfall was all but a trickle due to a prolonged dry period, a climb to the top took us to a monument for the Befreiungskriege (liberation wars that formed part of the Napoleonic Wars) and gave a great overview of the central and southern parts of the city.

Viktoriapark

View of Berlin

I learnt that Kreuzberg is one of the hippest, most alternative areas of the city, popular with artists and with lots of multicultural things going on, before being introduced to the traditional currywurst at a stand-up table at Curry 36 for a brief lunch stop. This has become such a popular Berlin institution that they even sell branded merchandise.

Curry 36

We encountered a little rain in the afternoon as we took to the autobahn through the city. Having passed through Grunewald – a very upmarket area with a number of beautiful houses and equally good restaurants to match – we went on through Friedrichstraße (central Berlin’s most famous shopping street) and past a number of attractions including Fernsehturm, Berlin’s famous TV tower with a rotating restaurant at the top.

One of my favourite features about the car by now was the Head Up Display which tells you the speed you’re doing along with the speed limit for the road that you’re currently driving on (always useful to know!), the direction you need to be going in, along with other information such as any incoming calls that may occur – all displayed on the car windscreen (hence the name, and importantly helping you to keep your eyes on the road). Couple this with the fact that many aspects of the car can be controlled by voice activation (or at least they could be in this case if my German was better… don’t worry, there is an English version too!) and you have a vehicle that’s helping you to avoid a myriad of distractions that could have you looking elsewhere.

BMW X4 head-up display

A number of attractions later, and after a brief jaunt around the east of the city where the buildings are more of a Communist style and the cultural mix of the city becomes ever more apparent, we finished the afternoon at the East Side Gallery – a stretch of the Berlin Wall that is just over a kilometre long and with over one hundred paintings from artists all over the globe.

Me outside the Berlin Wall

It was then on to the Carloft where I was staying for an interview about my experience of the city and the car, a brief extract of which can be seen below.

In the evening we headed out for dinner at Neni – a restaurant in the 25hours Hotel. This place had a real buzz about it, an open plan kitchen were you could see dishes being prepared and a great view of the city at night. We had some different types of hummus to start, and I had the scallops on a bed of lentils for my main. We probably should have called it a day at that point, but it would have been rude not to try the chocolate brownie.

Restaurant kitchen

Scallops in Berlin

Berlin at night

Working on my laptop that evening – in the second floor Carloft apartment yet with the BMW X4 parked just outside the window – was a little surreal but in many ways summed up the day – one that had been totally unique.

Working at the Carloft

Disclosure: I was invited to Berlin courtesy of BMW to drive the new BMW X4, experience the city and take part in the #BMWstories campaign.

Comments (25)

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  1. Sounds a great way to explore this exciting city. And I love the features of the car like the Heads-up Display – I’m surprised I’ve not seen this before. And the Real Time Traffic Information would be a good send. (I had a rather elder red BMW a long time ago – a really great car, despite the age.)

  2. noel says:

    What a fun way to explore the city in a bright cherry red BMW. I love all the sites including the trendy hip areas and graffiti.

  3. That is probably the best way to explore Berlin, in a BMWx4. I have never been there but I would love to go one day and see Berlin with my own eyes.

  4. mike ahuja says:

    How did you get the bmw x4 parked right outside the apartment while you were on the 2nd floor? Are you secretly like the new james bond? Either way awesome way to see the city for sure….i am jealous….i so want to drive on the autobahn…i went to school in italy for 6 months but never really made it up to germany :'( …looks like you had a great time

  5. Paul Johnson says:

    This will all be revealed in my next post about the trip, Mike… but in short, the BMW X4 was driven into a lift, taking myself and the car up to the accommodation… more on that later! :-)

  6. Em says:

    I’ve always wanted to visit Berlin. Something about exploring a new city you just can’t beat, unless you’re in a BMW perhaps :)

  7. Claudia says:

    Berlin sounds and looks like an incredible city to visit. I am not sure i share your interest in cars though!!

  8. Nothing better than exploring a city with someone who knows it well. I’ve always wanted to explore Berlin, and to do it in such style, well, that would be my kind of day! Heads Up display is quite a nice feature to have, especially as I hear they like to put the pedal to the medal in Germany! Scallops and lentils for dinner, nice finish.

  9. Samantha says:

    Oh man who cares about the tour, just give me the keys to the BMW! Haha I joke, but seriously that is awesome, to tour around Berlin … in style!

  10. Mindi says:

    The art on the wall is so striking. I would love to see the other 99 paintings based on what you have shown here.

  11. Adrian Ann says:

    Goodness, what a high class way (luxurious even…) to see Berlin. Those sights look amazing, the architecture is really what I love to see. The food looked pretty yum as well. Love the red car, I would love to have to navigation tools with me sometimes when I’m lost in a new city!

  12. Axelle says:

    Looks like a great experience! Berlin is so vibrant and cool, love the city! And the cars don’t look bad either :)

  13. Anne Klien says:

    A good way to explore Berlin with a local guide and a luxury car. What else could you ask for aside from great experience

  14. Marcia says:

    Looks like you had quite a day. Exploring an amazing city in a brand new car, full of technology is something pretty neat.

  15. Emily says:

    What a perfect way to explore the city – a local guide and a brand new bimmer! So how fast did you go on the autobahn?

  16. Paul Johnson says:

    We kept within the speed limit, Emily! :-) Although the autobahn is famous for having no speed limit, that’s not the case for certain stretches (eg. the section going through the city where traffic is much heavier).

  17. Brianna says:

    A sweet ride and a great city, what could be better? The BMWX4 is a gorgeous car, would love to take that for a spin.

  18. Jessica says:

    Incredible! That’s definitely one way to cruise the city in style! I can’t say I often drive in luxury cars living in South America so I’ve never heard of the Heads Up Display. It still seems like something you would only see in a movie, I guess we’re living in the future now haha. Nice post!

  19. Alli says:

    Being lead around a city like Berlin by a local would be just fantastic! Kreuzberg looks like a super neat place to explore :)

  20. Jon says:

    Nice! I reckon there’d be no better way to see Berlin than in a BMW – unfortunately I’ll only be able to afford to walk!

  21. Christine says:

    Awesome! I’ve been wanting to check out Berlin for a while. Seems like such an awesome city! I’d love to check out the art on the Berlin Wall!

  22. Seems like a nice, luxurious way to see a great city! Unfortunately I’m stuck with public transport for the forseeable! ;D

  23. Margherita says:

    Wow, what an experience! Berlin is amazing as it is, Berlin with a local and a BMW must be something to remember. Looks like an impressive car – love the heads up display especially. And what tasty food there was! I’m a big fan of currywurst, and scallops with lentils look fab!

  24. Bianca says:

    Wow. Lucky you for being invited and then gift a beautiful ride to explore the city. That sounds like a real treat. I have been to Berlin and absolutely loved it so I have to visit again soon.

  25. Extremely jealous of being able to drive around Berlin in a BMW X4!! Gorgeous car in a gorgeous city, what more could you ask for. I am not usually much of a ‘car person’ but the X4 interior looks equally as spectacular as the exterior. I love the new display functionalities that you described, always looking to check out the new tech features inside a car.

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