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 cant think of a better way to get to know a city than from someone who is local. 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! 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! Inside, you’ll find a full leather interior, combining sportiness with exclusive style. If I was to choose, Id 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). 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 X4s 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! 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 parks 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. 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. 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 Berlins most famous shopping street) and past a number of attractions including Fernsehturm, Berlins 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 youre doing along with the speed limit for the road that youre 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 dont worry, there is an English version too!) and you have a vehicle thats helping you to avoid a myriad of distractions that could have you looking elsewhere. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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