Berlin Visiting Weekend Review


Following the success of our trip to Copenhagen in 2016, the 2018 BVHA hospital visiting weekend took us to Berlin on 4th to 6th May. 

Our “man on the ground” was Martin Deutschland, a veterinary neurologist who lives and works in the city.

We were based in the 26 storey Park Hotel by Radisson which is located on Alexanderplatz, a large shopping square, and overlooked by the iconic Television Tower. The advance party had a stroll down the Unter den Linden to see the fantastic architecture, including the Opera House and Humboldt University then through the Brandenburg Gates and past the Bundestag.

Our first official meet-up was at “Max and Molly’s” a traditional pub in the Kreuzberg area. Emphasis here was on local beer from the attached microbrewery and traditional German food including boiled smoked pork and sauerkraut.

Saturday morning saw the start to the formal practice visiting. Our first stop was at Klientierspezialisten. This is a specialist referral practice based in the lower two floors of a multi-storey building in a business park. Space for veterinary practices is at a premium in Berlin. Most practices are in rented premises, so flair and adaptation are needed to make the most of what space is available. Imagination has been needed to fit requirements of a working veterinary clinic into the various shapes of rooms that were available. A couple of interesting aspects were that on-site crèche facility and the fact that clients were allowed and indeed encouraged to accompany their pets into the radiographic facility and anaesthesia.

Our next visit was to Tieraztpraxis Dr Sorensen GmbH. This is a large practice which employs almost fifty staff. It is a general practice which also hosts visiting specialists including our guide, Martin. The premises are a former human hospital and Martin remembered visiting it in its former guise as a child. It has the benefit of large rooms with high ceilings with give a pleasant feeling of space, but it does mean that air conditioning is hard to fit and operate. There is much art-work around the practice including statues of a dog and cat outside and a fish tank in the waiting room.

We were treated to a delicious buffet lunch here, concentrating on Berlin street food, including the infamous “curry wurst” (sausages in a spicy tomato sauce). We were also encouraged to sample another local delicacy, Berliner Weisse, which is a German green beer flavoured with a syrup of the local herb Sweet Woodruff. For those slightly less brave, an alternative flavoured with a raspberry syrup was also available.

It is interesting to note that there are only a handful of veterinary hospitals in Berlin largely due to the difficulty of overnight staffing.

After lunch we were transported to the small animal clinic of the veterinary school of the Free University of Berlin. This is a hospital with a long history which is undergoing a gradual refurbishment. The clinic is in a peaceful leafy setting with comfortable lecture theatres and student accommodation. The new surgical suite is state of the art. There is clever use of much internal glass. This gives a feeling of space and involvement but allows proper sterile barriers to be maintained.

On Saturday evening we ate at the Restaurant Gendarmerie which overlooks the pretty square of Gendarmenmarkt. Its centre is a fabulous high-ceilinged room adorned with huge artworks and photographs of iconic figures from Berlin's history. The food here was European style with a Berlin influence. Most of us chose the local season speciality, Spargel. This is a form of asparagus with large, white, sweet and succulent shoots. Naturally there was more beer to try. Here, the favoured brew was the local wheat beer.

This rounded a hugely enjoyable and educational visit. We were blessed with excellent weather throughout and enormous thanks must go the Martin and his partner, Bettina, for their knowledge, guidance and for driving us around. Thanks must also go to the BVHA Office Manager Judith Skerritt for doing the donkey work of organisation on the UK side.