Cheryl shops...Berlin and Prague
When I told people that I was going on vacation to Berlin, almost everyone said, "Oh my god, the shopping in Berlin is amazing." So I arrived with very high hopes. Our hotel was on Friedrichstrasse, right in the middle of East Berlin's posh shopping stretch. I was the most excited about the mini Galeries Lafayette, since I hadn't had a chance to visit it when in Paris last year. Berlin's Galeries Lafayette is in a very modern building designed by famed architect Jean Nouvel, and it connects to the mini-mall next door, Quartier 207. I didn't have a ton of time to shop (more on that later), but the perfume and cosmetics selection on the first floor are fab, mini-boutiques from designers like Paul & Joe, Sandro, Sonia Rykiel, and Manoush are on the upper floors, and the lower level is a French-food wonderland (I stocked up on Mariage Frères tea and Laduree macaroons). Clothes-wise, all I bought, however, was a scarf, because the dollar is practically worthless, and I couldn't talk myself into splurging on anything else. Even my beloved Comptoir des Cottoniers seemed exorbitantly expensive. In fact, the shopping gods were definitely not with me on this trip. We arrived in Berlin on a Saturday, stores were completely closed on Sunday, and Monday turned out to be a national holiday, so everything was closed again that day; that left me with about three hours on Tuesday morning to shop the rest of the city before our train left for our next destination. I dragged MW (and his friend CK, whom we met up with in Berlin) to KaDeWe, which is supposedly the biggest department store in Europe. I don't know if that's true or not, but it's definitely big--so large, in fact, that I felt too overwhelmed to shop there. So I gave up and bought some chocolate for my coworkers and neighbors on the top floor, which is an impressive food market. We then hightailed it down Kurfürstendamm, a.k.a. Ku'damm, West Berlin's main shopping drag. I felt a bit let down--the street (at least, as far as we got) is one chain store after another, and since we have H&M, Zara, and now even Mango in NYC, it was kind of pointless. I had also heard that Berlin has excellent vintage shopping, but I didn't get a chance to hit any of that either. But what I found really disappointing was the (lack of) shoes--granted, I am not ashamed to say that I own a pair of Birkenstocks (I do, and I love them very much), but Germans take practical footwear to new levels of frumpiness.

The Czechs, at least, have Bata, an equally Euro but more chic Camper-esque chain of shoe stores. Their flagship store in Wenceslas Square was one of the few shopping highlights of the Prague portion of my trip, but since the exchange rate was still bad in Prague (yes, even in Prague, which isn't even on the Euro yet), MW managed to talk me out of buying a cute pair of patent kitten-heel shoes that I didn't need anyway. There are two main shopping areas in Prague: Wenceslas Square along Na Porici and Vaclavske Namesti is where the department stores and chain stores like Zara and H&M are; the fancy stuff like Hermes and Louis Vuitton is along Pariska Street in the Old City. And, everywhere you go, there is Bohemian crystal and amber; I was pondering buying an amber necklace until I realized how much they cost (a lot). So, alas, I did not have much shopping luck in Prague either. Again, due to the exchange rate, this was probably for the best.

I should note that both ways, we had layovers at Heathrow. On the way over, we got to experience the new British Airways Terminal 5 (a.k.a. T5), which has a mini Harrods and a bunch of other duty-free shopping. T5 is all glass and steel and light, and because of the layout, you can shop pretty much up until your flight starts boarding. On the way back, we were in Terminal 3, which has a truly annoying, outdated layout, but perhaps the most fabulous duty-free shopping I've ever experienced: Chanel, Gucci, Bvlgari, plus a perfume-and-makeup section that puts Sephora to shame. Of course, this part is almost worse, because even minus the VAT taxes, everything is still way expensive, because prices are in pounds, which are worth even more than Euros. After a while, you start to understand why Brits and Europeans are coming to NYC just to shop. Still, I was happy to see stylish shoes and clothes again; however, I settled on an issue of Grazia and some Cadbury chocolate.

All in all, now is not the best time to shop in Europe, but if you must, I still think Paris is the way to go. But MW and I decided our next trip will be to Italy, so I hope in the meantime that the dollar gains a bit of strength. That, and I am going to start saving my money now!


Anonymous said...

But... have you heard Comptoir des Cottoniers is opening in Soho in September? Maybe they'll equalize the prices for the US market.

Cheryl said...

Yes! I read it in WWD today and was just about to post about that!

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to that post... I love CDC. And your blog. Welcome back :)